The challenges and triumphs of single moms
Checking my text and Facebook messages, I see a slew of greetings from fellow solo parents and colleagues for Mother's Day. I thought it would be nice if I could treat my sons to lunch or dinner somewhere nice to celebrate this occasion.
My finances, however, would not allow it since the bulk of my meager salary goes to paying the bills and buying food and other necessities. We have not gone out as a family for the longest time because I have to adhere to a very tight budget, and had to contend with other problems as well.
Challenges of solo parenthood
Solo parenthood entails a lot of challenges which we struggle to cope with.
First among these are financial and economic difficulties, which single mothers face daily. Bringing up children amid rising prices of commodities, tuition fees, clothes, medicines and vitamin supplements is akin to hurdling an obstacle course. We have to work really hard while being creative and resourceful to ensure that our children's needs are met.
Aside from the financial aspect, we also have to contend with the emotional, physical and psychosocial components of raising our children on our own.
This is especially true during the turbulent adolescent period, when our children go through hormonal changes which trigger mood swings. Dealing with teenagers going through the angst and pain of adolescence is doubly difficult for solo parents, especially when single moms deal with teenage sons, and single dads interact with teenage daughters.
During these troubled times, we can't help but wish our spouses/partners are still around to offer guidance and support. Most of the time, we do not even know what to do and whom to turn to for help.
Solo parenthood is emotionally draining because I have to make all the decisions, at times wondering if I am making the right ones.
I have to work double time to provide for all the needs of our family, and in the process, I get to spend too little quality time with my kids, making them think that I am neglecting them.
It's a no-win situation because while struggling to keep a roof above our heads, to put food on the table, and to pay educational and other expenses, I also have to deal with the guilt syndrome. I feel guilty because I want to spend more time with my sons, yet my job requires me to travel out of town, and to work even on weekends and holidays. But if I slacken and lose my job, how then can I provide for them?
When one of my sons gets sick or has a problem, the emotional toll is sometimes unbearable. I remember when my youngest was hospitalized, I was almost at my wits' end trying to figure out not only how to pay the hospital bills but how to cope with the severe emotional pain of seeing my son suffering. As a parent, I wish I could absorb all his pain.
Guarding our children
The children of solo parents still experience discrimination, particularly in some private schools that look down on "broken families" or unmarried single moms and dads. Sometimes, single moms are by-passed for promotion in the workplace because some employers think that they are not capable of doing the job well, burdened as they are with the sole responsibility of raising their children.
Then too, there are people (some unenlightened men) who think that single moms are "easy prey" because they're lonely and desperate for male companionship. As a result, many – and I don't have data to support this – single moms enter into relationships and beget more children. It's a vicious cycle since the need for meaningful relationships governs all human beings.
Another important and often overlooked challenge in solo parenting is guarding our children against online predators.
In today's fast-paced, technologically-advanced world, we, single moms, strive to keep up with our children's online activities, worrying what websites they are visiting and who they are interacting with in the internet. The perils of unsupervised Internet use among children and teens are all too real because cyberspace is full of unsavory characters who prey on young people.
Hence, to keep track of my son's online activities, I created my own social media accounts and their real and online friends and classmates have become my friends too.
Small joys and triumphs
On the other hand, solo parenthood is not all pain, hardships and sufferings. We do have our happy moments.
Every time I go up the stage to pin medals, ribbons and receive certificates of commendation for my sons' excellent academic performance, I feel a sense of triumph considering that we achieved this through sheer hard work and determination.
Sharing my youngest son JM's victories in the field of English Journalism is one of the highest points of our lives. I vividly recall his joy and excitement when he made it to the district level of journalism competitions. His forte is sportswriting. He also won the Spelling Bee contests in their school from first year to third year high school, and received the award as Outstanding Campus Journalist when he graduated from high school in 2014.
Graduation days are truly memorable. There is nothing more fulfilling than marching beside my sons to the tune of the Aida march on their way to receive their diplomas.
Last April 25, I felt tears of joy slipping down my cheeks as I watched my second son go up the stage to receive his BS in Computer Science diploma. Sending my sons to college is a herculean task, considering the escalating tuition fees, prices of school supplies, miscellaneous fees and just about anything. I watched him struggle to complete his thesis and other requirements, literally burning the midnight oil. So as I stood in line with other parents in the entrance of the graduation venue, I felt my heart soaring with joy.
Of course, there's also sadness as I saw the other graduates with both parents and complete members of their families in attendance. Although only one parent was allowed to march with their children, usually the rest of the family – including the extended family members – patiently waited outside, while there's just me and Jun, as in other times with my eldest and youngest sons.
During such times, I feel acutely alone, wishing with all my heart that my sons' father is still alive to share these wonderful moments with me. With both sets of grandparents gone and our other relatives living far from us, there's really no one to be with us, although I try hard to celebrate these special occasions with my brother, sister, and their children. I want to give my sons a sense of family – that there are other people who care for them.
The role of support groups
Support groups for solo parents play an important role in helping each other cope with the multi-faceted stresses of solo parenthood. Organized groups in the communities and workplace serve as our anchor. During our darkest periods, we invariably turn to one another for comfort and encouragement.
When my father died in January 2014, my officemates and colleagues from the solo parents support group of the Department of Social Welfare and Development's central office came to the wake to condole with me. There is also the joy of interacting with other solo parents associations (SPAs), actively participating in advocacy activities to further our common cause.
Last April 26, our solo parents group joined the SPAs of the 6 districts of Quezon City (QC) in celebrating the culminating activity of Solo Parents Week, initiated by the 4Ks Task Force on Solo Association in coordination with the QC local government.
The spirit of camaraderie and solidarity binds us in continuously advocating for the rights and welfare of all solo parents and their children, and pushing for the amendments to RA 8972 or the Solo Parents Welfare Act of 2000.
We are hoping and praying that soon, legislators will take notice and sponsor our proposed amendments. Only then can we say that our sector is finally being recognized as needing help. - Rappler.com
Carina Javier is the current president of the DSWD Central Office's Solo Parents Support Org and an ardent advocate for solo parents and their children's rights and welfare. A reformed Christian with 3 sons, she is also an Information Officer III at the DSWD-Social Marketing Service.
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