Bringing up a child is no walk in the park. But for single parents, the path is paved with additional challenges and difficulties. There are day-to-day responsibilities to manage through changing circumstances. You need to cope with your own emotions while trying to maintain the best situation for your child. To top it all off, the stigma of flying solo as a parent remains in our relatively conservative society. Still, things have improved.
Since 2016, children of single parents have been able to receive Child Development Account benefits. This includes the $3,000 First Step Grant and matched co-savings from the Government. Single mothers were able to take 16 weeks of Government-Paid Maternity Leave since 2017.
Working parents (both wed and unwed) are entitled to 6 days of paid Childcare Leave per year for children aged below 7 years, or 2 days for children aged 7 to 12 years. Furthermore, education, healthcare, childcare and infant care subsidies, and the Foreign Domestic Worker Levy Concession, are available to single-parent families. But many feel that more can be done.
Earlier this year, Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng noted in Parliament that “Being a single parent is twice the work… as single parents have to juggle work while caring for their child. They don’t have an additional pair of hands.”
Indeed, financial and childcare challenges rank high on the list of struggles that single parents in Singapore face.
Mrs Kim Lang Khalil, the Chief Executive Officer for HCSA Community Services, has observed from her experience with Dayspring SPIN (Single Parents INformed, INvolved, INcluded), an organisation that serves single parents with no or limited social and practical support, that single parents in Singapore face two key challenges: perceived discrimination, and low quality of life including the lack of financial resources, safety, and security as well as limited work capacity, sleep, and rest. “These potentially translate to negative impact on their children’s development and well-being,” she shared.
Mrs Khalil, who is also a member of Focal Area 4 “Support for Single Parents” under the Alliance for Action to Strengthen Marriages and Family Relationships (AFAM), added that single parents also struggle to sustain stable employment due to limited or no support for alternative caregiving when their child was ill, or there was a childcare centre closure, or if the parents had extended work hours.
She suggested that financial schemes and resources for single parents could help, “for example, service providers from the social and private sectors collaborating to provide ad hoc or short-term professional career services, with subsidies drawn from the CPF or the CDA. This could help alleviate single parents’ burden and improve their caregiving capacity without compromising on the child’s well-being.”
Two single mothers in Singapore tell us more.
Rahayu Natalya, 40, is a Community Building Executive at Daughters of Tomorrow, an organisation that supports women from low-income families in Singapore. Her daughter, Amelia Juliet, is five.
“I was never married to Amelia’s father. We were in a very toxic relationship, and I knew that there was no point in marrying someone who was abusive. I was sad, of course. But I was thinking about my daughter’s welfare. When she turned one, I realised that it had to stop. I didn’t want her to grow up thinking this was the norm, that this was how women should be treated.
My current workplace, my friends and my mentors are my support. They helped me deal with everything, and I consider myself very lucky.
It has been hard for me in many ways. Finances, housing, the stigma that children will not be able to succeed in all aspects of life because of a single-parent household, neglect (when we have to work so much to make ends meet to the point that we neglect our children’s emotional needs), labels (how our children are labelled as “illegitimate” or “broken” because of our domestic situation), and lack of discipline — all these are challenges that we face.
I am working full time, and I have dialysis three times a week which depletes my energy. Additionally, I need to arrange for childcare when my daughter is sick, or if the school is not open when I have to go for dialysis.
Financial stability is probably the hardest for me. A two-income household can better manage the rising cost of living. Having to support the household by myself is hard. It’s financially straining to pay for babysitters.
Building a Safer, Stronger Future for her Daughter
Amelia has asked me why she has no father and I chose to tell her the truth. I told her that mummy and daddy cannot get along. We used to love each other so much and we had her, but for us to love her fully, we needed to separate.
What I appreciate about being a single parent is feeling safe, especially since I moved out and away from my daughter’s father, and the immense love I get from my daughter every day.
Freedom, strength, and independence are the attributes I hope I am showing and imparting to my daughter. I hope that she will grow up to be a strong individual and not have to rely on a man to have self-worth.
I hope that when it comes to single parenthood, the labelling will stop, the stigma will stop, and that society will be kinder and more empathetic.
To other single parents I would say hang in there! I know it’s hard. Society still frowns on and does not accept single parents, but we have to be strong. We should walk with our heads held high and be proud of our accomplishments no matter how small they are.
Our children need us. We are the only parents they have to lean on. There is help out there, there are organisations and support groups for parents like us. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Don’t give up.”
Mdm Nisu Jain, 52, is a Playgroup Educator, and mum to a daughter, Raveena d/o Sailesh, 28, and two 27-year-old sons, Sanesh s/o Sailesh, abd Somesh s/o Sailesh.
“My ex-husband travelled all the time, so I feel like I have been a single mom for the last 28 years even though I only got a divorce in 2021. He was an abusive alcoholic, and unfaithful, as well as an absent husband and father.
I was exhausted, depressed, and lost. I had no family or friends in Singapore as I was born in India, and I felt that I had to navigate all this alone. When they were younger, I would lie to my children. I would tell them that their father was busy working overseas whenever he was not around. It was challenging whenever I had to juggle taking care of my three kids, educating them, and working.
I faced a lot of anxiety due to the divorce — would I lose my home? Were my children going to be okay? The distress caused me nightmares and sleep issues, which affected my day-to-day life.
My counsellor at Punggol FSC (under AMKFSC Community Services) guided me to get a Personal Protection Order, a Domestic Exclusion Order, and a maintenance order. With this support, I worked out safety plans for my family, found a safe space to share my guilt and pain, and rebuilt my self-esteem.
Being a single parent is nothing but 24/7 hard work, day in and out. It would help if there were more housing support and grants for single parents. I also hope that the legal system can have more sympathy and empathy towards single moms with children. The best thing about it is your children, and hearing them say that they love you.”
Where Single Parents in Singapore can get Help
If you are a single parent in Singapore, or going though a situation that may lead you to become one, these organisations can help.
- MSF Family Assist: https://familyassist.msf.gov.sg/
- Strengthening Families [email protected] Service Centre ([email protected]): https://msf.gov.sg/famatfsc
- Family Support Services: https://www.ncss.gov.sg/social-services/families
- HCSA Dayspring SPIN: https://hcsa.org.sg/programmes/dayspring-spin/
- HELP Family Service Centre: https://helpfsc.org.sg/
- AWARE: https://www.aware.org.sg/
- SPSG (Single Parent Support Group): https://www.facebook.com/SingleParentSupportGroupSPSG
Featured image: Ketut Subiyanto