A Story from Mom's Place
Susan Leon runs Mom’s Place, a faith-based program that serves young parents in Phoenix, Arizona. Many of the parents served by Mom’s Place grew up in poverty and in families affected by addiction and abuse. At Mom’s Place, they work through trauma, practice their own recovery, unlearn dysfunctional parenting habits and cultivate new ones. It is not easy. Leon says she is inspired by the resilience and persistence of the parents she meets. After working with parents for 20 years, Leon has seen the program’s impact across generations. The children of the first cohort of children raised by Mom’s Place parents are now finishing high school. Leon says teen pregnancy is rare in this second generation.
Most mothers affiliated with Mom’s Place work outside the home. They serve fast food, package goods at an Amazon warehouse or work in a large detention facility located in Phoenix. They work hard to secure and keep jobs. Paid work outside the home after having children is an economic imperative, and mothers feel a sense of pride about work as well. Leon explains, “Once you get a taste of actually being more independent and earning your own money, that builds something up in you. You don’t want to give that up.” But work requires time away from children — a sacrifice that many mothers feel is necessary for the sake of their children. Leon says that many mothers “feel this need to get back out in the workforce and bring home a paycheck … You have food stamps, but food stamps [don’t] buy diapers and … detergent, and [they don’t] pay for the gas to get to work. You’ve got to have something coming in.”
'Jane', one of the parents connected with Mom’s Place, recently gave birth to a daughter. Jane has worked at a call center for the past two years while taking care of her now 6 year old. She worked until she went into labor. Jane explains, “my work doesn’t pay for maternity leave, but they told me they would hold my job if I returned within the month.” Jane wanted to have more time with her newborn but, ultimately, chose to return to work. “...[I]f I don’t go back to work in two weeks, we will not have enough money to pay our electric bill,” she says. “I really wanted to breastfeed my baby this time, but I don’t think I can do it if I go back to work. It makes me sad.”
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