Natalie

Mum's gone to jail again … sometimes it's better

I was 13 when mum went to jail the last time. She's been about five times that I can remember.

I wasn't living at home this time when she went. I was living with Kate and Peter. I've lived there for about 4 years off and on. They are friends we met through a prison church group. I moved there one time when mum was in jail, and I just stayed.

I did come home for a while before mum went to jail this time, but when she went back again I was really angry with her. I felt let down, because she kept promising that she wouldn't go back to jail, but she did.

Deep down, I was angry with her, but because I missed her, I wouldn't say it to her. This was just another let down.

I have never had the chance to get close to mum. I was too little before she went to jail the first time – I was too little to be close with her. And all the other times she started going to jail, I was growing apart from her. As I was growing up, I was growing apart from her.

Sometimes it felt better that she was in jail – like it was all good; so much less stress. We didn't have to worry about, about her, worry about where she is. Is she alive? … Us kids always felt like we were the parents. We always worried where she was – was she going to come home today? And who will she bring with her?

We could just be kids when she was gone.

But I was also growing apart from the rest of my family. It got to be that I didn't feel like I belonged anywhere – not with Kate and Peter and not with mum.

I have two sisters and one brother. Sometimes me and my older sister fight, because she has always lived with mum, and she's a bit of a mummy's girl. She made me cry on my first day of high school. She told my friends I was a bitch. We get on better now.

When mum has been to jail before, I have just plodded along, not talking, just keeping all the anger in – 'til it comes out! This time, I talked to Kate and Peter. It was a real relief.

I think I will be a judge when I grow up – my mum inspired me.

Having a parent in prison mixes up your feelings

For lots of young people having their parent go to prison is just one of the things going on in their lives. It can be a confusing time – maybe like Natalie you feel a bit relieved as well as sad. These are complicated things and it can help to have someone to talk with these feelings about. Even if you have really good mates, they may not be able to help (though listening and just being your friend is an important thing).

Services which deal with families of prisoners understand these feelings – you won't say anything that shocks them or that they have not heard before.