No Replacement for Mom

A special program in Texas allows girls to visit their incarcerated mothers once a month. Girls Embracing Mothers was founded 6 years ago with the goal of fostering positive relationships between female inmates and their daughters. The girls ride a bus to the prison, where they spend 2 to 4 supervised hours with their mothers. They are allowed to talk and hug, and visits usually include a craft or lesson led by an expert. Then they board the bus again and return to their legal guardians.

Many of the girls will grow up almost entirely without their mothers, as most of the women are serving at least 9 years. That constitutes half of a legal childhood.

“To have a mother in prison is like a primal wound,” Brittany Barnett, founder of Girls Embracing Mothers, told The New York Times.

There is no replacement for Mom. Regardless of what type of mother she was – a good cook, artsy, a tidy housekeeper, or a slob – her presence is vital to the health and well being of her family and household. Mothers are usually their children’s primary caretaker, and kids suffer the most when their main source of comfort, emotional support, clean clothes, and hot meals abruptly leaves the home for most of their growing up years.

Morning wake up routines, regular lunchtimes, after school snacks and nightly teeth brushing all combine to create a sense of stability in children. Healthy self-esteem, confidence, and emotional health need this stability to flourish.

Many other women can, and often do, show motherless children kindness, compassion, and love. It’s powerful to consider that even with these positive outside influences, an absent mother creates a void no other can fill. We can have many good teachers, respected pastors, and career mentors, but we each only have one person from which we came. One woman who was our first home, who knew us before we were fully formed.

Moms are important. We should never underestimate our importance. A daycare worker, babysitter, preschool teacher, or even Dad can’t fill our shoes. Ultimately, a child benefits from having a mother present daily in their home lives.

It doesn’t matter if she cooks hot breakfast every morning and throws themed birthday parties or hands her kids granola bars as they get on the school bus and bakes a Duncan Hines cake once a year. What matters is that she, the only mother her children will ever know, is there.

The girls who participate in Girls Embracing Mothers don’t have their mothers with them at home, but they benefit from structured monthly visits. Tears often flow at the end of the visits. Even though the women have all been convicted of crimes ranging from embezzlement to murder, their daughters love them simply because they are their mothers.

The girls’ friends at school usually have their moms at sporting events and parent/teacher conferences, and they are aware of their own mothers’ chronic absences.

Just showing up is important. The stands can be filled with a cheering crowd, but a child knows if his or her mom is not there. Nothing, and no one, can replace our presence.

About Ann Henry

Ann Henry lives in rural America with her husband and three small kids. She manages their household and is the children's primary caretaker. She freelance writes for various publications as a part-time vocation.

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