By Elizabeth Friedland
Foster mother and Director of Communications at Appirio
As a single, childless woman, my home is a shrine to myself, built and designed around no one’s interests or tastes or preferences but mine. Or at least it was until recently when I decided to voluntarily launch myself into single parenthood and become a foster mother.
In the blink of an eye – or more specifically, the phone call of a caseworker – my space was forever and instantly changed. On that fateful afternoon in May, my immaculate and quiet retreat was suddenly filled with the cries of a two-month-old baby girl in desperate need of safe and stable home.
We’re a little ad hoc family, this tiny beautiful girl and I. There are no guarantees with a foster child. No firm timeline that outlines how long we might get to stay together, or when or if she might return to her biological family. While our home together may be temporary, our bond is surely permanent. Though she may not ever remember the home of her infancy – the cream rugs now splattered with applesauce and the hallway that smells of baby lotion – we’ve forever shaped each other. She is my daughter and I am her mother until she is no longer my daughter and I am no longer her mother.
As time passes, our hearts will continue to grow and swell with our strengthening bond, while the physical space around us becomes smaller and more cramped. Those applesauce-stained rugs will be imprinted with her first steps. The baby lotion scented hallway will become a runway for her to toddle down.
A small part of me will breathe a sigh of relief when my home returns to the way it was before a newborn first took over – when the living room looked more like a museum than a daycare. And yet I will be crushed when my home is no longer hers. When her giggles and coos and lopsided, one-dimpled smiles become ghosts that linger inside these walls.
I used to measure the completeness of my home by how closely it resembled my Pinterest inspiration boards or the West Elm catalogue. Now when I glance around the space at the end of the day, it isn’t the beauty of a new sofa or a prized art print that makes me feel satisfied. It’s knowing that, at least for one more day, Baby Girl and I are a family together in this perfectly imperfect yet totally priceless home.
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Each year Spirit & Place partners with WFYI on a series of essays on the annual theme. Listen to them here.