Mother is caring for a blended family with 7 kids while dad is overseas with the Army
When her husband left for Afghanistan in May, Tanesha Brown was faced with the difficult task of looking after seven children alone.
But that doesn't discourage the hard-working, determined 32-year-old. She's been through a lot, but it didn't impress her. She does everything possible to care for her children and to provide for them.
"I never have enough time with work and the kids, and it's very difficult to keep things organized," she says. "But I can do it."
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She was born in Miami and raised in Liberty City, where she lived with her mother, father, and two siblings. She attended Miami Jackson Senior High where she met her first husband, Ricardo Gibbs. During those years she was involved in a nursing program and the cheering group. She also played college basketball.
In 2007, less than a year after graduation, she gave birth to her first child, Tayh’lyn, and got married. She planned to go to college, but caring for her daughter was more important to her. "I had to put my dreams on hold to raise my baby," she said.
While in high school, she was certified as a nursing assistant and began working at South Miami Hospital. In 2011 she gave birth to her second child, Ricardo II. She kept working and later separated from her first husband.
Tanesha Brown and her children review gifts received from the Broward County's Boys and Girls Club and the Miami Herald's Wish Book program while visiting the club center. This is a mixed family with seven children. The father has been stationed in Afghanistan since May.
In 2015, Tanesha divorced Gibbs and began living with Sedrek Brown, who had three children of their own. Tanesha had known Sedrek all her life. They played basketball together as kids at Olinda Park, and that went on through high school. "My mom was the park manager and he lived down the street, so we hung out a lot," Tanesha said. "We always stayed in contact."
Sedrek, which is an active army reserve, was stationed in Little Rock in 2015, so she moved there with him. Due to a divorce court order, she left her children with her mother and father in Miami. Tanesha recalls that she regularly drove the 1,200 miles in her old truck to visit them without missing a holiday, birthday, or special occasion.
Around the time she moved to Little Rock, Sedrek was given custody of his three children who had lived with his ex-wife.
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How to Help: Wish Book seeks to help this family and hundreds of others in need this year. To donate, securely pay at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook.
In 2017 Tanesha and Sedrek married and they gave birth to their third child, Serenity. Just two weeks after the birth, she and the baby drove to Miami. "I did everything I could to be with my children," she said. "Right after I had my baby while my husband was in training for three weeks, I took all the children with me and we drove for 17 hours to pick up Tayh’lyn and Ricardo and hang out together."
That same year, the couple received custody of Sedrek's 8-year-old nephew, Derwin, after his mother died, bringing the number of children in their family to seven. Despite the fighting, the family decided to lead a good life.
In early 2018, Tanesha was determined to be closer to her children. Sedrek moved temporarily to Orlando and was then posted to Afghanistan in May. She and the seven children moved into a cramped two-bedroom house in Hollywood.
Brown and her ex-husband are fighting for custody of 13-year-old Tayh’lyn and 9-year-old Ricardo. Finding the money to pay a lawyer has proven very difficult, but she continued to struggle. "It was a big problem for me," said Brown. "The whole situation stressed me a lot."
That year, Brown and five of her children tested positive for COVID-19 on Thanksgiving Day. She and all the children except Tayh’lyn and Ricardo II had to be quarantined in their cramped home, while Tayh’lyn and Ricardo II stayed with their father. Brown says this made her Thanksgiving very stressful and difficult. However, she is fortunate that her two-week quarantine was covered by paid sick leave.
After their quarantine, Brown and all of the children received negative results on COVID-19 tests and were able to return to work and school. Now, Brown is looking forward to spending Christmas with all of her kids after she was out of Thanksgiving with Tayh’lyn and Ricardo II.
Brown works as a public school nurse in Broward County at the Palm Cove Elementary in Pembroke Pines. The children go to school and spend the afternoon at the Boys and Girls Club until they can pick them up.
One complication: 11-year-old Sedrek Brown Jr. has an intellectual disability and works at the level of a 3-year-old. With a diagnosis, he could get help for special needs at school. But Brown says her work schedule doesn't leave time for doctor's appointments.
"We took [Sedrek Jr.] to doctors for a diagnosis, but it was difficult with all children ... because I can't miss the job," Brown said.
Tanesha's daughter sees her mother as a role model. "She is very good and even though she has problems, she manages to get it all done and gives her time for us," said Tayh'lyn.
Tanesha appreciates her daughter's support and adds that her 11-year-old stepdaughter Saniya is of great help to her too.
Tanesha tries to entertain the children and make them happy. "I like to do movie nights with the kids and turn them into marshmallows, and we can sit in front of the TV and enjoy a movie together," Tanesha said. "It's a great time to bond with the kids."
A new TV would bring a lot of joy to the family, she added. They are also using an old couch that is shabby so they want a new one.
Tanesha was nominated by Michelle White of Broward County's Boys and Girls Club for the Wish Book, where kids can take part in activities such as arts and crafts and sports. White said Brown was very humble and reluctant to ask for help.
"[She] insisted that she didn't want much and asked for essentials like socks and other clothes," White said.
White spoke brightly about the children's behavior and praised Brown's efforts as a single mother as well as her daughter for her help. She said the kids are very active and enjoy toys like Legos, remote-controlled cars, superhero action figures, painting supplies, and baby dolls.
"They are great, well mannered, active children, and Tayh’lyn does a great job of keeping them updated and serving as their second mother," said White. “I honor what [Tanesha] does. She's such a dedicated mom, and she and the kids deserve a lot of extra magic this holiday season. "
HOW TO HELP
Wish Book seeks to help hundreds of families in need this year. To donate, securely pay at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook. For more information, call 305-376-2906 or email email@example.com. (The most requested items are often school laptops and tablets, furniture, and accessible vans.) For more information, visit MiamiHerald.com/wishbook.
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