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For Parents in the Trenches

By Shaelynn Miller, Communications & Content Manager, Areté Living

I have written this article so many times – written paragraphs, then erased them, then started completely over. I thought about forgetting about it and not sharing my story.

Then a Facebook memory popped up from a year ago today. I was feeling down because it had been a difficult day. I had been yelled at and hit. My then 5-year-old missed his first day of soccer – that he had been so excited for – because he was too heightened that day. I was tired and burnt out. It had been this way for a long time.

Memories like this make me realize how much progress we’ve made. There is still so much we’re working on, but one of the things that keeps me going is seeing the change – because it’s difficult to see it in the trenches of the day-to-day.

In honor of Mother’s Day, I decided to share my story. I want fellow parents who are in the trenches (and let’s be real – that’s ALL parents) to see they aren’t alone. We all have challenges and are trying our best to raise our kids to be loving, strong, and good people.

Deep in the trench

My husband Chandler and I became parents through foster care. During training, they told us “Forget everything you know about parenting.” Easy enough for me – I didn’t have any kids at the time. I had no idea just how true that statement would be. The training prepared us for the basics, but experiencing it is entirely different.

In November 2020 in the middle of a two-week shutdown from the COVID-19 pandemic, we welcomed a three-year-old boy into our home. Through the years we shared fun memories together – and very challenging days.

I often asked myself if this is what parenting was – being called names, being hit, trying to prepare for the meltdowns, but also not knowing when one may strike. We felt like we were always “on,” without a break.

Many times I’d hear people talk about how parenting is hard but worth it. But I couldn’t see it. I questioned why I signed up for this and if I was even qualified enough. We experience challenges that many parents don’t – and while already using all our resources and professional advice, I just felt helpless.

In moments like these, I found hope in reading past experiences we’ve had, so that I can see how far we’ve come. There are hard days and good days. There are always challenges – but they evolve.

I read some of what I’ve written in my personal notes and say, “Wow, we haven’t had that happen in a long time.” It’s refreshing and gives me hope that things will keep changing.

Happy moments

I also find hope in remembering our happy moments. I scroll though pictures on my phone almost daily.

I remember the day we told Koa we would become what we call our growing up family. We had no idea when we welcomed this little boy that he would be with us for more than just a few years. While the goal of foster care is reuniting with birth family, Oregon DHS considers other options when that isn’t possible.

We had prepared for it to be a hard day, because while it’s great that he was leaving foster care, it also comes with change and sadness. As soon as Koa’s caseworker told him, Koa jumped up into mine and Chandler's laps and gave us a big hug. He was so excited!

I also fondly remember our belated Christmas present. On December 26, 2022, we found out I was pregnant! I absolutely adore my Remington. She is a joy in my life. I love seeing her grow, learn new things, and reach milestones. She’s the perfect addition to our family.

Koa is a great big brother. I love seeing their relationship – he reads to her and dances for her. Remi’s face lights up anytime she sees her big brother!

I love seeing Koa learn and grow every day. He is so smart – he can remember any fact about dinosaurs or any animal. He creates fun and unique Lego creations. He loves art and spends a lot of time working on his creations. I enjoy reading books with him every night – and he’s starting to read some words to me too!

I love making memories with our little family. We have fond memories of visiting my family in West Virginia, our vacation to Hilton Head Island, weekend trips to Lincoln City, and of course many park visits. Koa loves spending time with us, even just at home building Legos or having “picnics” in our living room.

One of our big family memories is September 2023, a special month for us. On September 8, 2023, Chandler and I became Koa’s legal guardians. Koa said we should make that day a holiday, and I look forward to celebrating every year with him. Only a week later, on September 14, our daughter Remington was born.

I love our family and am excited to keep making memories together.

The trench won’t last forever

If I could give my pre-mom self some advice, I’d say, “It’s going to be so much harder than you think. But you’ll get through it, and you have all the support you need.”

Our family steps in to watch our kids when we need a break. When we were fostering, our DHS team would call us at times just to check in. They listened to our struggles, gave insights, and helped set us up with behavioral support training through the Boys and Girls Aid. I’m so thankful for the support of our family and DHS. It is so needed and one of the main reasons we were able to keep going.

To my fellow parents in the trenches, it won’t last forever. There will be good and bad days. Your challenges will pass, new ones will arise, and you’ll take them as they come.

Document your experiences – looking back on those just might spark hope for you too. Find your support system in family and friends, even just someone you can vent to. And go easy on yourself – parenting is not easy!

Once I had a hard time seeing how parenting was worth it. Now I am able and happy to say – it brings me joy and is 100% worth it.

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