Being a mama is hard.  And, though I’m blessed enough to only have to be able to imagine this, I would bet its a whole lot harder when you’re living in poverty.

My son was not born into poverty.  Neither were either of his parents, and neither were his grandparents.  He has two experienced educators as his mothers and nearly everyone in his immediate and extended family has at least one advanced degree.  I’m not saying this to brag.  I’m saying this because I want to paint a picture of what this meant for him when he came into the world, and during his first year of life.

Before our son was born, before he was even conceived, we planned and prepared.  I knew exactly what I needed to do to prepare myself for pregnancy and how to take care of a developing fetus.  We researched proper infant nutrition and made educated decisions.  We had–still have–a shelf full of books on babies and parenting and proper infant and child development.  We sought advice from other moms, from friends and from our families.  We reflected on how we were raised, and talked about what we’d do the same and what we’d do differently, and what we wanted for our baby to experience.  When he was finally born, though we were also bumbling and muddling through each day as all new parents do, we had a road map, and a destination in mind, and we had the resources, support and knowledge to figure out a way to get there.

Not all parents have that.

As a teacher working in low-income communities for a long time, I’ve seen hosts of parents who fiercely, passionately want a better life for their children–but are at a loss at how to make sure it happens.  They turn to schools, hoping and trusting that education will open a path out of poverty to their children.

I’m not here to debate education in this country–at least, not today.  That’ll be another topic for another time.  Suffice to say, schools generally do the best they can.  Not always, sure, but the vast majority of educators do have students’ best interests at heart, even in places where there is heated disagreement.  And good teachers try hard to work with parents to help them help their children.

But school starts with kindergarten, maybe with a pre-K program if there’s one available.  What about beforehand?

That’s where this week’s Lenten charity comes in.  Here’s a description of the work Room to Grow does, in their own words:

Room to Grow’s innovative program provides parents raising babies in poverty with one-on-one parenting support and essential baby items throughout their children’s critical first three years of life.

Parents visit Room to Grow every three months, starting at the mother’s third trimester of pregnancy and then throughout the baby’s first three years of life. At each visit, our clinicians monitor the baby’s developmental progress and help parents navigate the challenges and celebrate the joys of parenting. This includes helping parents understand their child’s developmental stages, offering strategies to recognize and respond to their child’s many needs, and providing resources and support to help cope with raising a child in typically stressful circumstances. At every visit parents also receive age-appropriate material necessities, allowing them to provide fully for their baby in an immediate and meaningful way.

This is so important.

Room to Grow is doing exactly the kind of work, providing exactly the kind of support, that parents raising children in poverty need.  Like all parents, these moms–and dads–want what’s best for their kids.   Room to Grow teaches them what that is, and helps them set their children up for success, from late pregnancy forward.

I’ve made a small contribution to Room to Grow to help them in their work.

I hope you’ll do the same.

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