Being a single Mum at this time of year can be tough, especially when your own Mother is not around. The onslaught of Mother’s Day messaging can trigger so many emotions and bring grief back to slap you in the face. It can also be hard when your Mother is actually around but not in the traditional sense. Natalie is an amazing single Mum whose own Mother lives with mental illness. I asked Natalie to share some of her thoughts and experiences and she so generously and honestly gave such a powerful and intimate insight.
How old were you when your Mother first became unwell?
I was 10 when she started showing signs of being unwell, she finally moved out of our family home when I was 13.
How many children do you have?
I have just the one child, Noah who is 6.
How long have you been a single Mother?
I’ve been a single Mum (legally) since my son was 2, so 4 years… but I really was from the very start as I had no support from my son’s father.
During pregnancy, were there times when you missed having your Mother able to support you?
Not so much during pregnancy.
I lived alone and worked two jobs at the time, as I was trying to make sure I had enough money for a child care bond when I returned to work and to have some extra for my maternity leave.
My son’s Dad was not here for most of my pregnancy and only returned to Australia in my 8th month. He is from Brazil and we were waiting on his prospective marriage visa, he was only on a student visa when we met. This was an added stress for me, immigration interviews and forms, it was like another job in itself! But I remained positive.
So I guess I wished there was someone to help me with the shopping and get me a glass of water from time to time, but for the most part I was busy and just got on with it.
How do you feel when you see the picture perfect Mother’s Day images depicted on TV, online and in the shops at this time of year?
It is what it is. I sometimes get upset about it, but I guess as I am a Mother now, it doesn’t bother me so much. When it does I just think back to when I was a child and how good my Mother was before she got sick. I also have a step Mother now who is very supportive and involved in our lives, but it’s not the same as having your own and never will be.
Do you have friends who understand what its like to be a single Mother who does not have the same type of support from their Mother as most?
No, I don’t really have any friends who are single Mums and also care for their own Mother like I do. I have a friend who has a mentally ill Mother like me but she is not a single Mum. Most of the single mums I know have their Mums around.
What would you say to other single Mothers on Mothers Day?
Don’t worry about it so much, it’s commercial and try not to buy into the propaganda of what a Mum should be or what a Mother’s Day should look like.
Just celebrate the fact that you are a Mother yourself, and be grateful. As not all women can have children. Spoil yourself if you can, you deserve it!
What have you learned about yourself as a single Mother who also cares for her own Mother?
I do get overwhelmed at times, especially when my Mum is unwell or misses some of her medication.
If I’m completely honest I do get angry and resentful sometimes that my Mum is not helping me or fully understands my life. She doesn’t live in the real world.
I also feel that towards my Father as well, for not staying with her and taking care of her. When he divorced her she became my burden. This has had a bigger effect on my life then I thought, I am sure of it. I can see this as I have gotten older. But I don’t show it, I just try to accept it, keep her on track and take her to get her medication (injection) fortnightly, and help her when I can.
My brother doesn’t see her much at all and isn’t very involved, so I am all she has really. And I feel sorry for her, she still to this day thinks she is not mentally ill. It’s a constant struggle. She didn’t have the best life as a child. I just try my best.
What has helped you, who has helped and supported you well?
Well no one really helps me with my Mother, just me and the mental health outreach team occasionally when she has been very sick .. as for helping me, my Dad and step Mum help me the most. They look after my son during school holidays on the days that I work.
My son’s Dad doesn’t see him very often and doesn’t have him overnight, so when I have work functions or friends events occasionally they look after him. I moved closer to them 3 years ago for this reason, it wasn’t the easiest move to start off with, but we are settled now and part of a local school community.
If I am stuck and my Dad and step Mum are away (they travel a lot) I am sure I could call on one of them to help out. I haven’t needed to yet. I am very independent and am not the best at asking for help!
What do you do on Mothers Day?
It varies year to year, last year my Dad and step Mum took my son and I out for lunch, this year they will be away, so I am taking my Mum (as long as she feels up to it, she often cancels plans) out for the day and for lunch.
Thank you Natalie for sharing so much. I hope that other Mums who don’t fit the ‘picture perfect’ this Mother’s Day know that they are not alone, those who are living with grief and loss especially. Mums who are also in caring roles for sick children, parents or family members are everyday heroes to me.