You’ve heard the saying “Not all superheroes wear capes”, well not all moms give birth. Meet Elizabeth Friedland. She’s single and recently decided to become a foster mom. I came across her Instagram account several months ago and was instantly drawn in. She mentions her blog, so naturally I had to check it out. In her earlier posts and pictures, its about her travels, career, fabulous friends, and fantastic food. Then she sprinkles in posts about becoming a foster mom and getting ready for her first placement. Then BAM! She gets a call and is the foster mom to a 2 month old she lovingly calls Baby Girl. She documents and posts (she keeps Baby Girl’s identity confidential) how her life has changed instantly and dramatically, because thats what parenting is. But she’s so clever and honest about it, you just relate to her. She gives you a glimpse into what the next 3 months are like for the two them, the good, the bad, the not so fun parenting moments. Then she takes you thru the heartbreak of having to say goodbye to her foster child once a forever home has been established. Foster parenting can be a difficult decision to make because of everything that comes with it. Elizabeth’s vulnerability to her very unique experience is just beautiful. Read on to find out why she chose foster parenting, how it’s changed her life, and how she handles whatever is thrown her way. You’ll be crushing on her too!
**This post was written before Elizabeth welcomed a newborn baby girl, into her home over the weekend 🙂 ** (admit it, your heart filled with a little joy reading that.)
Tell us about your family (or your household now and in the past.)
Right now, I’m in single woman mode – I’m between foster placements, so it’s just me and my grumpy old man cat, Gus. Over the summer, my home was filled with the giggles and cries of a newborn baby girl whom I was lucky enough to care for from two to five months old. Check back with me in a few weeks and I’m sure the household will have shifted again!
What made you want to become a foster parent?
My career actually led me to become a foster parent. I’ve worked in public relations both in Indianapolis and New York for the past 12 years or so, and I’ve gotten to know several foster care agencies that have been clients of mine. I was always fascinated by the idea of creating this instant family, and of course my heart went out to these children who don’t have anyone to love them – through absolutely no fault of their own. I knew I didn’t want children of my own for various reasons, but I adore kids. Fostering seemed like the perfect way to experience motherhood “temporarily” while helping these amazing children.
But even though my heart felt pulled to foster parenting, I didn’t think I was actually up to the challenge. First, I’m a single woman. Caring for a child is hard enough with a partner, nonetheless doing it all alone – and how in the world would I date with a baby? I also worried about juggling my career, which often requires travel, with motherhood (I’m the Director of Communications for Appirio). It just didn’t seem possible. Yet last fall, I started thinking about it more and more seriously, and I realized my situation was actually perfect: I had a spare room just waiting to be transformed into a nursery and my job offered the flexibility to work from home, somewhat set my own hours, and cut down on travel.
Around last Christmas I committed to the idea and began the (long) journey of obtaining my foster parent license. This past May, I was officially licensed and welcomed my first foster daughter – the most gorgeous two-month-old baby you could possibly imagine.
Describe your average day (now and when you had Baby Girl).
I’m hesitant to describe my average day now – back when I was a mother to Baby Girl, I would be annoyed to hear about all my free time! Between placements, I’m your average young professional: I work through the week, and have dinners with friends, cocktails on Mass Ave., brunches, and travel for fun. (I know, I know – don’t kill me!)
But of course it was a different story when I had Baby Girl. Being a single mother is all about surviving minute to minute and getting though to the next day. I’d try to wake up before the baby (5:30 a.m.) so I could get ready before her day started. Then it was a bottle, play time, and packing her bag for either day care (she went two days a week so I could get to the office – I worked from home with her the other days) or dropping her off for supervised visitation with her biological mother.
In the evening it was more bottles and messy first foods, bath time, playtime, bedtime stories, and bed time. Before she woke up for her first night feeding, I’d try to clean up the house, catch up on laundry and chores, prepare bottles for the next day, hop online and do some more work, and try to get a shower in myself! Occasionally, a friend would come over with dinner and wine and I’d get in some much-needed adult time. Then baby and I were up every three hours for night feedings until the alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. – and off we went again.
Occasionally she would have a visit with her biological family on the weekends, and I’d use that time to run to the grocery or do other errands. Otherwise, we’d go for walks along the Canal, visit with friends and family, or do the important work of tummy time at home!
How has your life changed since becoming a foster parent?
First, I have so much more respect for parents, particularly single parents. It is more exhausting and isolating than you can even put into words – and I only do it for a few months at a time!
