I rarely set New Year’s resolutions because I usually have enough items on my to-do lists. But I have set one goal for this year, which is to be more boring.
Our last foster child returned to biological family shortly before Christmas. For the first time in our marriage, it’s just the two of us in the house, and we have decided to enjoy the empty nest for a while. I’ve rolled off my nonprofit boards and will wait a while before signing on somewhere else. In short, we want to be boring people.
When I was younger and a single foster parent, I rarely had more than a few days between placements. I never noticed that I needed time to regroup until one particular placement. My foster daughter was mature and responsible and very low maintenance. I enjoyed having her, but one day realized that we were not developing much of a relationship. My previous foster child had been a constant challenge and had drained far more of my emotional resources than I had realized. I really was not ready for another foster child, and had not fully committed to the new placement. I can’t say that I regret accepting that placement, because that foster daughter has become a good friend and an integral part of my life. I cannot imagine our family without her, and I am glad that we did not miss out on knowing her. But I also can’t deny that I shortchanged her at the beginning of our relationship.
These days, I know that I don’t have the energy or stamina to go straight from one challenging foster child to another. I also now have other relationships to care for that I did not have when I first started as a foster parent. My marriage is strong, and we have good relationships with almost all of our adult children. But even good relationships need care and attention. If I take them for granted, they will not remain strong.
As a stepparent, of course, I did not have the luxury of taking time off. But we found other ways to get a break. We have been fortunate to have family willing to take care of the kids for long weekends, and my husband and I learned to shift responsibilities around when one of us needed a break. The weekends that our sons had visitation with their mother became getaway weekends for us. I also learned to turn down outside responsibilities such as volunteering, even for organizations that I loved.
Now that our children are adults, we have the luxury of enjoying our empty house. Of course, my husband and I always will have projects. We both have jobs, and I (ahem) have a new book coming out in May (available for preorder now!). Those responsibilities and our existing relationships are enough for the moment.
Taking time for yourself is not easy. Parenting children requires self-sacrifice, and shortchanging ourselves to some degree is a job requirement. If we are foster parents, there always is another child who needs us. If we are stepparents, there is always something more we can do to teach, help, or love our kids.
Nevertheless, we are not infinite. We have to recharge our batteries from time to time, or we simply run out of resources to help anyone. Sometimes, we simply have to step back and become boring for a while. 2020 was interesting enough for us for many reasons. This year is a good time to be boring.