Notes and Mentions
Sometimes Mom by Simone Enright
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Serena: Hey Everyone, I’m Serena.
Tina: And I’m Tina and we are the Mental Health Mamas.
Serena: Welcome to No Need to Explain, we are so glad you’re here.
Tina: First, as always, a quick disclaimer.
Serena: We come to you NOT as mental health professionals or experts in the field, but rather as the parents of kids who struggle with their emotional health.
Tina: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional support. You’ll find a variety of resources in our show notes and on our website, NoNeedToExplainPodcast.com.
Tina: Today we welcome a guest to our show, one I have known for many years. She is a young person I’ve watched grow up and among other wonderful things, she is a fellow New Englander, an accomplished ice skater, a best friend to my niece, and one of her newest titles, Sometimes Mom. We welcome Simone Enright!
Simone: Thank you so much for having me, I’ve been a fan of your podcast since it began and I’m very honored to be a guest today.
Serena: So Simone, recently you wrote an article and it was actually called “Sometimes Mom” and it was a very beautiful article and I’d love for you to explain to our listeners what that title means. How did it come to be?
Simone: Sure, so Sometimes Mom is just kind of the pseudonym I’ve given myself as a foster mom and it came from when I began fostering and I would be out and about and I would meet someone and they would ask, “Do you have kids?” Which is one of those common small-talk questions and I would sort of panic. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to say yes, no, and then if I do say yes, do I just leave it at that or do I go into the whole spiel of fostering and how many kids we currently have and how many we’ve had total. And it becomes a really long, drawn-out thing. And I wasn’t sure. You know, do I qualify to say I have kids because what does it mean to the person asking me? You know, would they consider that these are my kids? So I never really knew how to answer this question and then I just sort of started answering with, “sometimes”. But that really would pique more curiosity and I would end up having to go into the whole spiel about foster care anyway. Which is fine. I love to talk about it and to have that moment to educate people a little bit.
Tina: Yeah, so let’s do that. As I mentioned, I’ve known you for quite some time and watched you grow up and I can imagine that people often ask you why you’ve chosen to become a foster parent as such a young woman and you just got married a few years ago. So what’s your “why”?
Simone: Yeah, that’s really an excellent question and I don’t necessarily have one specific answer of what led us to foster care. But my husband Ryan and I feel like this is what we are meant to be doing right now and it just feels like where our talents are best served. I’ve always had a heart for kids. I’ve worked with kids a lot over the years and sort of feel like I’ve been training my whole life for this. And I grew up in a family that always felt like we were sort of “taking people in”. My family was just, my parents were just great neighbors, great friends to everyone and always helping people get on their feet. I learned a lot from them. And although they never formally fostered, but I do have a sister, a younger sister, who is not biologically related to me. So that wasn’t a totally foreign concept for my family. And one more thing about my parents. They were always those people that everyone joked they wanted to be adopted by. And actually people still say that to this day that they want to be adopted by my parents. Even adults say that to them. So, I definitely come by it honestly.
Serena: Yeah, thanks for sharing all that. So as you know, I’ve been a foster parent myself and the process is really complicated and confusing, especially when people don’t know how it works. You know, to give my example, I went from having 3 kids overnight to 5, one of which was a young baby. And there were people in my world, people I had known casually for years who would suddenly either kind of avoid me because they didn’t know what to say or do or say really strange things like, “I didn’t even know!” or “Who is this?” And I never knew quite how to answer either but I always introduced them by name and said that they’d be staying with us for awhile because no child wants to be introduced as a foster child. So I’m curious, what are some of the questions that you’ve faced as a foster parent?
Simone: Yeah, I can relate to that one for sure. You can kind of tell when people are trying to “figure you out” and figure out your family when you’re out and about like you mentioned. Especially if it’s someone that knows I definitely wasn’t recently pregnant or they can see the child clearly doesn’t look like us. So usually what I’ll do is try to get in front of that question instead of waiting for them to inevitably ask it. I’ll just sort of take the initiative to introduce the child and just say, “Hey, this is my friend Tommy (or whatever the child’s name is, I’m not using real names)” That way I sort of get ahead of it and avoid having to explain further, especially in front of the child. And at this point I’m pretty open about foster care and I do love to talk about it when I’m not in front of the children. So most people that know me at this point know I’m a foster parent so they can kind of piece that together for themselves.
