How to Practice Intentional Living as a Foster Mom

[Are you a foster mom struggling to find balance? Discover how to begin living intentionally and find work-life balance as a foster mom.]

If you are curious about adoption or becoming a foster parent or you’ve already gone through the process but are wondering how to smooth the transition into this new family dynamic and how you can balance your self care while taking care of your family, you are going to want to listen to this beautiful conversation.

In this episode of the Soul Care Mom Podcast, I chat with Christina Suzanne Nelson, a foster mom. Welcoming five children into her family through adoption and foster care.

She walks us through smoothing the transition into a new family dynamic, how she found balance between working and parenting, as well as how she let go of mommy guilt so she could enjoy life and help her family thrive.

This is a real conversation about the joys and struggles of being a foster mom and how you can live with intention matter what your family dynamic. Settle in and soak in this powerful conversation.

Hi there, Soulful Mama. Welcome to the Soul Care Mom Podcast.

I’m Catherine Wilde of soulcaremom.com. I’m a mom of three amazing kids as Soul Care Mom Coach and yoga and meditation teacher. I’ve helped hundreds of women and I’m here to help you feel calm and find your unshakable confidence as a mom.

If you’re ready to stop living in survival mode and you’re ready to drop the mom guilt and overwhelm this podcast is for you. Think of this as a lunch date with a girlfriend. Grab a cup of tea and get cozy. It’s time to get honest and vulnerable and shift the traditional mindset around motherhood.

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I’m here for you, Mama. Let’s get started.

You can also listen to this conversation on iTunes or your preferred podcast platform.

[Disclaimer: we are not health professionals. This chat is solely based on research and personal experience. If you have any concerns please seek out the help of your trusted health professionals.]

[Please Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that Soul Care Mom may receive a small commission if you click through and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. Please see disclaimers for more information.]

Catherine Wilde

Hi, Christine. Thank you so much for joining me today.

Christina Suzann Nelson

Thank you for having me.

Intentional Living as a Foster Mom

Catherine Wilde

One of the many reasons I’m excited about talking with you is that you experienced motherhood from different avenues and in different seasons of life. And you have found ways to incorporate intentional living as a foster parent. And you shared a little bit about your story with me. Would you share your motherhood and adoption journey with us?

Christina Suzann Nelson

Absolutely. My husband and I, a couple of years after we were married, had our first son, Ryan. And we didn’t get pregnant right away after that.

And adoption had always been on the plan for us, adoption and foster care. So we were blessed to be able to adopt Joshua when he was a toddler. And he turned our world upside down.

Christina Suzann Nelson

And then we actually had an independent adoption after that because the attorney remembered us from the first adoption and called us when the birth mother came in. And he felt that it was a really good match.

So then we got our little Alisha and then. About a year or two after that, we were meeting with the foster parents that had had Joshua and I picked up Emma and put her on my lap and knew that she was to be ours, too.

Christina Suzann Nelson

So we adopted Emma and we had this big, full, fun family. And it was crazy and exciting. And we were still quite young. We’d just turned 30 when Emma came home. She was born before either of us had turned 30.

So we thought we were going to have this very just rich, empty nest life once the kids all took off on their own adult adventures.

But about a year before that was to happen, we received a letter in the mail that the bio mom of one of our kiddos had two little girls that were in foster care and what would be a resource for them.

So we decided that, yes, we would foster them and we would hopefully have the opportunity to work with this bio mom and help her because she’d had some good times before.

And we really wanted to encourage her to get back to that. But unfortunately, she passed away suddenly not long after this all took place.

So we brought the girls home and we finalized their adoptions last summer. So that year we had one of our big kids left in school. She was a senior and we had a kindergartner and a second-grader. So life felt very shaken but wonderful in a different way. I mean, the girls are amazing blessings.

I think they’ve taught us a lot about compassion and empathy and patience. So I wouldn’t do it any other way. I absolutely adore them. And, you know, for anyone ever considering adopting an older child, don’t hesitate. It’s wonderful.

Christina Suzann Nelson

And I, I always worried before that if we adopted an older child, how would it be to have missed those years? And it turns out it really isn’t that important. What’s important is today and what happens next.

So we are just we’re thrilled. The kids are now eight to the twenty-six-year range.

Tips for Foster Parents

Catherine Wilde

That’s amazing. What a journey. So I know that there are some moms that are listening right now that are currently going through or are interested in fostering and the adoption process. For those of us that aren’t familiar, can you walk us through in general what that might look like to become a foster parent?

