My husband and I knew that deciding to become foster parents would change our thus far adventurous and sappy-happy life together. I think we even knew in some way that life would never be the same. We had no idea, however, how dramatically different life would be after filling our house with five children almost overnight.
Before we had children, we lived at an artist pace, flowing with our creative processes and usually remembering to show up for our day jobs. We ate when we realized we were starving, slept when our projects were finished and woke when we were done sleeping. We went ballroom dancing every Thursday night, enjoyed date night on Saturday and could spend hours visiting family and friends.
Children hijacked our time all together. They get hungry, they need help wiping their bottoms, they require a fairly consistent bedtime and schools want them there at the same time every day. They get sick, contain a surprising amount of body fluids and rarely plan these disruptions between our creative projects. Mornings now begin before the sun is even trying to wake up, and, it turns out, bedtime is not a fixed point in time but a process that can take several hours.
We have learned, though, to relish in the time it takes to cuddle with little ones, and have been surprised at how good for us a slower pace has been.
Before we had children, my husband and I often took to different rooms to study and write in our own creative spaces. We had a separate room for workout equipment, a library instead of a living room and a garden where we grew our own food. Our home was modest, but plenty comfortable, and we felt a stewardship of gratitude that left us wanting to share the space of our home.
But kids don't share, really, and the children quickly took over the entire house. We gave up our separate studies to have a girls' room and a boys' room, squeezing in bunk beds and baby cribs and toddler beds to accommodate whatever children might live here at any given time. Our nice coffee table and old pump organ got moved out to make room for a play pen and pop-up tents.
Our master bedroom suite became an obstacle course as we now have to step over the treadmill to get to the bathroom, and have to squeeze past my husband's desk to get to the corner where I can barely reach my desk but not actually sit there.
This doesn't even bring up our own personal space, where our bodies have become jungle gyms and our clothes are stained with formula milk, spit out food and better-not-identified fluids.
Still, what best melts my heart is a table covered in Sippy cups, tiny socks scattered all over the floor and a sprinkling of Legos throughout the house. Nothing was so fun, though, as the day we cleared out all the furniture from the living room to play soccer inside when a kiddo's first ever game got rained out. Our home is less pristine, but it is lived in and loved in and played in.
Before we had children, my husband and I often enjoyed the silence of our home and used it to our advantage. We are writers, and needed the depth of quiet to play with words and shape phrases into poetic prose. Any noise was intentional, such as playing old vinyl records on the kitchen stereo to dance while we made dinner, or a nice acoustic playlist while writing something specific in a particular mood.
There is no silence in a house full of children. Sound escalates quickly as they chatter over each other and sometimes yell amongst themselves as if this were normal conversation. Learning toys have the loudest sound effects, and old school toys let the kids make the noise themselves. Doors get slammed, feet get stomped, and chairs slide hard against the tile floors. Even when they are sleeping, kids make weird noises as they dream and cough and toss and turn.
Have you heard the sound of kids you love playing in the backyard - their laughter floating through the open windows on an autumn day? That's a sound that makes the rest of the noise worth it.
Before we had children, we could travel anywhere we wanted without much notice. From deciding to eat dinner across town to spontaneously leaving the country, we could quickly grab what we needed and be on our way. We could stay as long as we were enjoying ourselves, and then head home any time of day.
Children aren't always too keen on travel, it seems, and they require a small suitcase just to attend church for a few hours. We have to keep babies turned around backwards until they are 2, even if the child's legs are bent with her knees almost in her face, and the second grader is shamed by the booster seat still required. Sometimes a new sibling group arrives in the middle of the night for us to foster, and it isn't until the next morning we realize that so many kids won't even fit in the cars we have.
Yet, there is magic in the songs we sing as we drive, and imagination in the stories we listen to, and special bonding that happens over ice cream while we drive from one activity to another.
Travel adventures now are through the park with a jogging stroller, and we pack bottles and diapers instead of passports and laptops. The children can be so loud, but they make us laugh until tears stream down our cheeks.
Our time and energy are spent on cooking meals and doing laundry rather than on intriguing conversations with friends late into the night, but nothing has felt as important as one more round of the ABC song or cuddling up for that bedtime story each night.
Our garden has become a steady source of nutrition for little ones, instead of just a hobby for fancy cooking, though the fence is bent from being climbed on and digging up sweet potatoes might actually lead to discovering a hot wheels graveyard.
Life has changed since having children in the home. Sometimes that is really hard, but (usually) it is much better.