BREAKING NEWS : Mitchell’s Sports bar reopen tonight just 2 days after health department shutdown Full Story

What Mother's Day means for mothers of incarcerated children

For many people, Mother's Day is a time of celebration. It is a time to honor mothers and those who play a maternal r...

Posted: May 13, 2018 3:47 AM
Updated: May 13, 2018 11:06 AM

For many people, Mother's Day is a time of celebration. It is a time to honor mothers and those who play a maternal role. Some will celebrate the mothers in their lives by bringing them breakfast in bed, treating them to brunch or a trip to the spa, and others may offer handwritten but heartfelt cards. While this is often a moment of joy, for some, it is also a time of anguish.

It's common to have sympathy or even empathy for mothers who have lost a child or their own mothers. What is less appreciated is the pain of mothers whose children are incarcerated. It's a pain that's difficult to describe: mourning, peppered with guilt, anger and anxiety.

We know these feelings well. Our 19-year-old and 22-year-old sons are incarcerated. They respectively face 24 months for an armed robbery charge and 18 months for mishandling a firearm. Like most moms, we did everything we could to ensure bright futures for our children. Unlike most moms, we live in perpetual fear that talking about our sons' incarceration will be met with judgment.

We face that fear by remaining silent. When others praise their children's success, we wish we could chime in and share success stories of our own. When someone asks us what colleges our boys attend, we sweat thinking through how we will answer the question.

While we often choose silence, we know we are not alone. With 2.3 million people locked up in 1,719 correctional facilities, the United States imprisons more people per capita than any other nation, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.

Since our nation seems to favor punitive punishment, it's understandable that there is a stigma associated with those who have served prison time. We hear ad nauseam, "Do the crime, do the time," or "all they deserve is three hots and a cot."

We believe in consequences, but we also believe in restorative justice. Since prisons aren't synonymous with rehabilitation, there has to be a way to allow persons who've made mistakes to make amends for misbehavior and receive rehabilitative help.

Our sons' stories are different, but they share similarities. And in many ways, their incarcerations started long before they were physically confined. One suffers from childhood trauma and both experienced trauma from watching close friends succumb to gun violence. They both received some level of counseling but not nearly enough. We are hopeful that they and the millions of other incarcerated youth will receive services that will support their rehabilitation. We know that prisoners have higher rates of psychiatric disorders, and access to mental health and substance abuse services is essential.

As we nurture our hope, we also carry a burden: the pain of our children. As other mothers of incarcerated children will attest, this pain is great. In sharing our thoughts around Mother's Day, we hope to brighten the day of despondent moms.

Here are three important things we think parents of incarcerated children should keep in mind.

1. It's OK to be happy. When our sons were arrested, we struggled with whether it was appropriate to be happy. We thought we had to wait until they were released before we could exhale. We thought it was unjust for us to be free, enjoying life, while they were behind bars.

One of our mothers told us that we had to live. It was a simple statement, but it is also true. A big part of living has been choosing to find and accept happiness. Our happiness cannot be dependent on another person, including our children. This is a journey -- but we are learning to give our children's missteps back to them to carry. We've learned that our refusal to find peace and happiness doesn't lighten their load, or ours.

2. Use resources and reach out to other parents of incarcerated children. While it may be tempting to isolate yourself, we have found tremendous encouragement in a community of others who have walked or are walking the path we're on. In addition to personal networks, we recommend Parents with Incarcerated Children, a support group for parents, and a Facebook group called Mothers of Incarcerated Sons and Daughters. We also are active with campaigns that work to end mass incarceration in the United States such as LIVE FREE.

3. Walking away is not an option. We've never been incarcerated but we've been told about how isolating an experience it can be. Some incarcerated individuals have no support system. One day, if they are released, no one will be there for them. We will not let this be the case for our sons. We will not abandon our responsibility as mothers -- our sons will never age out of our families.