Tina: Mmhm. Yeah, so we know there are a lot of misconceptions out there about foster care. One of the big ones that comes to mind is that people go into foster care for the money. Can you speak to this?
Simone: Yes! Definitely. That seems to be a common misconception or myth or whatever you want to call it. And I’m so curious when people say this, are they thinking of someone specific? You know, do they know people like this? Or do they just have this “Miss Hannagan” sort of image in their minds? Because I will often joke that there are much easier ways to make one dollar an hour! I work a full time job outside the home and I can tell you I make more money than that and I don’t work nearly as hard at my full-time job outside the home than I do at fostering. So, like I said, much easier ways to make more money than that. So I can’t speak for everyone, but I can guarantee that I have never turned a profit by fostering.
Tina: So what other sorts of misconceptions do people have that they’ve shared with you?
Simone: Yeah, I think a big one is just about the foster care system in general and why a kid is in care. And I think a lot of times people assume that we will be able to adopt them. That maybe it’s a sort of layover on the way to adoption. But the whole purpose of the foster care system is to reunify families and every effort is being made while the child is in care to actually reunify them with their parents or with other biological family. And that process can take a really long time and sometimes after reunification it’s successful and oftentimes children do re-enter the system. So it’s really hard to tell how long that process will take. And there are times when a child may not be able to reunify and adoption is something that’s discussed, but that’s not the purpose of foster care. All of these other efforts are being made to prevent that from happening.
Serena: Yeah, so I just want to pause here for a moment and reiterate that point. I think that is a huge one for people out there who assume that kids going into foster care, that perhaps they’re being put in a, you know, a better place than they were, somebody who loves them more. And while some of that may be true, I have yet to meet a parent who doesn’t love their child and often the parents who are working to get their kids back have faced their own challenges, their own struggles in life and that’s why they are where they are. So I think, yes, people need to hear that foster care is about reunifying families and, bottom line. And yet, sometimes those kids end up being adopted after years and years.
Simone: Right. Yeah. It’s a process and I don’t think people understand how long that takes. And even they’ll ask, you know, “How long will they be with you?” And we have no idea. I couldn’t even wager a guess to say how long a child will be in our home. And I think people are just surprised by how long that process takes. And as you mentioned about what parents are doing to be able to have their kids reunified, I mean, it’s a lot and there are success stories. You have to celebrate those. Some of my saddest days as a foster parent have been when a child has left, but I have some really beautiful stories about those days too and getting to know their parent through that process.
Serena: Yeah. Thanks for sharing that.
Tina: So what about other misconceptions?
Simone: Yeah. So I think another one is that if you’re not in it for the money, that’s people’s first guess, but if that’s not the care then you must be struggling with infertility and this is the way that you’re growing your family. And that’s not the case for us. I’m sure it is the case for a lot of people, but for us, foster care is our first choice and I wish we could normalize that a little more and it wasn’t seen as a last resort. I wish that more people would be interested in it for the benefits to the children and to your own family.
Serena: And what about those people who say, “I could never do foster care because I would get too attached”. How do you respond to these people?
Simone: Yes. I have a love/hate relationship with that comment because it’s frustrating to hear but it’s also a teachable moment because if someone is worried they would get too attached, I would respond, that that’s the very reason that they would be a fantastic foster parent. And I’d just like to challenge that mentality a little bit because if the people who would be too attached and would care too much for these children opt out for that reason, then what’s left? What’s left is the “Miss Hannagin”-type people. You know the people who aren’t going to care when the children leave and that’s the opposite of what we need to be doing in this system. It is hard, I mean that’s an oversimplification because it is very hard. When the kids leave I struggle with it and I cry A LOT and I have to miss days of work and sometimes I do get a little bit depressed. It takes me awhile to return to some sense of normalcy and by that point we’re usually about to start fostering again. It is hard but I’m an adult and I have coping skills to deal with those things and, you know, we’re discussing some of those. And you discuss a lot of coping skills and self-care on your podcast. But these children need a stable, safe and loving home far more than I need to avoid any feelings of sadness.
Tina: That makes me a little emotional, Simone. Yeah, for sure. Knowing that you’ve had a number of little ones in and out of your life, how do you manage those hard transitions? Are there certain rituals or traditions you have when the kids leave your home?
