In 2018, I became a foster parent for the first time. Since then, I've taken care of several children who were not my own, and I've learned precisely what I'm capable of: both personally and (surprisingly) professionally.
Disclaimer: People say, "You are a saint for doing what you do." But it's absolutely untrue. I'm no better than anyone. I just fill a need.
Yet within that need are incredible opportunities to see what I'm made of. That's an aspect which initially scared me, but now I fully embrace. Pushing past the fear and the "what ifs," I experience what is, in essence, LIFE, as a foster mother. I learn and grow as a human, as a woman, and as a caregiver. And I apply what I've learned to other areas of my life. Namely, my job.
Here are four ways that being a foster parent made me better at my job:
1. Being a foster parent made me a better communicator. I've always been fascinated by how and why people communicate in the ways they do. It's probably why I'm in the communications industry. When I became a foster parent, I realized how vital communications would be. There are many, many people involved with a child's case, and they all have to be in contact with one another to ensure the child receives everything he or she needs while in placement. If that communication fails, there's frustration. The teamwork that you so desperately need can erode quickly.
Knowing how essential communication is for success in fostering, I became a better communicator by default in a professional environment. The same teamwork concept applies. The right hand must know what the left hand is doing. This can only happen with ongoing and robust communication.
2. Being a foster parent made me more empathetic. Fostering is a judgment-free zone. Judging others (and where they might be coming from) is something that's in the rulebooks as a no-no, but empathy towards others who are facing difficulties is paramount to success.
Not only has this made me realize how important empathy is in the workplace, but it's also put me in the unique position of being able to see multiple sides to a story, project, situation or issue, thereby helping to come up with solutions, rather than continuing to focus on the challenge or problem area. Being solution-oriented could not have come about the way it has without an emphasis on empathy.
3. Being a foster parent made me an advocate. For a girl who has always had problems speaking up in the workplace, this didn't come naturally to me. Advocating for yourself or for others requires boldness, surety, confidence -- some things that have taken me years to develop. But when that moment comes when you have to stand in front of a judge and give a testimony or statement, you find some boldness inside of you pretty damn quick. You learn how to advocate for another person, and the more you do this, the more you learn to do it in other environments.
When was the last time you advocated for someone or something at work? How did it make you feel? How can we empower more people (and especially more women) to do the same?
4. Being a foster parent made me a risk-taker. Loving something that doesn't belong to you always sets you up for a loss. It's risky. Yet I've learned that if you avoid the risk, you miss out on the incredible things associated with it. The joys. The opportunities to make a mark in someone's life.
The same can be said of work.
There are many rewards to taking risks professionally, as well as personally. Some heartbreaks, too. But the ultimate growth and joy associated with the risk far outweigh any kind of heartache I may experience.
If you're thinking of becoming a foster parent, inquire at your local DHR office. They're always in need of people who are willing to care for these precious children.
Want to discuss more of what it takes to build up professional confidence or anything related to this post? Contact me here. I'd love to talk.