It’s also interesting to straddle two worlds. When I have a placement, I’m a “Mommy” like any other mother: I constantly have spitup on me, I’m sleep deprived, I’m finding random pacis in my purse, I’m worrying about whatever developmental milestone is coming up next. Then when I’m between placements, my “Mommy” identity disappears, which feels weird. I want to give the mom at Target with the screaming child a sympathetic smile, even though I don’t have a child with me, or I want to keep offering (solicited) advice on my Mommy Facebook group. But it feels weird to keep up the Mommy side when I’m childless for the moment. It’s a strange thing to go between those two worlds.
What does “balance” mean to you?
My first reaction was, “HA!”
When I’m in Mommy mode, I don’t really have balance. I just have to make sure everyone is happy, healthy, and safe – and if I can get in some “me time,” that’s an added bonus.
But the great thing about foster parenting (one of the many great things) is that its inherently balanced – you’re in full-time Mom mode when you have a placement, and then when you don’t have a placement, you can go back to your “normal” lifestyle. That’s a part of why it was so appealing to me. I fully admit that I’ve been spoiled by essentially doing whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it for 34 years – which is why I recognize I cannot and do not want to be a permanent parent. I consider myself a sprinter – that is, I can handle the demands of single motherhood for a short amount of time (the average foster care placement in Indiana is just about a year) before I’m able to take a little break and recharge myself to do it all again.
What advice do you have for new moms who are beginning to balance family and work?
I was so reluctant to accept help at first – when people would offer to babysit or run an errand for me or come over with dinner, I felt like I was burdening them if I said yes to their offer. Launching myself into single motherhood was my choice and my responsibility, and I didn’t want anyone else to “save” me. My boss and our HR department practically begged me to take parental leave when I first got Baby Girl, but I was stubbornly wanted to look like Superwoman and do it all – so I was taking meetings while giving a fussy newborn a bottle. In retrospect, I should have taken at least a few days to give myself some time to settle in and get a routine going.
Soon I realized that most of the time when people offer to help, it’s because they actually want to help. They enjoy watching the baby and giving me a break. While I’m still not great at accepting help, I really try to put my ego aside and do it – because especially when you’re doing the motherhood thing on your own, it’s the only way to survive.
What advice do you have for those considering becoming a foster parent?
Do it, do it, do it! I won’t lie – it’s hard. Not only do you have the daily struggles every parent faces – lack of sleep, no alone time, etc., but the added burden of the foster care system makes it worse. Your experience will be filled with frustrations. Your heart will be broken when you hear the stories of what these children have gone through, and when you have to say goodbye to the child you’ve loved for weeks, months, or even years. But it’s also filled with SO many joys. You get to show a child how to love and be loved. You get to watch them grow and learn and develop. You get to know you’re serving an important need. And also the children help you as much as you help them – you learn you have depths you didn’t realize.
I wish foster parenting was the first choice for people to grow or start families. There are so many children – including perfectly health newborn babies – right here in our city who don’t have a home. It’s such an amazing way to create your own family.
What do you like to do during your “me time?”
I like to do little things that make me feel more put together. I kept up my bi-weekly mani/pedis no matter what! Even if I had bags under my eyes and spitup in my hair, I felt human if my nails looked nice!
Where do you turn when you need help?
I have a very small family, so unfortunately that’s not really an option for me. I used a small army of babysitters and night nannies to get me through. (Seriously, the night nanny changed my life!)
What’s your favorite parenting hack (something that makes parent life a little easier)?
See above – the night nanny! It’s not cheap, but it’s so worth it. Since I was doing night feedings on my own and having to work full time, I needed to bring in some overnight help for my sanity. A lovely woman came into our home two nights a week, and from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., she handled night feedings, middle of the night diaper changes, and rocking the baby back to sleep so I could catch up on my rest. It felt a little weird at first, but both Baby and I were happier people for it!
Tell us about a #momwin moment, or something you’re doing really well right now:
Like many moms, I felt extremely guilt for utilizing day care – as if I had a choice. I was worried that Baby Girl would forget about me during the day, or think I had abandoned her. When I picked her up, she looked at me, took a second, and then a giant smile spread over her face. I actually choked up. It was awesome to see that she was bonded to me, recognized me, and was happy to see my face at the end of the day!
What’s your favorite way to spend a date night?
I’m actually looking for someone to spend a date night with, so if you know any eligible bachelors, send them my way!
You can read Elizabeth’s blog here. If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, can you learn more here. Got a mom you want to nominate? Tell us about her and we’ll get her featured! Comment below or email us at Hello@LullabySitters.com.