I have never met any single mum who hasn’t had to battle with depression at one point or another in life. It’s a free gift that comes along with single parenthood. This is not my story but the story of single parents in general and of a lot of other categories of people.
As single parents, we have become accustomed to solely rely on ourselves, partly due to having been let down and partly due to pride. It’s having this constant pressure to prove to ourselves rather than others that we do not need anyone and we are more than capable to do everything by ourselves; that we have everything under control and all is well.
Let’s be honest, nobody has all their shit together, we try our best, but we are bound to fail at times or the other. We know it, and we understand it. We know we have good days and bad days like other people, but sometimes the bad can be overwhelming, it can makes us feel like we are failing in every aspect of life. We know in reality it’s not true. We know that we are not complete failures but unfortunately we have set high standards for ourselves, standard which when we fail to meet at times can feel like having devastating effects on ourselves ad those around us, in particular the people we love and care about the most, mainly our children.
Everyone deal with problems differently, some withdraw as a mean to find strength within, some are able to ask for help and find support in others. We are all different, and our reaction to stress tends to be different depending on our personality and experience. Dealing with stress is not the main issue, it’s when this stress take over your life, in particular your family life.
From observing and discussing with single mums, I realised a lot of suffer find comfort to suffer in silence as we are not used to asking for help or relying on others; when we find ourselves in a place where support is offered, we start to have doubts whether it’s genuine, it’s a show or it’s pity.
One thing we really have a hard time to accept is the fact that often we are made to feel consciously or unconsciously as this pitiful creature, with a ‘horrific’ past that needs to be saved and supported because life has been too hard on us. We are not looking for pity and the last thing you can offer us is this ‘I feel so sorry for you’. We do not need that, we’ve made it without you feeling sorry for us, we would rather you just offer us your companionship than support; we are more than capable of supporting ourselves and we have done a good job so far without your pity. Sometimes, all we need is knowing we can talk to you about anything, without you throwing your sympathy in our face.
We are the role models for our children, and when things start to go haywire, our first reaction is how are the kids processing it. For example, when we are dealing with stress or depression, we might have the best of everything in life, yet it feels like we have achieved nothing- our children may be doing everything in the world that makes us prude of them, and we genuinely are but somewhere in our mind, we have a battle going on about the other things we are not able to give them; those little pleasures they are seeking, when are unable to provide it make us feel like failures.
One of my friends kids have recently started asking a lot of questions about their absent father. This can be quite stressful if you do not hold the answers to certain question, especially as she explained that her children were now trying to find father figures in other people; linking her to men they think will make their family complete, and even asking people to marry their mum. As a single mum myself, I can understand how frustrating that is, it adds pressure on her to find someone to give her children a ‘normal’ family life - something she knows she cannot do by herself - she would never be able to fit in the shoes of a father no matter how hard she tries. She is bound to fail in this area. Moreover, marrying single mums is another subject in itself- how many men are actually whole-heartedly ready to step up and foot the bill of a ready-made family? Little things like that, which is not in our control can add on to the already ongoing emotional, physical and financial pressure we face on a daily basis.
I wish we could have a support system in place for Muslim single mums, where some of the pressure can be taken off them. Certain things are not always practical, such as going for counselling, it’s additional pressure, who looks after the kids when you go? Or suggestions such as go to the gym, really? when does she get to do that unless she can afford to pay for the creche. It’s easy to tell her make me time for yourself, but how is she supposed to do that? Only other single parents understand this and unfortunately the pressure is so high on each of them that at times it becomes difficult to support each other.
I cannot offer any practical advice to any single mum in that position but I’d just like to remind you, you have been there before, many a times and you will be here again many a times - just remember that whatever you are doing, someone else is completely relying on you and you need to be physically and emotionally available and strong for them.