The Ersatz Mother

I could be writing about the glorious Saturday I spent in the garden, where transplanted broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and Swiss chard and cut up more sod to lay down weed paper. I could be writing about the quality time my husband and I had when he was so thoroughly and utterly exhausted but wanted to play board games and I totally slayed at Agricola. I could be writing about my hopeful trepidation about receiving a new package of bees this afternoon. Or about how my sewing machine still isn’t working properly. Or about the latest farming book I finished. Or about the rich blue roving I’m spinning into yarn with increasing uniformity.

Instead, the yarn I’m trying to spin is a frazzled limp little thing, alternately as cuddly as a worn flannel and as feral as a rabid skunk. Neither variation wants to be nor can be drawn out to their full promise, and I never know whether I’ll be handling the snuggly shirt or the feral animal. The change happens in an instant and back and forth and back and forth. This weekend was a bad weekend. Filled with rage and defiance and challenges and rejection.

I want so much to be a source of solace for the kiddos in my care, to help them flourish, to be enough. I am not enough.

This weekend I was not enough.

This morning, I found a note saying that the kiddo hated everyone except our other foster kiddo and the animals. The note was written by the kiddo I least expected to receive it from, not from the kiddo who yelled and screamed and threatened to call the cops on a friend for no justifiable reason other than that she was angry and needed to lash out.

I offer up all my love and my home, and I am not enough.

And so, instead of writing of the jubilations, this morning I am writing of the sorrows. The empty hole I have from wanting so much for them, for our relationship, but not getting it.

I worry now that maybe I am not strong enough, despite the tribulations I have overcome in my own life, to help them triumph over their own pains while facing rejection over and over and over again because they fear rejection over and over again.

I have a new pain that I’m struggling with:  the desire to be a parent, to be definitively recognized as someone’s mother without question or hesitation. To have a family photo that is mine and my husband’s, a photo of our children. To help other children as we foster with the intent to adopt because I cannot have biological children. The holidays are hard. Facebook is filled with pictures of smiling families and children in special outfits. Mother’s Day looms as another holiday where I both am and am not a mother. I am the ersatz mother, an unwanted substitute.

I can never be enough.

I have to be okay with it.

I am not okay with it.


3 thoughts on “The Ersatz Mother

  1. I don’t claim at all to know what you’re going through. Parenting kids who have had such troubled lives would be such a challenge, and I think you’re a rock star for attempting it.

    That being said, I remember the first time K told me he hated me in the middle of a tantrum (at the tender age of 4 and with nothing like your kiddo’s excuses). After putting him to bed, I called my mom, sobbing. She was sympathetic, but also like, “Congratulations, you’re really a mom now.”


    1. Thank you for the support. I definitely had the “I hate you!” from our first foster kiddo, gosh, almost a year ago. I told her that we still loved her even though she was angry. I think the difficulties of this last weekend are complicated with the holiday and this want for a family of my own. We’re hoping to find our higher-need kiddo some extra supports here soon. She’s been floundering so much, and it’s hard to see her suffer.


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