I am Sabrina, A YOUNG MOM, and this is my story.
Sabrina lives in Rockingham County with her partner, Joshua, and four children: Kaley (8), Hunter (6), Cayden (5), and Kolbie (2 months).
As told to Jasmine Getrouw-Moore, Young Families Connect Media Outreach Coordinator (November 2016).
*Names changed for confidentiality
Coming to Know Young Families Connect
I first found out about Young Families Connect (YFC) while I was in the Incredible Years parenting classes at Rockingham Partnership for Children. When the series was over, the YFC staff called and asked if I was interested in joining and I said,” yeah okay!” I’ve been a participant ever since, two years now. To be honest, I was initially in the parenting class because of a dispute between my ex(Kaley’s father) and me. Bob* and I, plus my boyfriend, Joshua, and my ex’s current wife were all supposed to take these classes but only Joshua and I completed the series.
Joshua is co-parenting all four of my children with me. However, my daughter Kaley lives with me half-time and with her dad and stepmother half-time.
Prior to taking the parenting classes, Kaley’s dad Bob*, stepmom (Sarah*) and I had a very hectic relationship. In fact, Sarah* even created a story that Kaley wasn’t my child and that she was Kaley’s birth mother. I think she created all kinds of drama to try to get me out of the picture. The Department of Social Services got involved, which is how I ended up having to take parenting classes to begin with. Sarah* also would block my communication with Bob* which really complicated how he and I co-parented Kaley. That was a very troubling time and we are still dealing with some of the stress from that period as we continue to co-parent in a blended family. But overall things are getting better!
Co-Parenting with a Blended Family
Because of the drama, we put Kaley in counseling when she was about six years old. It confirmed that Kaley was being manipulated by Sarah, Kaley’s stepmom. However the counselor informed us that there was nothing she could do about this. For example, Kaley calls me “Sabrina” instead of “Mom” and when I’ve asked her why she started doing this, she has said that if she doesn’t call me “Sabrina” then she would get a whooping. I understand that Kaley doesn’t have any control here, and so I have told her to do what she needs to do. But this is very hurtful to me. In fact, it has increased my anxiety.
This situation has not been easy at all! I have been resourceful in getting help including taking anxiety mediation. Luckily, the Incredible Years Parenting classes and Kaley’s counseling all took place at the same time (a little over two years ago) and both have been helpful tools for coping with this situation.
There are differences in my household and Kaley’s dad’s household. Here is what I do:
- I try to reinforce Kaley’s positive behaviors by having a positive relationship with her.
- I don’t ground her and punish her.
- I try to set aside special mom and daughter time.
- I remind Kaley that I am her mom and I gave birth to her. I show her pictures of us from her infancy.
My boyfriend Josh and I have been taking it day by day, really. Some things really stuck with me from the parenting classes like:
- My situation isn’t necessarily the worse situation.
- Pick your battles – do not snap or get mad at every little thing.
- Regardless of how bad it may seem, I can change my situation by applying the tools I’ve gotten from these programs.
After taking the parenting classes, my relationship with Bob* has improved and Sarah* is no longer intercepting our communication. However, Kaley is still suffering from all of the drama that took place previously. Kaley knows I am her mother and which roles all of the adults in her life play, but I feel her nerves are shot. She is doing what she must to live in her father’s house.
As a result of all of this, it’s been a bit difficult to parent my sons they way I’d like. Kaley not living here full time makes our family structure a little complicated, but we make sure we are getting all of our kids out and about, participating in karate (Hunter and Cayden) and having family time. Hunter (who is 6 years old) has a speech delay, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD). Daphne, my Young Families Connect Case Manager has been exceptional with connecting us to resources for Hunter to get him all the help he needs.
When I joined Young Families Connect (YFC), I felt empowered by Daphne, my case manager. I liked how the YFC program had different kinds of get-togethers which allowed my kids to play with kids from other families. I have also been able to connect with other participants in the program. Sometimes we connect outside of our YFC facilitated group time and we have expanded our social circle as a result!
When I joined YFC, I wasn’t pregnant with Kolbie yet. In fact, my initial goals then were to become a better parent, lose weight, control my temper, and obtain a college degree. My plans derailed slightly because instead of losing weight, I gained a pregnancy. I had to rethink that plan! Instead, I focused on having a healthier lifestyle and healthy pregnancy. During my pregnancy, YFC staff provided me with a new crib, reassured me that they would be there for me as much as they could. I learned how to control my temper while I was pregnant. Some of the drama with Bob* and Sarah* were continuing during my pregnancy with Kolbie. I really feel like they were purposefully trying to sabotage my pregnancy with all of this drama. For example, Bob* and Sarah* were telling Kaley that Kolbie wasn’t Josh’s baby. I mean, really, they told my daughter this. I knew I couldn’t allow them the control over my pregnancy by entertaining this drama. I was able to transfer my energy from Bob* and Sarah* to my support with Young Families Connect.
Making Plans and Taking Action
Young Families Connect (YFC) has been so helpful to me in meeting my goals: controlling my temper, parenting, and obtaining a college degree. Daphne has helped me by showing me different strategies for calming myself down before I react. I especially make an effort to take time to breathe and to share what’s on my mind with a loved one who is not immediately involved in the matter I am reacting to. This loved one is usually my grandmother. I also try my best to bite my lip! Everything does not need a response! This goes hand-in-hand with what I learned about calming techniques in the parenting class, the Incredible Years, which was very helpful for improving my parenting skills.
I have reduced the amount of sugary foods and drinks my family and I have in our home. I have increased my cooking at home using some of the ideas that Daphne and YFC shared with us. The kids listened to Daphne’s suggestions for healthy eating which helped my healthy lifestyle goal. By the time I went into labor with Kolbie I thought it was going to be very easy, but it was actually pretty difficult. One of the things I most clearly remember, is my C-Section. I felt knots and pulling and tearing and then he was born. This is Baby Number Four so this isn’t new to me! The kids were excited about Kolbie, but Hunter took a while to catch on. With the addition of Kolbie in our lives, we have increased the level of structure with more detailed scheduling. Doing things like adhering to our dinner schedule and helping the kids become more independent makes my job a lot easier.
One of my goals was to obtain a college degree. I only had six months left to finish my Bachelor’s degree in information technology (IT) but I ran out of funding. My next step towards this goal is to get a job which will pay for the rest of my schooling. Right now, I am a stay-at-home mom to cut down on childcare costs. I plan to finish in the next year and half. I would like to put a large deposit on my education so that I am not relying on student loans. I ultimately want to finish school, buy some land to build a house (in about three years) and give my kids their own space! I am happy to say that I have an interview tomorrow as a live chat agent. This way I can work and stay home with Kolbie. My plan is already in action – work responsibly, save appropriately and take the next right steps to reach my goals.
To young women who need a resource like Young Families Connect – a note from Sabrina:
As I think back to my life before Young Families Connect and think about other young women and men who are in similar situations, I want to finally state that if a young woman is in need, please look for and use every resource you possibly can, starting with Young Families Connect. Daphne has been awesome. She is absolutely amazing to me and my family. She has been caring, thoughtful, and comforting. I am so grateful for her. She is always there and if I need resources she is quick to respond. Daphne allows me to reflect on my thoughts and shares her perspective when asked, instead of telling me what to do all the time. She has been a pillar of support for me and I cannot say that enough.