I think people assume that those of us with a “severe” mental health diagnosis would be the ones in need of caretaking instead of the ones doing the primary caregiving. But here I find myself, almost three years postpartum, a single mom and a mad one at that. When I started my journey as a parent, I never imagined that I would be embarking on this journey alone. I guess this may be the experience of most single parents who started their journey in a romantic partnership. It’s interesting how madness (either our own or that of our partner) or maddening situations propel some of us into single motherhood.
Although I am new at this, I am pretty sure single motherhood and madness are synonymous, regardless of the mother’s mental health status. This might be especially true in the US where there is less community support and a ridiculous amount of responsibility placed on the individual. Conducting interviews with single moms during the early pandemic days I got the impression that life was utterly unmanageable. While I benefited from couple’s privilege during lockdowns and quarantines, I observed the double demand placed on mothers to work and parent simultaneously. I thought to myself, “I do not know what I would do if that were me!” Well, now that is me. Although there are no lockdowns and governments are aspiring towards pre-pandemic in-person life, I recognize there are several unknowns in my parenting journey. I will have to navigate rising inflation, a recession (that’s what we’re in, right?), the threat of monkeypox, and an entirely new COVID-19 pandemic terrain along with the more common challenges of life as a single parent.
Although I could not have anticipated my current life circumstances, I feel more ready than ever to tackle the obstacles ahead. As I look over the decisions and lessons of my 20s I realize I was preparing for this very moment all along. I took the time to really learn about my mental illness, find my mental health care team, and get on a regimen that keeps me stable. I got into a PhD program I love and am fulfilled by the work I do. Despite the challenges towards self-sufficiency, I have achieved financial literacy and independence. I became aware of my relationship patterns and codependent tendencies and through the dissolution of my previous relationship, I am learning how to prioritize my needs and my happiness.
Navigating mad love has truly been a humbling and eye-opening experience. More than making space for someone else’s madness and figuring out a way to peacefully cohabitate and build a life together, (as cheesy as it sounds) being a mad lover is teaching me how to be madly in love with myself. It’s teaching me that I can choose not to tolerate domestic violence and that, as a single person, I have a beautiful opportunity to create the roadmap for the life-affirming, respectful, nurturing kind of mad love I want and deserve.
I am grateful for the person I have become along my journey to becoming a single mom and I am excited for the new opportunities and experiences this new chapter has in store!
Image Description: Two bright pink flowers emerge from a crack in the concrete.