Simone: Yeah, I’m going through that a little bit right now. We are in the middle of a transition in our family right now. And I like to try to give myself a balance of giving myself full permission to be sad and cry and feel all my feelings and I like to balance it with doing some fun things to distract myself. So in the past, when a child has left, my husband and I would sometimes just take a spontaneous trip. Also I’ll plan something fun with my friends. And actually yesterday I was able to take a figure skating class that was run by a former Olympic skater. So I did that. Yeah, I did that with a couple friends last night and that was really fun and that sort of helped me this weekend with distracting myself. But like I said I will give myself a few days to just cry and that’s fine too. Another thing we like to do in our house is keep pictures of all our former and past kiddos. So we have pictures of them throughout the house and that’s a really nice reminder. Sometimes it does make me sad, but for the most part I love to see their faces.
Tina: It amazes me to hear you talk about this having, as I said, known you for as long as I have. To think about all the stuff that has made you this beautiful young woman that you are and feeling the feels and letting yourself do that and, yeah, I love that. Huh, OK. As we say, parenting is hard. It doesn’t really matter how we come to parenting, right? We have all kinds of different ways we do that. What we also know is that we do need to take good care of ourselves. And so perhaps other than the things you talked about, you know, just a second ago, what does self-care look like for you? Skating of course.
Simone: Yes. Yeah, so as I mentioned I figure skated and I for years have taught classes to children so that is something I really like to do and that was more of a pre-covid thing that I did. So hopefully we’ll get back to that on a more regular basis. I mean, it’s spring now. Luckily, the weather is getting nice. I love to just take walks around my neighborhood while listening to podcasts. And writing is something that I’ve found helps me process. So I’ve been able to do some guest blogging for a few different websites. I know you mentioned one of the articles that I wrote. So that has helped me process and even just sometimes, the mood will strike me and I’ll just write down a quote or I’ll write down a few lines in just the notes app on my phone. And I sort of will just do that on the go. So that has helped me a lot in the grieving process. And then I do have to give a shoutout to my husband Ryan because he’s my partner in all of this and luckily we’ve been able to just support each other through this and it helps that we are going through the exact same thing and we have each other.
Serena: Mmm. Yeah, that support is absolutely crucial and yeah, I totally agree with the writing piece. It’s definitely something I find very cathartic and it’s a great way to kind of just get things out of my head that are swimming around in there. So, one more question for you today. For anyone out there listening who might be considering doing foster care, what would you say to them? What kind of advice do you have for them?
Simone: So, if I can inspire even one person to become a foster parent, I’ll consider that a success. I’m so passionate about the system and the need for good foster parents. So if there is anyone out there listening who is maybe a little bit interested in foster care and maybe they are someone who’s worried about getting “too attached”, then I would just encourage them to DO IT, to go for it. It is so worth it and there is so much more gained than lost when you are a foster parent. I am always happy to talk one-on-one with any of your listeners who might be interested so if there’s anyone out there interested you can find me on Instagram @sometimes_mom or you can even send me an email at email@example.com. I am so, so happy to talk to anyone, answer questions or just to hopefully provide a little bit of inspiration.
Tina: That is awesome and we’ll include that in our show notes. Go to our website and it will all be there and you can just click right on it and email Simone. Simone, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your expertise by experience as a foster parent.
Serena: And, I will add, thank you for taking on this, what is an incredibly challenging role and just loving all the kiddos that come your way.
Simone: Well thank you so much for having me on today and giving me this platform to share. This has been so much fun, thank you!
Serena: So I would just like to take a moment here to pause before we end the episode and just acknowledge that Mother’s Day is coming up soon. I know this can be a challenging day for many. I will share, coming out of this episode, that one year ago on Mother’s Day my family said good-bye to two little boys that we had been fostering for 20 months. It’s still incredibly painful and has forever changed Mother’s Day for me. I bring it up to say that people come to mothering in many different ways and many have experiences of being mothered or maybe not being mothered or having conflict with a mother-figure in their life. So for anyone out there who may be struggling this Mother’s Day, I do hope that you will take extra good care of yourself.
Tina: And so podcast friends, we are, as always grateful to all of you for listening and supporting us. You can help us out by visiting Apple podcasts, leave a review, and subscribe. Please also share with others. You’ll also find more content on our website, NoNeedtoExplainPodcast.com.
Serena: And this is your gentle reminder to take good care of yourself while you are also taking care of your people.
Tina: Thanks so much for listening!