“If you asked me before it happened, I woulda told you that if depression knocked on my door, I would have recognized it in an instant.” (Kaur 2022.) There’s been no better quote to describe how depression and anxiety just slid into me when I was 13 years old while I was sleeping. It’s now 12 years later and I’m a 25-year-old single mother with a 6-year-old son. I have duties and responsibilities– sometimes it seems like I can barely take care of myself, and here I am taking care of another little human being, and I’m unsure of how I do it sometimes, but I am. I’d like to shine a light on how there are so many single mothers out there trying to cope with mental illness, and how it can cause obstacles to feel more challenging when raising a child because from my personal experience, I strongly feel that it’s important for a mother to be mentally happy and healthy themselves or it can make taking care of their children much more difficult. However, despite facing challenges, single mothers can still do a great job in taking care of their children/family.
I didn’t become a mom until I was 18 years old, yes, I know I became a mom very young. My life before becoming a mom was shaped by a Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder diagnosis when I was 13 years old, I was bullied every single one of my school years, as well as living with a not-so-supportive and extremely judgmental family. I feel like my anxiety and depression started way before I was 13, but I had yet to be professionally diagnosed. It’s been an in-and-out journey for me when it comes to therapy and that also started from as early as 13 for me. Life never gets easier, not for a single mom with very little support. What makes it harder is the lack of resources and help we receive to make this motherhood thing a bit easier, but instead adds additional stress to our already existing stress. So far, I would say 80% of my journey through motherhood has consisted of being unemployed due to various reasons. Many jobs haven’t worked for me since I’m currently in school and most jobs prefer not to work around my availability as a mother. The moment I become unemployed again, I struggle severely with providing for myself and my son as well. I get approved for unemployment but not every time, and for the times I wasn’t approved after losing a job, it’d cause my depression and anxiety to rise through the roof. I’d have severe panic attacks at night, I would become so stressed that I developed insomnia, and on many days my depression would make it difficult to function. This would also affect me in school while trying to complete my motherly duties as well. For example, when I started having insomnia, there were many days when I would accidentally oversleep, and I would rush in the mornings to try and get my son to school on time, and all through no fault of my own. I’d be so mentally and physically tired, but I had to try and find the energy to keep my son in a good mood, feed him, bathe him, teach him, and help him with school.
I take therapy weekly, but only for 30 minutes, and what grand difference will a 30-minute weekly session make for the many stressors I have to face? My health insurance is Medicaid, and unfortunately, they won’t pay for a minute-long session every week. Due to my difficulties finding work, I can’t afford better or private health insurance that would probably provide better access to benefits for my mental health. My unemployment doesn’t provide me with enough to do so either – the little bit of money I’m given every week is survival money for me and my son. I’m lucky I have my mother who still provides a roof for me and my son at least, although still living with my family at this age is an additional stressor that affects both of us so much; but a lot of us know how expensive and hard trying to live in New York City is. My son is only growing and getting older, and each day it feels like I’m running out of time to provide us with a better life, like a home of our own.
Although I struggle with my anxiety and depression every single day, I must pretend everything’s okay and act like the happiest person alive when I’m with my son, because for his age, it feels like it’s best to make it seem like everything is okay and mommy’s okay, and it’s best to stay happy and worry-free. I want my son to grow and be the exact opposite of me; happy, social, enjoying school and life, and not worrying about missing any basic things. Motherhood just becomes harder for me as my son gets older. I feel like he senses everything that’s wrong with me more with each passing day, and I wish it didn’t have to be like this. However, there are times when knowing I’m not alone comforts me and there are other mothers who are just like me going through similar situations. If more resources and support were provided for the mothers who feel alone in their situation, things would be much easier and they’d at least feel more okay before taking care of their children.
Though there are many hardships to being a single mother, I would like to speak about times I have felt in control while being a mother. Honestly, because of all the stress I have to carry, it feels like good times rarely ever happen for me where I feel like a good mother, or at least feel like I’m doing most things right. When my son was 1 year old, I suspected that he was delayed in some developmental milestones for his age. He wasn’t speaking and he had difficulties with learning, so I expressed my concerns about it to his pediatrician and she referred him for an evaluation for early intervention services. They evaluated my son and eventually discovered that he was delayed in speech and his motor skills, then referred him to start receiving speech therapy and occupational therapy. This moment I remember feeling more in control for once because most people like my family would try to convince me that it wasn’t a big deal. They would say that my son would learn how to speak on his own if I just “try harder” and spend more time teaching him. However, I knew deep down that I had to do more and that something more was wrong. I felt good and relieved afterward for what I felt and knew was the right thing to do, and eventually, it felt like others, like my family, saw that it was the right thing to get him the help he needed.
Now that I have the opportunity, I would like to share a little bit of advice to single mothers out there. There will always be criticism towards how you do things, sometimes it will be positive while other times it could be negative. What matters most is that you feel great and like you are a great mother to your children and they are happy. We can be our worst critics sometimes, please remember to take care of yourself. Although I know some days or even weeks can go by when it seems like things are hard, you do not stop being human just because you are a mother, you still and will always matter. Do not forget about yourself and remember to always do your self-care for yourself.