Of course, not everyone feels the same way. Our sons' poor choices have caused rifts in other familial relationships and we are hopeful those broken relationships can be restored. However, we are clear that walking away is not an option. As anti-death penalty and public interest attorney Bryan Stevenson said, "Each of us is more than the worst thing we've ever done."

Mother's Day for mothers of incarcerated children is a day of remembrance. It's also a day of gratitude for what was, sadness for what is and eternal hope for what will be.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 359430

Reported Deaths: 6033
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion48740894
Lake30537484
Allen20668338
St. Joseph19177245
Elkhart18813246
Hamilton15457182
Vanderburgh10956137
Tippecanoe1012335
Porter932192
Johnson7732177
Hendricks7353165
Vigo6736106
Monroe604854
Madison5858125
Clark575986
Delaware5535108
LaPorte5291105
Kosciusko512948
Howard417680
Bartholomew380065
Warrick364374
Wayne362893
Floyd360279
Marshall343150
Grant326753
Cass323232
Hancock320663
Noble292450
Boone282056
Henry280741
Dubois271934
Jackson266638
Morgan259246
Dearborn252832
Gibson220333
Shelby216661
Knox212122
DeKalb210838
Lawrence205951
Clinton204025
Wabash195224
Adams192724
Miami191218
Daviess176747
Montgomery171429
Steuben168616
Jasper167717
Harrison167025
Ripley167022
Fayette165839
Whitley162417
LaGrange159534
Huntington153311
White151224
Putnam147831
Decatur145246
Wells145035
Randolph143724
Clay140426
Jefferson139719
Posey135722
Scott129725
Greene121054
Jay115516
Sullivan111418
Jennings106315
Starke104328
Spencer9678
Fulton96419
Fountain9588
Washington9019
Perry89221
Carroll81313
Franklin80228
Orange77028
Vermillion74911
Owen72210
Parke7056
Tipton68327
Blackford66116
Rush6488
Newton62513
Pike59321
Pulaski49720
Benton4483
Brown4226
Martin4006
Crawford3611
Union3032
Warren2893
Switzerland2825
Ohio2507
Unassigned0285

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 446849

Reported Deaths: 6753
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin57040674
Cuyahoga43640768
Hamilton34945379
Montgomery23828265
Butler17529154
Lucas17023438
Summit16486374
Stark11437231
Warren994381
Mahoning9092303
Lake840880
Lorain8213106
Clermont712156
Trumbull6752155
Delaware668142
Licking658677
Fairfield634265
Greene623977
Clark6038142
Allen569995
Medina565858
Wood5434113
Marion523067
Miami513168
Portage441676
Pickaway440350
Columbiana4131103
Richland409643
Tuscarawas405980
Wayne3838108
Mercer319859
Muskingum314512
Hancock284546
Ross278766
Darke275463
Ashtabula271957
Erie266670
Auglaize265841
Geauga257251
Putnam246455
Scioto240023
Union232213
Lawrence223341
Shelby222317
Athens22134
Seneca209621
Belmont198729
Madison191019
Sandusky189233
Huron185422
Preble180021
Jefferson172316
Defiance167733
Washington164129
Fulton159730
Knox159520
Crawford158620
Logan153821
Holmes153239
Ottawa143732
Ashland135133
Williams132912
Brown12675
Jackson125913
Clinton125619
Highland124418
Hardin122126
Champaign12158
Guernsey117115
Henry114629
Van Wert114118
Morrow11262
Fayette108117
Perry104513
Coshocton102815
Gallia95615
Pike9352
Adams91513
Wyandot88019
Hocking80718
Paulding78215
Noble69828
Carroll61412
Meigs49612
Monroe41022
Morgan37014
Harrison3053
Vinton2996
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Overcast
34° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 29°
Angola
Overcast
32° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 32°
Huntington
Overcast
35° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 28°
Decatur
Broken Clouds
36° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 32°
Van Wert
Broken Clouds
36° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 32°
Chilly Saturday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events