“I can live my life the way I want to, not being oppressed or dictated. I’m free.”

If you’re a single mum, Saralfathurunisha Muhd Jahabar wants to be your friend. It’s what she does as a Befriender. A member of the WeCare for U Project organised by NTUC Women’s Development Secretariat, Saral’s role as a Befriender involves sharing her own experience with other single mums, and inviting them to WeCare for U’s self-improvement workshops that offer practical resources and advice. Why does she do it? It’s simple. To let single mothers know they’re not alone.

Single mother Saral  - NTUC Women’s Development Secretariat befriender

The 43-year-old mother of two, reflects on what it’s like to connect with other single mums, why sometimes it’s better to let a relationship go, and how to enjoy the upsides of solo parenting.

How did you become a single mother?

I became a single mother after careful consideration on my marital issues. Sometimes it’s better to let the other person go if they think that their happiness lies with someone else. I don’t think it would be good to suppress ill feelings and go on pretending that everything is okay, right?

Can you talk a bit about your work as a Befriender, and the ways that NTUC provides support for single mothers?

Even when I am not participating in events conducted by NTUC, I share my experiences with other single mums who I meet and talk to, who are not members of WeCare for U. I share with them the exciting and beneficial aspects of joining the programme. As a WeCare Befriender, we offer friendship and support to single mothers who have just joined the programme. We share with them our experiences and skills learnt through the various initiatives in the programme, and let them know they are not alone in this journey. NTUC goes out of the way in getting things done for us single mums. They organise exciting outings, as well as motivational talks and self-improvement workshops that inspire and build confidence in single mums.

What’s one of the most rewarding memories starting from when you became a Befriender?

I got to know this lady who is currently experiencing emotional distress. She is slowly opening up to me, and actually, she reminds me of myself when I first became a single mum. She had a fallout with her family and is still coming to terms about her divorce. I am still talking to her and I hope she will join NTUC WeCare for U programme.

What are the most challenging parts of being a single mum?

Being able to provide for my kids. The basic necessities. I took up sole custody just to make sure they get a proper upbringing.

What do you say to your kids when they ask about their biological father?

They are fully aware of the situation. I am blessed with kids who are mature and understand our situation. They know that he left to be happy and to live a life he always wanted. They do meet with him occasionally. He has remarried so they share a cordial relationship. They were never too attached to him.
Why do you think there might be some stigma attached to being a single mother?

We can’t control what society tends to thinks of us. It is important of what we think of ourselves. Our status and how we present ourselves to society is what they should accept. We should not be afraid of what people think of us.

As a Befriender, your role is to reach out to single mothers. But what about when it comes to connecting with single fathers? Have you met many of them as well?

Yes I have met a few. But most of them are financially stable and they are not as emotionally affected as a single mother typically would be. They take things practically.

If you started dating again, do you let the other person know right off the bat that you are a single mum?

I do not think I will be entering the dating scene again. It’s not that I’m afraid; I went past that. I can safely say that I am comfortable with the life that I am living now. But hypothetically, I would be frank from Day 1 because nothing is more important than my children.

As a single mother, what are the qualities you look for in a prospective partner?

I am not looking for one at this moment. But I guess that fact that the guy has to be aware that I have responsibilities towards my children and he has to be understanding. After my previous marriage, I would definitely prefer if the guy is financially stable and not depend on the woman to provide for the family.

When nuclear families are the “norm,” how do you build up your own confidence as the head of a single-parent family?

I have taken over duties as both father and mother from the very beginning of my life as a single mother. I have ample support from my mum and my sister. They have been my pillar of strength, giving me motivation to be strong. In fact I get my confidence from my mum since she has brought both me and my sister up single-handedly when my dad passed on 26 years ago. She was 36 then. She is a very strong-minded lady.

What are the perks or upsides of solo parenting?

I can actually live my life the way I want to, not being oppressed or dictated. I can make decisions without fearing how the other half would think. I don’t have to be emotionally abused or fear of being used. I’m free.

WeCare for U Project is a community outreach programme by NTUC for single mothers and their children. They empower single mothers to build up their emotional and social well being, so as to stay resilient and achieve financial independence through gainful employment. The WeCare Befriender programme:

  • provides a network of support and assistance to link single mothers to resources and organisations that can assist them.
  • helps strengthen the bonds and to foster relationships between single mothers and their children through our WeCare for programmes.
  • enables single mothers who have benefited from WeCare for U programmes to offer friendship and support to new single mothers to the programme.

To find out more about WeCare for U programmes, please email ufamily@ntuc.org.sg. For more information about NTUC Women’s Development Secretariat, go to www.ntucwds.org.sg

Photo courtesy of Saralfathurunisha Muhd Jahabar 

By Jenny Tai

This article was first published in The New Age Parents e-magazine