Tuesday, January 08, 2008

What's My Motivation?

Yondalla has recently written a really interesting set of posts regarding philosophy, morality and children who need care their biological parents can't necessarily provide. Her most recent post really got me thinking about motivation - what drives people to be foster parents or to adopt.

See, one of my big pet peeves is people who thank us for being foster parents or tell us what good people we are for fostering. Because to be perfectly honest, that's not why we do it.

Before I proceed, let me be perfectly clear: PB and I always intended to do foster care. We had talked about it a lot back in the days when we (read I) weren't sure that we would ever be parents. We thought it might be a way for us to have some interaction with kids and also help kids in crisis. So we aren't doing foster care simply because we want to adopt.

But we are doing foster care NOW primarily because we want to adopt; when we discussed foster care previously it was in the context of far into the future. As such, we are only taking babies. And I think most people who have spent any amount of time around a baby know that they give you way more than you give them, especially once they're past the first 6 weeks of constant neediness.

We are fostering to adopt because we want to be parents. We are also committed to the idea of foster care and fairly repulsed by most of the practices we've come across in private domestic adoption. So we are fostering primarily because of a self interested desire to be parents, balanced with a desire not to participate in what we feel is a less than ethical system.

I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing. I think most people, most of the time do most things for self-interested reasons. Not that people always do things to gain some material good. But that most people do the things that make them feel good and avoid things that don't. Doing things that make you feel good is self interest. Some people feel good when they help kids, some people feel good when they steal things... the underlying motivation, though, I think is the same, right?

Maybe some people foster because other people (their friends, their family, their church, their community) will reward them for fostering - either through praise or social interaction, etc. Maybe some people foster because it keeps them active and young. Maybe some people foster to build a family. Maybe some people foster because they were in foster care and had a good experience and want to give back and other people foster because they had a terrible experience in foster care and want to help others avoid it. And, even though we don't like it, and it's not as common as everyone seems to think it it, yes, there are people who foster to make money.

So there are still a wide range of reasons for doing things, but they boil down, I think to an underlying motivation of self-interest. And I think even noble intentions, like "saving" children - a terminology I really dislike - are undertaken because doing so makes us feel good either directly (we feel better about ourselves) or indirectly (we like the positive attention we get, etc).

I'm not sure if I'm expressing this well or not. My main point, I think is that people can be motivated because there's something in it for them, but that can still lead to them doing good things for other people. So I'm OK with the fact that we are fostering for self-interested reasons because I think most people are.


Yondalla said...

I've been thinking about writing a post about the difference between healthy self-interest and selfishness. I may do so.

BuckeyeFosterMama said...

I couldn't have said it better myself.

JUST A MOM said...

very good ,,great,, total right on.

Rebecca said...

There are very few on this earth that do anything with complete altruism.

I think Yondella has hit on the issue - positive self-interest versus selfishness, as to the right or wrong motivators for foster parents or adoptive parents.

LIW (Lady In Waiting) said...

I *still* think that the two of you deserve gratitude and praise for what you are doing. Sure, people act in their self-interests all of the time but those actions do not typically involve taking in children who need a home.

My motivation to someday be a foster parent (it's what I would like to do after the children that I do not yet have are grown) is certainly self-interested (I feel good about making a difference in children's lives) but I still believe that it is a loving act.

Not sure if any of that makes sense....I just don't want you to underestimate what you are doing...

JUST A MOM said...

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