The Truth About Single Motherhood

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by Hazel Chawapiwa

Becoming a single mother yet again at the age of thirty-five felt like my world was coming to an end. I went into shock mode. I shut the world out completely. I didn’t want to speak to anybody. I could barely eat, but forced myself to do so only because I was seven months pregnant with my third child. I felt so ashamed. I felt like a failure. Why the dramatic reaction to something that is so commonplace in today’s society, you may ask. It all came down to the dreaded title of the "single mother" that I thought was well behind me.

My partner and I had been engaged since the conception of my second child. I saw marriage ahead of us along with the possibilities of having more children, moving abroad and growing old together. Despite the problems in our relationship, I had no doubt that these things were possible. When I first met my fiancé, I had been a single mother for ten years. It had taken me a very long time to trust someone enough to allow them fully into my life. Even though I had previously dated, I was so protective of my first-born son that I never let anyone cross the boundaries I had set in place. I considered myself to be an ambitious young woman who worked hard and had a good quality of life with my son as a direct result of my work ethic. My son was my best friend, best holiday companion, and little genius. When I met my fiancé, the relationship progressed rather quickly. Before either of us knew it, we were co-habiting. It felt like we were a family, and in a short period of time our family grew with the birth of my second child.

My fiancé and I never made it to the alter due to various unresolved issues within the relationship. Along with losing my romantic relationship, relationships with my family and friends deteriorated because I lost myself in trying to keep everything together. Eventually, even my relationship with my oldest son was adversely affected. I was living in denial. I refused to let the relationship with my ex-fiancé go despite the fact it was hurting me as well as those closest to me. In the words of one of my closest friends, I became a shadow of my former self. Thankfully, the love and support I received from others got me through this exceptionally trying time.

For many women, the fear of becoming a single mother often times results in them staying in romantic relationships that are not healthy for them or their children. Surely being raised by a single parent is not worse than living in a home where both parents are genuinely unhappy. The decision to leave your partner is often viewed as selfish as others perceive this notion as the parent putting their needs before that of the child’s. What I have learned through my experience is that we only have one life to live. What example are we as parents setting for our children when we live our lives to please others in order to fit society’s ideology of what a parental unit should look like?

Although it has now been three years since moving on from the relationship with my ex-fiancé, I sometimes find myself spiralling into panic mode from feeling the overbearing economic hardships and emotional distress that come along with single motherhood. As a single mother, there are certain challenges that arise when attempting to find balance within one’s life. Such challenges often include trying to find a healthy work environment, trustworthy childcare, and time to oneself to simply gather your thoughts. The question that often arises in conversation with others is, “how do you cope?” My methods of coping as a single mother are deeply rooted in the sustained love and support I receive from my mother, sisters and network of close friends. The burning desire to do the best I possibly can for my children in order to ensure that they live a good life is my greatest motivation of all. The flexibility that comes along with having a part-time job acts as another coping mechanism to single motherhood as it guarantees that I have a fixed monthly income to support my children and I. This afforded opportunity also allows me to have more time at home with my family and in turn allows me to work on projects that I am most passionate about. I have learned that feelings of being overwhelmed don’t stem from having too much on your plate, but rather from having too little of what strengthens you. Realizing what one’s necessary coping mechanisms are and learning how to fit them into your schedule, gives you the strength and resilience to get through everything else.

You hear so many negative stories about single mothers that are usually centered around the benefits system or their so called delinquent children. I recently came across an interesting article that summed up the perception of single mothers as being easy, slutty, and irresponsible in allowing random men to impregnate them. “They’re always broke. They’re on welfare. They’re sponging off the taxpayers. They should work for a living, and simultaneously, they should stay home with their kids. Whatever they do, it’s never as good as what a married mom does. Ever. It’s their fault. They should have worked harder to keep their marriages together. They go out partying anytime the ex has the children. They’re man-haters or manhunters, who shouldn’t be left alone with other people’s husbands. Their kids are troubled, or troublemakers, bound for the penitentiary, suffering without a male in the house, un-cared for, un-read to, a bad influence on other children. They’re brave but pitiable. Their families, and their lives, aren’t complete because they don’t have a mommy and a daddy living under the same roof. And that’s their fault” (Tracy Mayor, Brain Child, 2011).

My initial reaction to the article was one of frustration and disbelief, but after consideration I concluded that unfortunately a lot of single mothers are perceived as one or more of the aforementioned. Even recent surveys that have been carried out show that single mothers are still seen as bad for society. The title of the single mother still carries a stigma despite the fact that we are everywhere, with our numbers on the rise. Single mothers experience very different circumstances that shape the ways in which they live their lives. I think that it is important for people to realise that each woman has travelled a very different path that has led them to single motherhood, and that it is unfair to label us as moral failures. It is also of grave importance that society realize that children who are brought up in a single parent household can and do grow up loved, happy and successful.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Hazel Chawapiwa, mother of 3, is CEO of the company 2inspire Network, which she started in May 2012, this is a business dedicated to providing events, social media & training that empower & inspire women particularly in business. A main objective of the business is to support women in enterprise and to assist them to enhance their socio-economic outcomes. The company was founded as a result of the inspiration and support she received from her family & friend network, particularly during a difficult time in her life.

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