Christina Suzann Nelson

So generally foster care, you’re the first priority or the hope is for reunification with the biological parents. That is not something that always happens. In fact, quite often it seems that it doesn’t.

So a person can enter into, in some states, a foster-adopt situation where the plan is for adoption for the child and they have children come into their home that is most likely going to be placed, and then they are able to go ahead and adopt.

In Oregon, we don’t have foster-adopt that way. So when you foster a child, you are there for that child as long as that child needs you. And it might mean that child’s time with you, as the foster mom, has an end date. And it may mean that it doesn’t.

Christina Suzann Nelson

But either way, it’s been so amazing to watch families, especially very young couples who have chosen to be foster parents prior to having biological children or instead of having biological children or in the mix of having biological children.

And just the stories of how grateful they are and how much they’ve enjoyed the opportunity and how enriched their lives have been by this experience. I think we still in this country have a tendency to look at foster care or children in care as somehow less than and that’s not true at all.

These kids didn’t do anything to get in this position. It’s just circumstance. And circumstance can happen to any of us at any time. And each one of these little people has so much to offer and so many amazing characteristics and talents and skills.

And some of these kids are so incredibly resilient. We can learn so much from spending time with these kiddos that have been through so much.

And they keep going.

And they keep marching forward.

And they just, you know, they just want to be loved on. And doesn’t every very child deserve to be loved? Don’t we all?

Catherine Wilde

Yeah. Oh, you’re the joy in your voice. It’s just beautiful.

So you’re talking about how, you know, you don’t always know the next thing that’s going to happen, whether how long you’re going to have a child or various circumstances. But no matter how you come into motherhood, there are so many unknowns. And so there’s a mom listening right now and she’s interested in adoption or fostering buts she’s feeling uncertain and anxious, overwhelmed with all of it.

Catherine Wilde

What would you say to her?

Christina Suzann Nelson

I would say talk to other foster moms. Foster moms, love to talk to you about foster care and being a foster mom. I think that when a life has been touched by foster care. It develops this passion in you for it, it’s so we love to talk about this.

In Oregon, we have a nonprofit called Every Child Oregon. So if you’re in Oregon, you can contact Every Child and they will give you all the information. And if you just want to help out a foster family or try doing some respite to see how that feels. That’s an open opportunity also.

I have a list of nonprofits in every state in our country that I work with, with foster families and kiddos and care. So you can always contact me and I’ll get you that list.

And watch the movie Instant Family. I can’t recommend that enough. That is a really true movie.

Christina Suzann Nelson

My husband and I were we don’t often go out to movies, but we did on that one because it had been recommended to us and we sat in the theater stunned. It felt a little bit like we were watching our lives on screen.

Recovering From Childhood Trauma

Catherine Wilde

That’s awesome. I’ll check it out. You mentioned too that these kids have been through so much. I imagine they’ve been on quite this journey. And they may be recovering from some things.

Everyone goes through things that we need to process, but they may be recovering from some childhood trauma, you know, by the time they get to you. Right? So what are some ways that you approach helping your kiddos feel safe and loved and help them to integrate into your family?

Christina Suzann Nelson

Well, there is a training called TBRI, which is Trauma-Based Relational Intervention, which I have personally found to be very helpful. It gives people a better understanding of what happens in the brain with trauma.

A lot of times when a child’s been through a great deal of trauma, that the amygdala in the brain is set off quite easily. So they go into that fight, flight, or freeze mode much quicker than you or I would.

I have seen that in my kids. So part of it is remaining calm when they don’t feel calm so that they can see that modeled for them.

Sometimes I’ll put my hands out to a child rather than actually reach out and touch them so that they can be the one that makes that move. It’s a lot of it is really just patience. And when I look at my girls, my little girls over the last nearly three years and the changes that I’ve seen in them. It just makes it all worth it.

Christina Suzann Nelson

It is amazing to see the confidence grow. And the anxiety starts to drop.

Because anxiety can be very, very overwhelming for a kid who’s been through a lot of trauma and also just being able to see them regulate their feelings. And understand their feelings and be able to express those big feelings rather than just scream or get angry, or cry. Without being able to actually say this is what is going on with me.

But it’s it is absolutely amazing to see that healing happen and see those kids just blossom.

It’s great.

