A Mother's Dream

Mom Thriving with Kids Thrive Support

by Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director – United Way of Charlotte County

As a parent, having dreams for your child comes naturally and feels right. My parents had dreams for me to have an amazing, successful life. My stepfather, in particular, had dreams of me pursuing a college education and using that to explore my gifts and talents. Their dreams for me reached to the sky. But on the other hand, indulging in dreams for ourselves can often feel selfish, especially when those closest to us do not share the vision we have for our future.

Joyce was a new mother who was afforded the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom to her son. Her gratitude at being her son’s primary caregiver was often stifled by lifelong visions of a career in healthcare. But the voices in her mind, and in her home, told her that her duty was to her son. She pushed down her dreams and focused her energy on him.

As Joyce tried to be the best mother she could be, she struggled with doubts about her parenting skills, like we all do from time to time. Unfortunately, Joyce did not have support at home to gain the confidence she needed as a parent in addition to being discouraged from following her dreams. It seemed as if every direction she turned, she faced discouragement and defeat. Over time, a sense of isolation crept in, and brought with it depression and anxiety.

Fortunately, Joyce was referred to Kids Thrive by a local nonprofit agency and was able to begin assessing her life circumstances. Initially she didn’t identify as someone in need of much help. But over time, in this safe environment, she realized that her situation at home was not only discouraging, but it was also not healthy. And she learned that her son exhibited signs of potential developmental delays.

As she looked at her situation more realistically, Joyce had a lot of decisions she needed to make to start on the path to a better life. Where do you start when you recognize that your home has become a toxic environment to you and your child? Where do you start when your perfect little baby isn’t developing quite like he should? Where do you start when you have no money of your own and past mistakes that stand in the way of your dreams?

On her own, Joyce would have likely struggled to figure out the best next steps. With Kids Thrive and the peer support group, Circle of Parents, Joyce found the support she needed to walk, one next step at a time, down a new path. Through Kids Thrive, she received a Chromebook that allowed her to virtually attend mental health counseling sessions, therapy sessions for her son and Circle of Parents meetings. She was gifted organic vegetables, diapers and wipes through her association with Kids Thrive, which provided for an immediate need and also provided a reminder that Joyce was not alone.

It didn’t happen overnight, but with the support she so desperately needed, Joyce has begun to see glimmers of her dream on the horizon. Kids Thrive helped connect her with a pro bono attorney who helped her clear her record and become eligible for that dream career in healthcare. She was connected with housing assistance and a safe exit plan to leave her unhealthy living situation. She and her son are now thriving in their own apartment.

And like a true mobilizer, Joyce has taken all that she has experienced and learned along her journey and is using it to help others. She has taken on some leadership roles within the Circle of Parents group including organizing events and mentoring other new moms on how therapy helped her son.

As a United Way of Charlotte County funded collaboration, Kids Thrive has turned Joyce’s success into a dream come true for our community. When we support and raise up one individual or one family, the impact always has ripple effects for Charlotte County. I look forward to hearing more about Joyce’s journey toward her dream, and maybe some day she will share with us her dreams as a mother for her son.

For more information about United Way of Charlotte County’s mission:  Mobilizing the power of our community to break the cycle of poverty, please contact Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director. She can be reached at director@unitedwayccfl.org.