I try to be frugal with advice. People don’t really want advice, unless they ask. Even then they probably know what they want you to say, and the best thing is to advise them to do whatever they intend to do anyway as at least they’ll do it with the enthusiasm you have for something that’s your own idea.
When our first baby was in the pushchair I had a T shirt made up that said “No More Advice Please”. I was tired, working hard to get everything right for the kid, and couldn’t get down the high street without a queue of ex-mothers-of-babies with their advice.
“Is she going to be warm enough like that?”
“She should be taking some solids by now”
My all time favourite:
“You need to keep the bottom of the pushchair clean or you get rats”
I’ll say one thing for fostering, it shuts up the stream of advice. Doesn’t matter how many children of your own you’ve had, you haven’t fostered until you’ve fostered. Not that you draw attention to your fostering, in fact you never mention it, except to family and good friends.
We sometimes do “Parent and Child”. If you don’t know, this is where the parent, usually the mother, stays with her child, usually a baby.
Going back to the advice thing, I do try to talk to the mother about contraception in cases where the reason she had a baby was because contraception failed. Or wasn’t even considered.
Often the mother is a young girl, and quietly determined to have more children. You ask them why they want lots of kids, and they shrug and say “I like kids”, or “My mum had six” or “Better than going to work”.
Like good social workers, foster carers don’t judge, just stand ready with support and information about alternatives.
I watch these young mums out and about with their pushchair. When their baby is a few weeks old passers-by go weak at the knees, a crowd gathers. You sit on a park bench and other women can’t resist coming over “Oooo isn’t he lovely!” “Aaaaah how old is he? Isn’t he georgeous.”
Around six months, when the babies are starting to get some wherewithal, the billing and cooing starts to dry up.
We had one mother who had a newborn and a three year old. When she was out and about people did the whole gushing thing about the baby, never even noticed the toddler.
Everyone wants to be somebody, maybe some girls only get to be somebody when they’ve got a tiny baby.
Maybe it’s one reason why they want to keep doing it.
I mention the advice thing because a couple of would-be foster carers have asked Blue Sky if an experienced foster carer could chat with them and…
…offer some advice.
I have my advice ready, should I be asked.
My advice is: When a foster child first arrives, let them choose a mug in a shop which is theirs to keep and gets stored with everyone else’s.
That’s it. Apart from that, trust your heart.
The Secret Foster Carer