Catherine Wilde

I can imagine. That’s really beautiful. And so how did you help the members that were already in your family transition as you added new members to your family, new kiddos?

Christina Suzann Nelson

Well, that was hard. That was actually this last time, it was very difficult. I’m a part of that was the stage that our older kids were in. Our second son was actually there when I opened the letter. And he was “Well, of course, you’ll take them. Why would you not?” Yeah, let’s get our board! He’s been like the cheerleader for this the whole time. Both of our boys have to our two first kids are our sons.

And then we have four daughters of our boys who were just cheerleaders the entire time because they were old enough and more established. And our first daughter was in Latvia when the girls came home.

So when she came, she flew home and she had two little sisters that she didn’t have before. I think it kind of shook her world a little at first. But she is just amazing and just she has developed such a strong relationship with them and they really look up to her.

Christina Suzann Nelson

And then our fourth kiddo, you know, we really had to help her through the transition more. Just because I think when you’re at the baby of the family, it’s kind of hard to suddenly not be.

Catherine Wilde

Yeah.

Christina Suzann Nelson

So that was difficult and it was difficult for her and for us. At the same time, you’re trying to help her launch into the world. She’s losing her baby status in so many ways. And I mean, it’s it was trying, but you know, you work through it day after day.

It all gets better. And there I would say my kids are all very close. They’re they’re great.

Post Adoption Depression

Catherine Wilde

Oh, that’s awesome. So when we become moms, there are so many emotions. Right? There’s joy and there’s the anxiety and sometimes there’s depression. What was your personal experience with each new member?

Did you experience any post-adoption, depression? Was there anything that you did to help yourself mentally and emotionally prepare us as each new kiddo joined your family?

Christina Suzann Nelson

Well, with the first adoption, I was not prepared emotionally or physically. Joshua came home and I had just told myself it was going to be easy because I was bringing home a toddler in therefore our oldest son and he could play immediately.

And it was just going to be I had these rose-colored glasses on that were not realistic. Because toddlers don’t sit still. My oldest is very focused and loved to look at books and figure out how things were done.

And Joshua was like, just this whirlwind that came into the house that we were just like staring at him? What do we do?

And also he immediately attached to my husband. And it took him a lot longer to attach to me. And that was really emotionally difficult.

That was hard. Because I just wanted, you know, I want to hold them and love on him and he wanted his dad or no one. And would cry when his dad left. And just that was hard.

But you know we’re through that now. And I know that he loves me as much as he loves his dad. Just took him longer to get there. And we adore him. I was there for Alisha’s cesarian. That was both amazing and heartbreaking at the same time. I developed a real love for her birth mother. And, you know, seeing her hurt is hard, but she felt very good about this decision and very strongly that this is what she wanted for our daughter.

Christina Suzann Nelson

Also, my only experience with Cesarian was with a friend who had had a very traumatic experience. And so I had a huge amount of guilt when they had to go ahead and do the birth that way. But it actually worked out really well and she healed very quickly. And I think she bounced back faster than I did in some ways.

But then it just seemed like everything was smooth with Emma. Maybe by the time we had our fourth, we were just kind of on a path.

Christina Suzann Nelson

But with the girls, it was I mean, there were times where it was just amazing to have these two little people in the house again. It brought this life into the house that, you know, we had it had been a long time since we’ve had little kids.

And then there were other days where it was hard because there’s a freedom that leaves when you have young children. You can’t just say I’m heading down to the woods for a walk right now and leave, you know?

Christina Suzann Nelson

Yeah, so there was some difficulty there. And I think that there were some battles with depression off and on. Just because it wasn’t expected.

And this is a little harder to explain, but birth mothers, are you have such a connection. There’s a connection between a birth mother and a mom. Losing the girl’s bio mom was very painful. It just really shook me and I mean, this woman had given birth to one of our other children and now three of our children.

And then she was just gone. And I just I had such sadness. The day we found out that she passed away, I had sat down to write her a letter when I found out. And I didn’t have the opportunity to say those things to her. And that was really sad.

And then a week after she passed away, my dad passed away. So we had a lot going on all of a sudden. And that I had an emergency appendectomy.

Christina Suzann Nelson

It was a lot. But it’s great and they’re great. And you just have to give yourself permission, I think when life goes that crazy.

That even sometimes the things that are so wonderful feel so heavy. So there were times where I just needed to step back and take a breath and take a walk by myself and touch base with some of my friends and just find myself again through everything that was going on.

