If you're also an exhausted, big-dream-having foster/adoptive/special needs parent, I see you. I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities of coordinating care and showing up for my kids day in and day out, while also having this sparkle of desire in my heart to make something happen FOR ME professionally speaking. It's totally possible, though, and this post is intended as a note of encouragement as well as some insight into how I've been able to do it.
First of all, you need a fundamental understanding that IT’S NEVER THE WRONG TIME TO THRIVE. You’re allowed to want both, and it’s totally possible to be an AWESOME parent and be successful in your career.
Everyone is different, and I'll never be the one telling another person how to grieve, cope or process the difficult parts of special needs parenting, but I will say this: you've got to listen to the little voice inviting you to be BRAVE.
I had a powerful moment of realization about 9 months after my kids came to me by way of foster care. I realized that I was using them as a crutch; I was allowing myself to hide behind the drama and chaos, because I was afraid of failing. I was ducking my dream of getting my business off the ground and basically using my two sweet kids as an excuse that no one could ever call me out on.
Who's ever going to tell a foster mom who's busting her butt to meet everyone's needs that she should really be trying harder? No one was ever going to kick my butt about not chasing my dreams. For all anyone else could tell, my dreams changed when my schedule changed. For all anyone else could tell, I was barely keeping up with all the demands of my time and energy and basic sanity.
But I knew the secret: my bandwidth was bigger than I was letting on, or at least had the potential to be bigger with some adjustments of focus and priority (...and before you panic, my kids were NEVER removed as the #1 focus and priority). My dreams hadn't changed, I just knew that in order to achieve them I would have to step up in a bigger way than I ever had before and that was freaking scary.
The "come to Jesus moment" was the understanding that if I didn't take a stand for my professional vision, nobody else would and it's not because they don't care... it's because parenting in situations like this paints a picture to the outside world that it would be the wrong time to do anything else.
But in our heart of heart of hearts... we know better. :)
“It’s never the wrong time to thrive.” has become my mantra. Having a lot on your plate doesn’t make it a weird/bad/wrong time to start a business, or chase your career dreams.
As my business has grown, I’m starting to be in the flattering but weird situation of getting the “How are you doing this?!” question more and more often when I’m out and about, especially from those who have been along for the ride since I was first getting started.
“Do you have a full time nanny?” Nope.
“Is your husband handling the foster care stuff now?” Nope.
"Have your children fully processed their physical and emotional trauma and healed completely to the point where things have just plain settled the F down?" Hahaha - thanks for asking. Nope. (This is a fake question that I've never been asked included here for comedic purposes.)
This is my answer, and I hope this feels like a note of encouragement by bringing a realization that there’s nothing “special” about me that you don’t have. YOU CAN DO IT TOO if that’s what you want.
ANSWER: I protect my calendar and my brain from unnecessary drama and focus my attention on the things that will actually create ROI instead of just help me feel like I crossed something off a list.
Beyond team work and self care (so important, but also not all it takes to chase career dreams and be a fully present special needs parent), what I’ve learned is that my business does not need 100% of my time, as some of the startup/entrepreneur advice-givers have suggested. It does, however, need 100% of my focus in the time I’ve designated for it, and for that focus to be on the right things.That’s what it takes: not some super-human ability to be amazing all the time. I am NOT a super human. You don't need 100 hours per day; you just need fully focused attention on the things that will actually impact the bottom line.
I’m a person who believes that there’s not a wrong time to shine your light, and that stepping out in faith (in yourself, in the process, in a higher power; ultimately: faith in something that is real and powerful to YOU) - even in the middle of chaos - is a gesture the Universe honors with an outpouring of support and resources. Faith and focus create magic.
Even when it feels like everything else is out of your control (which it IS!), faith and focus are always in your control. If it’s what you want, you ABSOLUTELY CAN do it!
Here for the first time?
About the Author: Andrea Flack-Wetherald is the creator of The Art of Confrontation™, an online class empowering overwhelmed people with improv skills to master the skills of self-advocacy, boundary stetting, and giving and receiving feedback so they can take more control of their career path.
She's also the owner of &Beyond, a leadership development and corporate culture consultancy that uses the philosophy and techniques found in improvised comedy and mindfulness practice to help leaders create cultures that reflect their good intentions, and ultimately attract, engage and retain fantastic employees as they grow.