Search
  • Erin Johnston

Defined by Love.

I don’t have any superpowers. I’m not better than anyone else. And I definitely don’t have “the patience of a saint” that so many people attribute to me.


I may be a foster mom, but I'm really just a regular mom!


I’m not always calm and collected (think exact opposite..). I have dirty floors, I hate to do laundry, and I never match socks. My bathrooms constantly need cleaning (don’t they all, though?!) and I’m lucky if I manage to get fruit into my kids’ lunchboxes.


But foster parenting isn’t much different than any other type of parenting, and it definitely doesn’t make me any better or anyone else, any less. And if anything, being a foster mom has shown me how really alike all of us moms actually are.

My six year old daughter says a mom is someone who “takes care of you, loves you, and cares.” That doesn’t change with any of these categories - it’s all the same. I could pick it apart and say that a foster mom loves and cares temporarily. Or an adoptive mom takes care of and loves a child born to another mother. Or a biological mom takes care of and cares about a child born to her. But they are really all the same.


When I became a foster mom, the greatest unknown to me, and probably what worried me the most, was the relationship with a child’s biological mother. I remember being so nervous the first time I met the mother of our first little foster love. I called my sister-in-law in the car on my way to meet this woman and told her about ALL the feelings I was having and thinking through all the possible scenarios before I parked and went inside. I was so anxious, so nervous, and had no clue what to expect.


I rode up the hospital elevator with this stranger of a mother’s baby in tow. The tiniest little baby I had ever held. Sweet and calm, a ball full of snuggles. I walked around the hallway waiting for the caseworker to meet me, since I had no idea what the mother looked like and didn’t know how to find her. I paced back and forth and finally got a text saying that the caseworker couldn’t make it after all and wishing me luck.



I didn’t even have time to go into panic mode because then walked up a woman who came straight toward me and immediately fell into the role of mother. She began unbuckling her son from the car seat, and picked him up to love on him while introducing herself to me. We walked to the registration office and sat down, side by side, as we took turns giving information to the administrator about the tiny baby she held. When the administrator asked our relation, I specifically remember his reaction of surprise when we told him, “foster mom and biological mom.”


It was honestly as natural as could be, though. We walked to the doctor’s office together, with her telling me about herself and asking questions about how her son was doing. As we waited to be called, she talked to me about her older sons who lived with family members, and I could see the pain behind her eyes and sensed her sadness as she clung to her new little bundle. When we entered the exam room together, we again participated together. And when it came time to check out and take home paperwork, I found myself so readily asking for two copies of everything - one for me and one for her. We never talked about it, but I remember this look on her face, almost like she felt that she belonged.


I could have easily left that doctor’s office on my own but we intentionally walked together through the hospital. Had I met her any other day, she would have just been another mom to me. Someone I maybe could have even found myself friends with, and I was so struck by how similar we were. Not by our interests or hobbies, but in our roles as “mother.” She wasn’t someone who didn’t care; she was someone who loved her baby deeply. Yes, she had struggles, but if I hadn’t been caring for her son in my home, it might never have been apparent to me had I met in her passing.

We were just two moms, sharing stories and loving on the same little boy.



Being a foster mom, an adoptive mom, a biological mom, or even a stepmom doesn’t mean we are all that different. Our struggles, circumstances, resources or supports may be different, but that doesn’t change our title or role. For me, my titles have made me more aware of the many complexities of being a mother. I don’t always understand the decisions of some and I may not be able to fathom the various situations and circumstances (both founded and unfounded) that led me to parenting the children of other women. Their love for their children may even look different than what mine looks like, or what I want theirs to look like. But I’ve learned that those circumstances do not take away their love.

I never thought Mother’s Day could be a complicated holiday. But now, I plan for my own mother, and my mother-in-law and my grandmother. And then I plan for my adopted son's first mother, and the mother of my two foster littles. And when my family celebrates me, I am constantly thinking about them. Because even though there were a series of bad decisions or life circumstances that led to each of these children being in my home, it will never make their mothers disappear.


And to be honest, I’ve had to wrestle with that. It’s not easy thinking about someone else on the day you are supposed to be celebrated. I admit that I’ve even thought about how much easier it would be if I didn’t have to. But from the very first time I met a foster love’s mother that day in the hospital, I knew deep down that our love for our children made us more similar than I ever expected. And when I think about that, and think about the love that they have for their children - even if it is not always apparent by their decisions or involvement, and despite the jumble of emotions I might feel toward them - I can celebrate them as mothers, too, because they are just like me. We just happen to have the same mother’s love for the very same children.



Sometimes we can use titles and labels to set ourselves apart or to define our place of belonging. But, one of my greatest joys when we adopted our son was finally being able to “cross out” all the labels that I’m accustomed to using for myself. I was so excited to finally just be Mom! And although those labels and categories are important for certain situations, the truth is… we’re all really the same deep down, and I couldn’t be more proud to be “just Mom.”


So, Happy Mother’s Day to every Mom out there - whether you have one title or four, whether or not “mom” is officially in your label or just in your love. You are important, you are valued, and you deserve to be celebrated, both for your role AND who you are! Yes, Mother's Day can be complicated; full of joy and loss, for so many reasons. But in case you need reminding, you are not defined by any title (or lack thereof), you are defined by your love.




86 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All