Intentional Living - Foster Mom

Self Care for Foster Parents

Catherine Wilde

I love that you said that. Yeah. So let’s talk about self care. This is a place for so many women to struggle. There’s guilt when it comes to taking this time away from your kids to take care of yourself. It sounds like you did find it important. I was going to ask you if you found that to be an important part of your motherhood journey? And did you struggle with the guilt, the mommy guilt along the way?

Christina Suzann Nelson

Yes. So I did not do a good job with self care, with the older four.

My life was all completely wrapped around the kids and I was also caring for my grandmother during her last years. And that was difficult. And I really wore myself out.

Christina Suzann Nelson

So I had learned in those years from when the big kids were little to when the big kids were getting older that there were things that I needed so that I could get to them.

So, you know, I need time to walk in nature. I need that. I must have that time. And so I started really making that a priority.

And that served me well when the little girls came home because I had these things established.

This getting out and moving and spending time with, I have a wonderful group of friends. We go out every month regardless of what’s going on. And we can say anything to each other.

Christina Suzann Nelson

And, you know, we’re going to be there no matter what and encourage each other and just love each other. And you just have permission to be completely yourself. And it’s a beautiful, wonderful thing.

Actually, we met last night. And we call it our group therapy. It’s just so refreshing.

So I had some of that stuff set a little more when the little girls came. And then when the pandemic hit. It really threw everything off.

So I work in my office all day here in the house. The girls had been going to school. My husband went to his office. My college girls were in college. And all of a sudden within a couple of weeks, everyone was at home all day.

Christina Suzann Nelson

And it was supposed to be this short-term experience. And so I put myself on the back burner so that I could make sure everyone was cared for. And then it went on longer. And then it went on longer.

As we’ve approached this one year, I’ve realized, oh, my goodness, I have neglected so many things that I need so that I can stay balanced. So that I can be there for my kids, for my husband, for my friends, for everyone.

Christina Suzann Nelson

I have allowed myself to get out of some of those routines. Because I thought, “Oh this is almost over.”

And it’s not.

And so I’m implementing those things again. That time to just sit and read at the end of the day and get outside and all of that.

Work Life Balance for Moms

Catherine Wilde

Oh, I love that. And the pandemic was a really good example of a big thing life can throw our way and we still have to make that space for ourselves.

Let’s talk about work and work-life balance. You’re a working mom. How do you find balance between work and family so that you can parent and work in harmony?

Christina Suzann Nelson

Well, I do have my office. And supposedly this is my space to come and work. My eight-year-old sneaks in here often. My husband actually put a lock on the door for Valentine’s Day. Very romantic.

So that I can at least find my own stopping place before my little one came in.

I have exposed my girls to my planner more this year. I really like to have everything written out.

I’m very I use a paper planner because it just resonates.

How to Practice Intentional Living as a Foster Mom

[Disclaimer: we are not health professionals. This chat is solely based on research and personal experience. If you have any concerns please seek out the help of your trusted health professionals.]

[Please Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that Soul Care Mom may receive a small commission if you click through and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. Please see disclaimers for more information.]

Christina Suzann Nelson

And so my girls now can look at my planner and say, OK, so mom is working from one to three and they can understand that. And Mom has this time schedule that she’s going to be working with us.

And I always spend time reading with them, sitting on the couch, all snuggled up and we read. And then at dinner, we try to always be together. So that they’re getting that attention. I don’t want them to ever feel like my job takes priority over them.

But I also want them to respect that that’s a part of who I am. And that has value also.

Christina Suzann Nelson

So it’s kind of that it’s kind of the modeling, I think, that we talked a little bit about earlier is that I want to model for them so that when they are mothers that maybe they don’t experience that level of mommy guilt. Does that make sense?

Catherine Wilde

Yes. It’s one of the best gifts we can give our kids, I think is to show them how to lead a well-balanced life and take care of ourselves and go after our passion so that they have permission to do it too, you know?

Christina Suzann Nelson

Yes. And I’m seeing my kids starting to develop their passions, and I want to be part of that, too.

My 10-year-old this year has become very interested in serving the homeless. And so she went around to everyone she saw or came in contact with and said, “I’m going to do this thing. I’m going to go to the homeless and really just see what they need. And I want to provide these things.”

And people just donated to her. And she told her orthodontist and she got all this toothpaste and toothbrushes.

