I had someone ask me the other day if having so many kids was ‘smart’ since I am a mom with chronic illness. Honestly, I wasn’t totally sure what to say and I’m sure there are things that would have been full of kindness and grace, but I found myself saying,”Well, if you found yourself chronically ill would you give your kids up for adoption and walk away? Unless, you were only referring to my ‘foster kids’ in which case I would tell you that like my bio and adopted children, unconditional love for all people who need it doesn’t require health perfection. It does however require your commitment, time, energy, resources and most of all empathy and unconditional love.” I warned you… in that moment failed to really speak to that person in a manner that would open their eyes and heart. I felt judged and spoke from that place instead of one that possibly could have caused that person to think differently. But it did give me pause to take an inventory of sorts…
- Does each child know they are loved?
- Does my husband know how much he’s deeply loved and appreciated?
- Do I have enough time for each of them?
- Is everyone getting what they need from me and from my husband?
- Are we stretched too thin?
- Is the stress of my chronic illness wearing us out?
- Is the stress of fostering wearing us out?
- Do we need to reconsider anything on our ‘to-do’ lists?
- Is trying to ‘mom’ 8 kids taking too much of a toll on my body?
The answer to all of these questions is yes… and also no. On any given day it’s too much and on others it’s just enough. Some days my hubby does it all, literally… everything. But other days we are a well oiled machine operating as a team. Some days we are going too many directions and are stretched WAY too thin and others we are home and all together and it’s simple. Often I’m the one leaving for appointments and my husband is home taking care of the kids while I see one of my many physicians. He’s also going to school right now and working full-time. 8 kids is too much for most people. 8 kids with ZERO extra issues could be too much in this situation and ours all have something they’re dealing with. So it’s hard. But is it “smart”? That I can not answer. There will always be people who can’t see the good through the negative lenses with which they view this world. We know when this case wraps up it will be our last case for a lot of reasons, my health being one of them. But mostly because our hearts and home are full and it is time. It is time to step back and focus on growing the children God has given us. It’s time to give up the CFTs, home visits, licensing visits, visitation schedules, paperwork, emails, phone calls, court etc etc etc…
Parenting with chronic illness for which there is no cure is rough at best. But, our kids, ALL OF THEM are worth every minute of our time. We talk as openly and age appropriately as we can with the kids about my conditions. We talk openly about my bad days so they can do their best to understand our situation. We are trying to teach them that in the face of any trial, obstacle or situation in which they feel defeated that there is always a choice to be made. As their mother I want them to see me fighting this. I want them to see me researching and advocating for these things for which western medicine has not yet found the key for treatments and cures. I want them to see that through this sickness I chose to keep advocating for the vulnerable and hurting children around us. I chose to sit through a baseball game, volleyball game, band concert etc. even though my body was screaming in pain because their eyes lit up when I cheered for them. I want them to look back when I’m old and have left this earth and be able to say, “Mom showed us that even on the worst days we mattered, we are loved and we can overcome anything that is put in front of us.”
We want them to see two parents who even with their vast differences and amid all of the stress, schedules and appointments that there is love and deep, abiding friendship. They are seeing that through these trials we knit our family closer and tighter together. We are teaching them that when things in life get difficult (as they inevitably seem to get at some point) they have both their faith and family to lean on and people who love them unconditionally. We often tell our teenage children when they’re bickering about bathroom time or annoying friends that this will pass and after college and starting life with spouses, babies and more life that their siblings are and will always be built in friends for life. They will be there for each other long after we are gone, but they have to do the work now to build each other up, love each other through the annoying friends and long showers when you want to have your own shower and go to bed. Love each other through arguments, disagreements over music on a road trip… love each other through it ALL. For in the end, LOVE is what matters most.
“My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality.”1 John 3:18 (MSG)