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300 Truth Talk: What it’s like to be a WIFE but also a SINGLE MOM due to Incarceration

Q & A with T.H| strong ass wife & mother

A Real Conversation with a wife & mother who is in her 3rd year of juggling parenting, worklife,full financial responsibilities, commissary & prison visitations all with her two beautiful baby girls ages 7 & 3. Not to mention the day-to-day, ups-and-downs that come along with life.

It is an honor for women to hold space for me and talk about their current emotions, daily struggles and viewpoints of living life with their husband being incarcerated. I lived both; being an incarcerated pregnant mother & coming home feeling the weight on my shoulders all alone and stressed, playing the waiting game. I want to know what women living this day-to-day, years on end need, to feel like this isn’t all for nothing. I want to help women find a healthy mental space, set intention & time to care for themselves so these stresses do not take over their life.

Amanda: Tatiana, THANK YOU for taking the time to chat with me. 300 Letters is creating this outlet & community so people going through this life experience can overcome it together, share stories & perspectives. Like I’ve said before & I’ll continue to say to the world… this is like any other major life experience that a lot of people do not anticipate, especially the families at home who automatically become caregivers, single moms or dads or now suddenly have new roles and responsibilities in life. Tell me how Incarceration has affected YOUR life…

T.H: Well, it was super traumatic from the very beginning, the cops raided the house with me, my grandma, and the kids inside with guns pointed at us… I mean no regard for my family….and of course, not having that financial and emotional help and then my husband having to leave me right when our 2nd child was born… just more mouths to feed & you know the little ones are the pricey ones.

Amanda: How old are your girls? I saw pictures and they are precious….

T.H: 7 & 3, so it’s A LOT of work (giggle) and of course in the beginning, his friends were great at putting commissary money for him but after a while it gets old and they just stopped. The GOOD that I have seen come out of this, is that his perspective has changed & he knows he has a lot to live for.
Before he went into prison, he was on house arrest and WOW that was tough being with someone all day that could not leave, knowing your time together was limited. The little one grew so attached to him.

Amanda: Are you able to visit him frequently? The average distance for an incarcerated person and their home is 500 miles… I could never understand, how could people keep the connection and communication with their family like this?

T.H: He was first located in Coleman and that is by Orlando, about 4 hours from Miami so we could only go once a month. He was relocated to Miami but then visits were suspended for a REALLY LONG TIME, first 6 months then a year, and now there’s just plexiglass in the middle of us during the very little time we have but yeah, we go any chance we can.
If visitation is open, we are there.

There was this one time, I’ll never forget where my husband wiped the baby’s boogies and the guard screamed “NO CONTACT” and that was emotionally draining for us.

Amanda: What I have always noticed is that family connection and support is not a priority in prison. Prisons are not equipped, nor do they want to be to be able to help people heal, and change behaviors and perspectives for life. Once you become a number you have no emotions or needs. You do what you are told until you leave. And it is sad because 90% of people in prisons will return home one day… so no one is concerned about how we prepare our people to come back to their families and societies?

T.H: I always thought my oldest was going to have a tougher time with this, I mean she understands what is going on but it’s the little one. She misses her dad so much; she can be in the middle of an activity and just break out in tears “I miss my papi” and that breaks my heart. She really breaks my heart. My oldest matches my mood, if Im OK, shes OK.

The little one makes little drawings for him that she accumulates throughout the week, so I will scan it and then print it out because of course the original cannot be sent.

Amanda: Are you not allowed to send in any postcards or painted drawings anymore?

T.H: oh no, no card stock. I can’t buy him a card from Walgreens that reminds me of him. I have to
search on Etsy for designs on regular paper and use those. It is a process to send him things now.

Amanda: You need to download Pigeon ONLY. Lol you can upload the photo and send it right from the app. I used this daily for 6 months. I just can’t process the number of barriers being placed on families to communicate with each other. Letters, pop up cards, drawings is why my family is still together today.

T.H: THERE are just so many restrictions….. I probably, shouldn’t say this …..but my husband has access to a cell phone… If it were not for that phone, we would barely speak. I wouldn’t know how he is doing; he wouldn’t know how we are.
How can you blame inmates for having phones? They make it impossible to communicate, especially during covid.

I remember for months the phones and computers were off. I was so worried; I spent my days mentally exhausted just worrying. I would call the prison to see what was going on and their response was “We don’t work for you!” They would lie to me because they just do not care. Amanda: What do you mean by they would lie, the staff at the prisons?

T.H: Oh yeah, one person just wanted to instigate and asked me for my number then proceeded to say “Oh I see you don’t come up here, but he has been calling other people” and my heart sunk.

So when I finally spoke to my husband, he told me that it was a lie and printed out his call log and sent it to me. He had not called anyone for almost two months. I don’t know why they would want to place more anguish on our relationship.

Amanda: Its definitely more of a power trip for some people who are in authoritative roles. Taking advantage of someone’s hard time in life is just a sign of a weak inhumane person.Not to mention half of those staff members have had a loved one or friend in that same position.
1 out of 3 people have a criminal record. 4 out of 4 have a background that could have gotten them in trouble.

T.H: I really didn’t know or ever could of imagine how this experience would feel. I’ve heard women talking about their husband being in prison and I couldn’t sympathize. I didn’t understand what it was like, it’s until you don’t have a choice.

Amanda: Yes, and that is what people need to know, it can happen to anyone. Mass Incarceration is a problem in our country. The majority of people there have unhealed traumas, mental health, substance use and just don’t have the access to help or how to seek it. Our country does not prevent incarceration, they focus on punishment. It’s a lot of stuff to pinpoint.

T.H: I am understanding and learning all that now. I just can’t wait to get passed this phase in our lives.

Amanda: What is the most frustrating thing for you right now while your husband is incarcerated, that you wish you could just wave a wand over and make better?

T.H: I would say, the financial aspect but other than that. I need some therapy. I do hold a lot of resentment; I don’t know how to process it all alone. I live with my grandmother; my mother is in Tampa and it is HARD just doing everything ALONE. I have to rely on myself for it all & two little ones soley rely on me.

This has hindered me from job opportunities that I want. For example, the schedule won’t line up with ours and I have no one to help pick up the girls so there is no solution.

I neglect myself; I haven’t been looking after myself.

Amanda: That’s critical, because if you’re healthy and happy we can perform better in our roles. Taking care of yourself day to day is just preventing burn out. None of us want that. Once I was able to identify certain shit then I was able to move forward , communicate easier and put it behind me in order to heal.

T.H: I need to start, the timing is just so hard. I did blood work this week and wow, so many red flags. I’m not taking care of myself physically or emotionally.

Amanda: I’m sending you a 30-day intentional self-care challenge I made, it’s so simple. It just makes you mindful of yourself, which mommas sometimes forget to do. I am sending it to you and inviting you to come and get a workout in with us! Family fun day coming soon.

T.H: I need that, that would be amazing.

Amanda: We are also working on developing something just for the caretakers & you are going to be the first momma to know about it. Thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing your story.
This is going to be the start of something amazing for people who think they are alone.