This is part of our “Sibling Stories” series, in which Youth Radio reporter Tiffany Hines interviews teens who are helping raise younger siblings. In their own words, they describe what it is like to balance adolescence and childcare. Today’s story comes from Simone Durrah.
I’m 16 years old and my sister Savannah is 6. I’ve been raising her for about six years. It can be very hard raising her while trying to focus on high school and trying to maintain a social life.
I realized I’d have to start helping out with my little sister when my mom got off maternity leave after Savannah was born and Savannah’s father stopped wanting to be in her life. At the time, my older sister was in high school about to graduate, so she was busy trying to find herself. That meant it was just me. After my mom eventually went back to work, I’d babysit after I got out of school. Later, I started having bullying issues at school, so I switched to home schooling, and that’s when raising Savannah became a full time thing for me.
Savannah and I are both home schooled. So when we get up, I cook her breakfast, get her ready, then start with school. I’m basically her teacher. It’s a lot of stress because I know that if she doesn’t graduate the first grade, it’s on me. It’s hard because while I’m trying to help her, I have to put my schoolwork aside. My teachers email me because I start to fall behind on my schoolwork.
It takes a lot of patience and restraint to do this work. There are times I wish I could go out with my friends, but know I can’t because I have to watch Savannah. For other kids in my situation, my advice is to keep pushing through, because at the end of the day, when your sibling gets older, they will appreciate everything that you did for them. When it gets hard, just take a deep breath. Just a simple counting to “1,2,3” can help. I also listen to a lot of old music like Etta James to meditate. My mom tells me I’m an old soul.
As hard as it can be, there’s a lot of good that comes out of my watching my little sister too. Watching her growing up is amazing. Sometimes I look at her and say, “Dang, you really are doing something good.” And my mom is always telling me how she’s proud of me and really appreciates my help.