We Need To Be Kinder To Single Mothers

Happy Mothers’ Day… or is it? Off the top of my head, I can tell you that there are (too) many moms who will spend their day taking care of their children, doing laundry, running errands or attending to school needs. They will end off the weekend, with little or no rest and they will repeat the cycle come Monday.

Happy are those that will be woken up with breakfast in bed, or be taken out for lunch because even if it’s three hours of doing nothing, it’s important and very, very welcome. You see, while children are a glorious gift and completely adorable, they are also EXHAUSTING. Mara that’s to be expected…

There’s another exhaustion that not many speak about, but very real exhaustion. Do you know how tiring it is to be asked “where is the father?”, or my absolute favourite “why are you doing this on your own?”. Heh bathong? You would swear that women woke up and volunteered to single-handedly raise children. To take care of another human’s emotional, physical and financial wellbeing. Alone. Solo. As though the act of procreation did not involve two people?

Why is society so unkind to single mothers? Why are they treated with such disdain, labelled “loose” and my absolute favourite when there are multiple children, they are called “Choice Assorted”. How and when did this become okay? How do people go about their days and assume that women are at fault or that mothers need to be married/together with a partner in order to earn a seat at the respectable table in society? Am I less of an upstanding citizen because I am parenting alone?

What is even more bizarre is that the most judgemental people are *drum roll* other women. You go to a kiddie’s party and find the married gang who, more often than not, will deliberately isolate you because they peeked at your left ring finger and decided that you are “loose” that’s why you are a mother and unmarried. I won’t even get into the church politics…

I was both shocked and intrigued recently when I saw an article about how a school in Kenya doesn’t accept children whose parents aren’t married. The reason was something about maintaining morality and traditional family values. How bizarre! But I am not too surprised. Right here at home women face many challenges; schools want both parents’ details when applying or even for travelling with a child that I live with. It’s with great difficulty that one needs to explain “I don’t know where that man is”. That one needs to explain is problematic on its own. It is both humiliating and honestly, emotionally draining. This was not the plan, but that’s where we are so let’s work with what we have, please. 

That being said, to all the mothers out there you are doing a great job. To the ones doing it on their own, you are absolutely enough. You will raise fine children, despite the inadequacies you will very often feel. There will be days filled with low self-esteem and tears because you don’t know how it came to be that your child is struggling at school or days when you want to punch a stranger in the throat when they ask “where is the father?” after you have spent hours in the ER, but please don’t catch an assault charge. You are more than enough. Please, I beg, give mothers a break and remember, asking where the father is, is neither appropriate nor is it any of your business.

Writer: Palesa Motau           Photographer: Alex Elle

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