Survival guide for single mums in Singapore

Written by Ginny Phang

Whether by choice or circumstance, many woman end up raising children alone. As the sole parent, you have to deal with all aspects of family life and parenting, from finances to discipline. A single mum provides a 15 step survival checklist especially for unmarried single mums.

shutterstock 106740416 Survival guide for single mums in Singapore

What “category” of a single mom are you? Does it matter?

Well, it affects your taxes, the benefits you get, your child’s rights and the list goes on. When someone says that she is a single mom, she could be “widowed”, “divorced”, “unwed” or “a woman who adopts by choice”.

A number of women, some married, some living with their partners make comments such as, “I feel like a single mom because my partner/ husband isn’t around a lot or travels a lot etc…” The ideal is parenting with an involved and present partner. But is it the same? Both situations are challenging in their own way but married, divorced and widowed mothers receive many benefits that are not available to the unmarried single mum. Especially in Singapore.

1. Special considerations? 

If you are unwed, you are not entitled to government benefits for married couples with children. If you are under 35, you are not entitled to buy an HDB flat until you reach 35 years of age and when you do, you may only purchase under the “singles” scheme. If you are unwed, then your child is considered “illegitimate” which means that to make your child “legitimate”, you need to spend at least $3000 to adopt your own kid. This also means that if you die without a will, all your assets would be given to your parents and not your child because the government considers your child as “illegitimate”. And by the way, you still need to pay your taxes and if you have a son, he’ll have to serve National Service.

2. Visitation rights

Whether the biological father pays child maintenance or not, whether his name is on the birth certificate as the father or not, as long as he can prove that he is the biological father (via court ordered DNA), he is entitled to some form of visitation rights to your child. So you might as well claim child maintenance and not be “gung-ho” about going it solo and doing this on your own. After all, since the government is not making it any easier (single moms do not get welfare or handouts in Singapore), you certainly need all the help you can get.

3. Child maintenance

Go for it! Unless of course getting a few hundred dollars is a real headache and simply not worth the emotional roller coaster or worse still, reliant dependency. For the record, I don’t get child maintenance. The last sum of money I got from my ex was to pay for the abortion that I did not go for, so I used it for maternity care instead. For those of you who are mothers, you know how far $2000 can get you in maternity care. The year I decided to take the leap of faith, quit my full time job and run Four Trimesters full time, I was barely afloat, if not sinking, for the first 1-1.5 years. Out of folly and desperation, I eventually decided that it was time my son’s biological father “paid his dues”. So I called him and explained the situation, and he asked me to email him in order to work out an arrangement. My emails starting bouncing back because he banned me from his email folder. Now this man owns more than 2 cars, lives in the prime district area. What can I say? I speculated as I did when he proposed marriage only upon finding out that I had canceled the scheduled abortion, that this was not a road worth walking, so I found another path.

4. Choose your battles wisely

A lifelong skill – choose your battles wisely. I tried three times before I was given a “special concession” to purchase a 3 room HDB flat at market rate. When I wanted to upgrade and re-appealed to buy a 4 or 5 room HDB flat, the authorities turned me down. I tried a couple of times to appeal only to discover that I have “progressed” to a point in my life where I am really tired of fighting. Don’t want sell me a 4 or 5 room HDB flat at market rate?? Fine, I’ll look for alternatives. Choose your battles wisely, just as when you decide if child maintenance is worth the emotional turmoil especially if you are in a situation where you have to chase the other party for monthly payments.

5. Support… S U P P O R T… support

You need all the support you can get.  I agree with Malcolm Gladwell, who debunks the myth of a “self-made man” in his book: Outliers – The story of success. Had it not been for the dedication of my family in the foundation years, even though only some of them supported me through and through, and in my later years, the strong network of close and trusted friends, I truly would not have made it this far. And it will probably be worth your while to strategise the kind of support you need, so as to maximize your access to resources.
I cannot do without my family and my friends, however, I have also learnt to be very selective when it comes to family and friends. I choose to be around people who are supportive of me as a person and a single mom especially in the early days, when hormones are all tender and all over the place and I needed a steady flow of love and support.

6. Be your own woman

After  you are “seasoned” with experience (not so much age), you evolve into a tough cookie. By now, you would have probably learnt that you are on your own baby – with another to raise and feed. No one is going to stand up for you and your child, not even the people you pay taxes to and sometimes, very very sadly, your own family which violates your basic right to belong. You are on your own, so might as well get used to it and be bold.

So what if you pay $1,000 for your child’s kindergarden education which even married couples (read: dual income) would consider extravagant? So what if you do a thousand other things that are not the “norm”? It’s no longer about what others think….you are your own woman, be bold, and do what you have to do because at the end of the day, it is always easy for others to “speak behind your back” but no one, is walking your path in your shoes. So you earn the right to be your own woman.

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