My wife and are excited about some aspects of this job. I will list them and then you can feel free to point out the ones that seem too optimistic.
1) Now I am working 4 jobs and attending seminary. My wife takes care of our daughter and manages to put in 10-15hrs a week teaching kids remedial reading and math. We are looking forward to working together and having a single focus in our life and ministry.
2) My wife and I have always been frugal. We have never been in debt and have always saved a large portion of our income. We don’t know what we will be spending our paychecks on when our home, meals, insurance and gasoline are covered.
3) We are hoping to make a significant and noticeable difference in the lives of the children we care for. We’ve seen the website videos of kids and young adults saying how their lives have been totally changed by the work of the facility and the HPs.
4) Right now I work most every Saturday and Sunday. My wife and I have never had full days off and are really looking forward to connecting with each other during these days. One location offers two days off each week and another 1 day off per week and 1 weekend per month. Is this realistic? Will we really have these days off?
I’d really appreciate your perspective on these things. We want to go in with our eyes wide open.
It would also be really great to hear your worst misconceptions of the job.
You guys definitely are in better financial shape than most people going into the job.
As for the time off, I have been a soldier, a truck driver, worked in a factory and did a short stint as a youth pastor. In all of those jobs I worked a lot of overtime, but not near as much as I work now. The difference now though is my wife and I work as a team. We spend most of our time together, not separate. When our daughter arrives (1 month!!!) she will have mom and dad there, together, all the time.
There is down time. After getting the kids to school you can have some breathing room. A lot of facilities will try to say that will be part of your down time also- They are only half right. There are still Dr. Appointments, paperwork, staff meetings general house care stuff, shopping and food prep that needs to be done. Most people I see that stay content doing this job seem to be able to budget their time wisely. You can go back to sleep until noon when the kids are in school, but you will pay for it later when you are trying to throw dinner together at the last moment. Your week can seem impossible if you don’t schedule it.
One really cool aspect of this job I learned from a former supervisor. His son is a excellent wrestler, his dad is at almost every event. He helps train his son and is very involved in all of his children’s lives. Because of being a HP he has been able to be a dad who is there for his kids almost 24/7. When he is on duty, his time is split between his kids and the other kids, but the bottom line is he is there.
The respite time is a big factor. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes. Some people prefer working 30 days straight and only having a weekend off. I have learned that’s not for me. You have to find your comfort zone and find what works best for you, your family and the children your serving. If your losing your cool after three weeks of being on duty and start losing the professional, ministry focus- you may need to re figure your situation. We ain’t doing anyone any good if we are screaming fools.
As for you actually getting a week end off you need to talk with them and find out exactly what they mean. A weekend off can mean you go off at 10pm on Friday when the respite shows up, and need to back on at 10pm on Sunday after respite has reconfigured your living room and changed all the house rules
One day off can also mean your off after the kids go to school and back after they are in bed.
As for making a noticeable difference? The fruits of our labor may not be visible until they turn thirty. There are victories but I have gone to bed some nights wondering if I make a difference at all. You have to be content with the fact you are doing the best you can and know you are following Gods call. I think most of the burn out in this job is from poor management of ourselves and/ or the facility. I really don’t think it’s the kids that run most of us out.
Actually here is a better example. Diary of a Houseparent
Very good example. Worth a read for everyone!!!
Oh, that’s just funny! Similar to our first cottage assignment, but still funny!
For a little perspective, I’ve also been present when some of the kids accepted Christ as their savior. Way cool! There’s good and bad in everything. Finding a well-run campus with a good support structure is very important. Talk to the current HPs on staff. Visit the cottages. Visit the kids. -TexPop
I have basically raised my children in residential childcare. Being a houseparent at the facilities I have worked at has made it easy to spend time with them. Additionally they have always been good about letting us off for special activities. I rarely hear about houseparents that have a difficult find time with their children, the hardest thing is being able to balance the demands of your birth children with the demands of the home children. Some children have a difficult time sharing Mom and Dad.
I very much enjoy spending time with my wife, we have been married for over 18 years, but sometimes I just want to do something by myself or doing manly men things, and it seems hard to be able to do that, because I feel bad about leaving her with 9 children for more than an hour or two. My alone time is left to the couple of hours I spend at the office each day while the kids are in school.
Being frugal surely helps, You can save your money for a rainy day or to buy a house later on. If you are like most you will end up spending some of your money on your kids, the occasional pizza or sundae are hard to pass up.
My husband and I are making less money that we ever have. But, we have more money that we ever have – our spending has decreased significantly! (We also know that God has been blessing us!) Do keep in mind that you will spend some money while you are working – pizza nights, ice cream runs, birthday presents, etc. It’s easy to get carried away and spend lots of money on the kids (and be prepared that they will rarely appreciate it the way you expect them to), but just be careful to stay thrifty. The good news about spending on the kids – they love even the smallest things (dollar movie theatre, McDonalds 99 cent menu, a coke or candy bar, etc.)
My husband worked 3 jobs and I worked 2 before we came here. (Not quite as busy as you were!) While we are still putting in the same amount of hours (well more hours actually), it is very nice to just have one focus as you said.
Be sure and talk to the current houseparents at the facilities you are considering to find out if they really do get their days off. We discussed this issue very frankly with our director, and he let us know that time off is something he takes very seriously. We always get the days off that we are scheduled for.
As for making a “significant and noticeable change” in the kids – be careful about your expectations. You have to remember the number of years of poor lifestyle / bad parenting that have damaged these kids. It took time for them to form their bad habits, and it will take time to change those bad habits. I try to look at it from the perspective of planting a seed. We may never see it start to sprout, but it’s there in the soil. We as houseparents have to be sure that we aren’t looking at the kids behavior to see whether or not we are being effective. (Otherwise we would constantly be frustrated!!!) If we plant a strong seed, then we are being effective. I have to remind myself that I am not in this job to be made to feel like some hero that has just swooped in and changed the world for these kids. It’s not about whether or not I feel good and accomplished, it’s about planting a seed. I may not get many opportunities to be a gardener, but I am happy to just be a planter. (FYI- I am mostly preaching to myself right now!! )
This is a wonderful career field and I hope your family just loves it as much as we do!! Adorable family by the way!!!
Thanks for your post. That was very encouraging. All of you: launchpad, admin, texaspop etc have been very helpful these last couple days. My wife is changing her outlook on this line of work. Today she said that she is excited about this opportunity. This is a huge shift in her thinking.
About three weeks ago we received an application from a facility. I had it filled out two days later. My wife is still working on hers and many days she would get overwhelmed just answering the questions. I began reading her stories from houseparent.net out loud. They were funny, entertaining, and real. A couple days ago she began reading things from hp.net and this forum herself. Yesterday and today she made more progress on her application than she had in 3 weeks. Thanks to you all.
My wife Laura was very skeptical about the photos and videos on the facility websites and knew that it couldn’t be as good as it sounds. What she did find comforting were the real stories and frustrations that you all have written. Your stories have truth, humor, pain, life, love and joy. Thank you for sharing. We’re in!*
*At least we’re in for some interviews and campus visits.