SingaporeMotherhood | Parenting

September 2022

Single Parents in Singapore: This Single Father shares His Story

Recently, we featured the stories of two single mums in Singapore. They shared their experiences as solo parents in Singapore: the challenges they face, and how they cope. This time, a single father through divorce shares his story with us. In 2017, Joachim Goh’s marriage came to an end, and divorce proceedings were concluded two years later, in 2019. Currently, the 43-year-old Project Manager shares joint custody of his seven-year-old daughter, with his ex-spouse having main care and control of their child.

(See also: How to Parent your Child better based on their Chinese Zodiac Sign)

“When my marriage ended, I felt a myriad of emotions, from confusion and betrayal, to anger and disappointment. There was also a sense of helplessness as my divorce came very unexpectedly despite all my efforts to save the marriage. After a while, I came to terms with my situation and started the grieving and loss process. Today, although the scars of divorce linger, I am healing well with the support and encouragement of family and friends.

I am currently working for a multinational company which allows me flexible hours and work- from-home incentives. Hence every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, I take my daughter to school, and pick her up at 5pm. Then we spend time together before I send her to her mother’s place by 7pm. My daughter stays with me from Fridays to Saturdays, and until Sundays on every alternate week.

Making Things Work as a Single Father

For me the hardest thing about being a single parent in Singapore is that schools and establishments tend to only work with the parent with the main care and control of the child. In my case it is my ex-wife. Because of that it is challenging when I want to raise concerns and give input with regards to my child.

Although my daughter is slowly coming to terms with the current family situation, she still asks why her mummy and I are not staying together, and compares her family situation with that of her friends in school.

(See also: Do you have Parental Burnout?)

When she is with me, she will tell me that she wishes her mummy and daddy would stay together, like her friends’ parents. I tell her that her daddy and mummy often quarrel when they stay together, so it is better to stay apart. My daughter hopes that her parents will reconcile one day, but acknowledges that seeing her parents quarrel will affect her.

I tell my daughter that regardless whether her daddy or mummy stay together, we will always love her. Post-divorce, constantly affirming a child with love is very important for the child’s emotional stability.

Having Family Support Helps

Financially, being a single parent is taxing. Post-divorce, there are costs involved for two households, and I have cut back on individual spending. Fortunately, I stay with my parents, so there are savings in terms of utilities and food. I also get help from my parents and siblings in caring for my daughter. Fortunately, my family is quite involved in my daughter’s daily routine, and my daughter looks up to her aunties (my sisters) as role models.

It can be challenging when we go out though. In some shopping malls the nursing rooms are located in the ladies’ toilets. There have been occasions when I had to ask women who were going into the toilet to help me to get hot water when I wanted to make milk for my daughter, or to rinse my daughter’s milk bottle with hot water.

I fear how society and the community will view our family situation, and whether single parents are accepted and welcome. I also fear not being able to provide a complete family for my daughter.

Single Parenting Woes in Singapore

In general, for single parents in Singapore, I feel that the main difficulties are:

  • Co-parenting after an acrimonious divorce. Trying to work out day-to-day issues can be rough, even discussing things like primary school selection, and the types of snacks the child can eat. It gets challenging if your ex-spouse finds fault when anything happens to the child.
  • Time-sharing of the child. The child of a divorced parent has to divide his/her time with both parents when it comes to holidays and outings.
  • The higher cost of raising a child. This is because there are two households to take care of. There are support groups for women, but few that cater to men who are going through a divorce.
  • When the child is very young, in most cases, the care and control are often given to the mother. Government agencies, schools and institutions tend to only work with the parent with the care and control, which creates difficulties for the father if he wishes to be more involved in parenting. This is especially so in acrimonious cases.

Getting Help from Others

Counsellors from the Family Service Centre helped me with mediation and counselling. They guided me to clear my thoughts and to focus on what was important. I also had support and mediation from my counsellor at Care Corner regarding things like primary school selection for my daughter, and childcare arrangements during the school holidays.

My lawyer introduced me to a support group that he saw in a flyer on his church bulletin board. Here, I made new friends and learnt that I was not alone in this situation. I have been invited back to facilitate subsequent runs of the programme and to share my experience with those who are on the same journey.

(See also: 4 Ways you can Empower Your Daughters)

Things that would Help Single Parents in Singapore

Increasing the support for single parents, in particular, co-parenting after divorce, child well-being and helping the child cope with mental wellness after divorce. In a recent dialogue with the Ministry of Social and Family Development, we (a group of single fathers) suggested the following that we would appreciate having:

  • Parenting support and counselling in the midst of divorce, and post-divorce
  • Mediation support to avoid expensive divorce litigation costs
  • Divorce support groups for men
  • Joint sharing on how to improve the parent-child relationship
  • Child/Peer support groups / mental wellness groups for children / School Befriender services

Looking Ahead as a Single Father

I hope to be a good role model for my daughter, and impart to her the necessary skills to cope with life’s challenges. It is important that we do not cling on to our children. One day they themselves will move on to start their own families. What’s important is to equip them with the necessary skills to cope with life’s challenges. My daughter loves animals and she hopes to be a veterinarian when she grows up. I hope to support her aspirations and dreams no matter what they may be.

For fellow parents who are single through divorce, my advice is to not speak ill about the other parent in front of the child, and to be a role model for the child.

Remember that divorce is not the end, but rather, the beginning of another kind of life.”


Featured image: Izabelly Marques on Unsplash; Other images: Joachim Goh

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Single Parents in Singapore: This Single Father shares His Story