Anne, an experienced foster parent of 20+ years, remembers that when she first became a foster mother she assumed that there would be celebration on Mother’s Day, but she found that most years it was easier not to have too many expectations of the day. Some children will want to talk about or visit with their birth mother; other youth might have a difficult time on Mother’s Day and not know why.
While kids in foster families can care deeply for their foster mothers, most also love and miss their birth mothers from whom they’ve been removed – and Mother’s Day reminds them of this loss. Anne recalls that her foster son, Josh, wasn’t able to sit with the family during meals on Mother’s Day. It was just too painful. Anne would try to encourage him to join the family, but often found herself allowing Josh to have dinner on a TV tray. During Josh’s first Mother’s Day with Anne, she recalled that he was feeling sad and wanted a hug; however, due to his history of multiple losses, Josh was afraid to make himself emotionally vulnerable.
Instead of just giving her a hug, Josh told Anne that first he needed to go to the “hug store” to buy one. This way, the hug would not be directly from him, but one that he “purchased” – much safer for him emotionally. The hug store ended up being the place Josh would go often when he was feeling down and needed a mother’s affection, but was having a difficult time asking for it.
Sarah shared that Mother’s Day is also different in her family, now that she is a foster parent. She recognizes that foster children may not be thinking about her on this special day and usually tries to help her foster children honor their birth mothers on the holiday. Like most acts of foster parenting, Sarah was not thinking about herself, but rather what was best for the children for whom she deeply cares.
Sarah’s foster son, Alex’s, eyes lit up last year when she suggested to him that they create a Mother’s Day greeting for his birth mother. Eight-year-old Alex carefully wrote a “Happy Mother’s Day” message and held it up proudly so that Sarah could take a picture and email it to his birth mother. She remembers that he wore a gratified smile all day long. What could be a better Mother’s Day gift than that?
While many kids are happily cooking breakfast or making personalized gifts on Mother’s Day, for some kids in foster care, Mother’s Day brings up mixed emotions – not all positive. Understanding these underlying emotions can help foster moms have realistic expectations and create closer bonds with their foster children.