Christina Suzann Nelson

And then we went down and she took dog food to people. It was really, really neat to see her develop this desire and follow it through. So, you know, I don’t want to miss that either.

That was so special to see. So she actually still actually has her own bin on the porch where she collects the supplies that she has to go out and share.

Catherine Wilde

That’s amazing. What a beautiful initiative she took. I love it.

Christina Suzann Nelson

She’s learning to be powerful. And I love it, I just I love this, I love watching the kids develop these passions and dreams and going for it. It’s so rewarding.

Catherine Wilde

Hmm. Yeah, for sure. Yeah, it’s incredible.

So you talked about your group therapy and you know that support and getting that support from other women.

Catherine Wilde

So if there’s a mom that’s listening right now that has a friend that’s going through the adoption process or the foster parent process, or currently have foster kids in their home. How can she best or how can we support our friends that are fostering and adopting?

What can we do?

Christina Suzann Nelson

So I’m part of this nonprofit, Every Child. And one of the things that we’re doing right now is these Flash Boxes. And they’re just boxes that are filled with some special games or just different fun activities for a family together.

They’re usually centered around the ages of the kids that are in the home and just dropping something like that off.

Christina Suzann Nelson

Or a meal. Oh, my goodness. A meal for a foster family is like gold. So, you know those kinds of things. Or a coffee card for your friend. For a nice coffee shop that has tea and coffee and just a nice, soothing atmosphere.

Foster moms love that. All moms love it.

And being excited! When we brought our first baby home, people didn’t know what to do with us. There was no baby shower or anything because no one knew what to do with a family who was bringing home a child who wasn’t an infant.

Christina Suzann Nelson

And then when we brought our little girls home, our church, our friends, everyone just completely surrounded us.

There was a huge welcome party when they came home, when their adoption was finalized, the judge came out and did it outside so it could be pandemic friendly.

And there were so many people there. There was this field just full of people celebrating with our family.

Christina Suzann Nelson

So times are changing and people are understanding that families are made in different ways and that doesn’t make any family less valuable. So that’s just, I think, a really encouraging thing I’ve seen over the last few years.

So if you can just be excited when a kid comes into a family, share that excitement. Whether it’s through foster care and the child is there for a short time or adoption or foster to adopt, share that excitement with that family.

Catherine Wilde

Oh, I love that. Yeah. Thank you for sharing those. And my last question for you is…You’ve been through this whole journey and if you could go back in time with all the experience and wisdom that you have, what advice would you give to your younger self?

Christina Suzann Nelson

And. I would say be kinder to yourself.

Trust that it’s going to work out.

And don’t think that you are the only one who can fix anything.

Intentional Living for Foster Moms

Christina Suzann Nelson

I took way too much on myself, put too much pressure on myself to make everything perfect, to make every correct parenting decision.

And honestly, I messed up a lot. And my kids turned out great. They are wonderful adults and I’m so proud of. And yeah, I wish I had been kinder and more patient with myself.

Catherine Wilde

Oh, I think those words that everyone needs to hear, right? We were human and we mess up, we make mistakes. And that’s part of our journey. Yeah, I love that kindness and compassion and grace. That is a beautiful way to practice intentional living.

Christina Suzann Nelson

Yes, can you imagine being a child who is raised by a perfect mother? That would be very hard to move forward in your own life. So think of your own failures as service to your children.

Catherine Wilde

I love that. Great perspective on bringing more intention and grace to your life. You are amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your story, your wisdom, and how you found ways to live with intention as a foster mom. Can you let us know where we can find you online?

Christina Suzann Nelson

Yes, I’m on Instagram @christinasuzann. I also have an author page on Facebook. I have an author page there and you can find me on my website www.christinasuzannnelson.com and contact me through the contact page there.

Catherine Wilde

Oh, awesome. I will share all those in the show notes. As well as where they can find your books on Amazon. That was wonderful. Is there anything else that you’d like to share or add?

Christina Suzann Nelson

Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

Catherine Wilde

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. This is so wonderful.

Thanks for joining me, Mama, I’m over here smiling from ear to ear and giving you a big virtual hug. I love spending this time with you.

You are amazing for showing up and carving out this space to nourish your soul. If you are loving the Soul Care Mom Podcast, be sure to subscribe and leave a review. And if you were ready to start your mornings feeling calm and energized, get the Kickstart Your Morning Ritual.

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How to Practice Intentional Living as a Foster Mom and Find Work Life Balance
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