15 things single mums in Singapore should know
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.
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.
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.
Unless of course, you’ve got confidence. You are only an outcast if you deem yourself an outcast. There is nothing wrong with being a single unwed mom. Nothing.
The government may punish you for it and your family and friends might choose to abandon you. However, the last thing you want to do is to punish yourself and worse still, your child for it. So walk tall woman!
8. Always remember being a single mom is a choice
You could have gone for an abortion; you could have given your child away for adoption; you could have left your child outside a hospital (like a drama series), and you didn’t. Even though the situation wasn't ideal. You chose to be a single mother, remember that.
9. When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.
There are only 2 options: you either sink or you float. However, if you choose the former, you take not one but two down with you.
Whilst science would prove that it would be much harder to float and a lot easier to sink – Science does not measure intangibles such as “love, faith, hope and determination” that keep us afloat when the going gets tough.
10. Oh hell!
Then, there will be days when you will be at the end of your tether with some of the following attitudes “Damn it! This is hell, I can't stand living this way!” or “What the hell have I gotten myself into?” Know that it's okay and that you are okay…. life goes on… go back to reading points 8 and 9.
11. And please, don’t vent it on your child
This does not sound nice but it's the truth, and I know, I am not the only one who does it. I plead guilty. The days when I could pull my hair out, the days when I cried buckets but not enough to flood the world so my problems could be swept away.
Every day, every moment, every breath – is a new moment to start afresh. Bygones are bygones. Live in the present.
12. Remember that you have your own life to live
I know, it's hard, especially when you need to work a full time job to pay the bills, send and pick up your child from childcare and don't have extra help after work hours with baby-sitting etc. How to have a life?
I started with a life “online” through parenting forums and support groups for the first few years. It was only when Kieran was about 6.5 years old that I started going out and establishing a life of my own. Bit by bit, step by step, some things can wait, but remember, you have your own life to lead.
13. It can get lonely
No matter how strong your support system is, there will be days when you wish you had that “someone” whom you could lean on and share both your joys and your sorrows. You can indulge by romanticizing or even grieving the absence of one, but girl, get moving after you are done because you are on your own.
Disclaimer: if you believe in God, then you’ll also know that you are not walking alone even when it feels that way. And if you don’t, know that there are more than 500 single unwed moms out there lurking somewhere incognito in Singapore - who knows - one of them could be among your neighbours!
14. What about dating?
What about dating? Feel free but please carry condoms since you know better now than to rely on the 'other method'. And if you say condoms don’t work, then double up with other forms of contraceptives.
15. The Contingency Plan
I have not come so far in my single parenting journey to know what to do and if I need a contingency plan should I find a partner I want to spend my life with. Whilst I still want to have 2 more kids (and home births they will be, to add to the record), I don’t know if I will ever be ready to give up my financial independence to rely on the other to provide for my family and especially his non-biological child. It does not help that I was brought up in a family where biological children have more rights than non-biological children, and the latter were treated as second class citizens.
Dedicated to ALL mothers, especially the single ones. I have to be honest and admit that I am in a “mood” as I write this. I also have to add that had I known all this when I made the decision keep my pregnancy instead of turning up for my scheduled abortion, it wouldn't have made a difference to my decision. However, a survival check list would have been nice.
Make sure to join our single parents support group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SGsingleparents/