Once afraid to be labelled 'promiscuous' with 'loose morals', S'porean single mum finds community who showers her with love

Joan hopes that single mothers out there will not be afraid to seek help from others.

| Alfie Kwa | Sponsored | February 05, 2022, 09:55 AM

When Joan posted a photo on Facebook to welcome her daughter into the world, a common response was: “Where’s the father?”

In the course of her pregnancy, Joan (not her real name), 42, lost the support of the father of her child and her source of income and faced a great deal of negativity about being a single mother.

But while difficult, Joan’s journey has been fruitful because it has given her her favourite person in the world, her daughter, who is three years old this year.

A positive pregnancy test

In 2018, Joan was on a quest much different from what her life is now – a full-time mother who does some work on the side.

She had been running her interior design company for about two years then, and business was growing.

Her days were spent working, living on caffeine, and having countless sleepless nights focusing on her company.

The last thing on her mind at the time was having kids.

And her boyfriend at the time was at a similar stage in his life. His priorities lay with his job in Zurich, Switzerland.

They travelled to see each other occasionally but maintained a long-distance relationship for the majority of their time together.

“We didn’t really think about the future… We were taking it each day as it goes,” Joan described her relationship, pointing out that they were very focused on their careers.

The career-driven Joan had the life she wanted, but that took a turn when she missed her period and felt a weird sensation in her tummy.

“It was different from what I felt any other time of the month.”

She decided to take a pregnancy test, and the result changed her life as she knew it when it turned out to be positive.

“I was 38 at the time, and I felt like I was a teenager,” she said, recalling her cluelessness at what to do next.

But she knew she had to break the news to the father of the baby, her then-boyfriend.

Joan expected him to say, “Okay, I'll be here, I’ll acknowledge the child, let's get married.”

But after hearing the news, all he said was that he’d leave the decision to have the child or not to Joan.

To her, that suggested that he didn’t want to shoulder the responsibility of having the child.

“Basically, he wasn't ready to be a father at that point in time.”

“I was a little bit of an emotional wreck,” Joan recalled.

She thought: “He didn’t love me, he didn't want the child.”

Overwhelmed with emotion, she hastily said, “Okay, then the decision is mine.” And she went off on her own.

“Should I keep this child?”

Image courtesy of Joan.

With her boyfriend out of the picture, Joan weighed the decision: “Am I going to keep this child?”

“What are people going to think about a child born out of wedlock?” she pondered.

She admitted that the stigma around being a single mother was almost enough to convince her that bearing a child was not worth it.

Paranoid, she thought those who found out she was a single mother would talk behind her back and assume that she had “loose morals” and was promiscuous.

But, more concerning was what others thought of her parents and her future child. Questions in her mind included:

“What if my parents faced rude comments like “why never raise your child properly”?"

"What if kids make fun of my child in school because she doesn’t have a father?"

Aborting the child could be the escape from the uneasiness she felt, but she wanted more time to think.

As time went by, Joan sought advice from others about whether she should have the child.

However, their response made her feel even more unsettled about the decision.

Some comments included:

“Women of your age don’t want to have children already.”

“Why did you decide to burden yourself with this?”

“Go travelling, you will be happy. You will not be happy with a child that will tie you down.”

At that time, Joan was 38, single, running her own business and living independently.

“Were they right?” she thought to herself.

That independence and freedom to travel the world unencumbered was indeed the life Joan had been pursuing. Was she willing to let a child get in the way of that?

“I didn’t know how to continue my life while raising a child.”

The clock was ticking, she was reaching the end of the timeline – the 24th week of the pregnancy when abortion is prohibited in Singapore.

She wasn’t hasty with her decision but soon realised why it was such a hard decision to make.

“Deep down I didn't want to go for the abortion”.

“I didn’t want to take away a life,” she said. So, after all the deliberations, she decided to keep the baby. 

Unexpected financial burden

Photo by Josefa nDiaz on Unsplash.

Amid all the stress, she received an unexpected resignation letter – her business partner was leaving the company.

Stranded, the five-month pregnant Joan rushed back and forth between work and hospital checkups.

She didn’t have much time, so after facing long queues at public clinics, she decided to visit private ones that had a shorter waiting time.

That meant she was burdened with much higher hospital bills.

But Joan was adamant about not letting go of the life she envisioned. At that point, she prayed that she could still have it all – a baby and a job.

The hardest part was to admit that things were getting out of hand and that it was time to let go of the business.

In a short period, she lost her job and her source of income.

This forced her to move into her parents' home so that she could rent out her flat for about S$2,000 a month.

Joan said it was fortunate that she had been working for quite some time and had savings that sustained her and her child.

She also started working again after a year of being pregnant, opting for a project-based role that allowed her to still have time for her daughter.

A welcoming community

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.

Joan was fortunate that she didn’t have to go through it alone as she found a community of people around her who guided her.

What was unnerving was opening up and telling them she had gotten pregnant and that she was to be a single mother.

Her parents were a huge support during her pregnancy, despite not taking the news too well initially.

It is usually a call for a celebration when parents hear the news that they are going to be grandparents soon. This would not be the case for Joan’s parents.

Joan recalled the disappointment in their eyes and said that her mum had to hold back tears when she told them the news.

It also wasn’t easy to reach out to her church for guidance. Revealing that she’d had an unplanned pregnancy with churchgoers made her feel anxious.

“As a Christian, my religion was not in line with being an unwed mother.”

As news of her pregnancy got out, Joan faced hurtful comments from her extended family. One person, in particular, was an uncle who confronted her for “disappointing” her parents. One of her cousins even shunned her after hearing that she was an unwed mother.

Other challenges included some Facebook friends who only asked, “where’s the father,” which made her feel like her life was just another juicy story.

But, those who mattered – her parents and church group – helped her regardless of her situation.

After seeing her parents’ reaction to her pregnancy news, she reassured them:

“You don't have to be ashamed, because you are going to have a grandchild. Whether I’m married or not, it does not matter.”

After that day, they sprang into action, cooking for Joan and taking care of her. While they could not express their love for their daughter and grandchild in words, their actions did.

Joan was especially grateful for her mum who helped her throughout the first couple of months after she gave birth, while she was recovering from the delivery, which had to be done via c-section.

Her mother fed, cleaned and put her granddaughter to sleep as Joan was recovering.

Her initial worries about how her church group would react to her pregnancy faded away after they provided her with overwhelming support throughout her pregnancy.

Mothers from the church gave her advice on how to raise a child.

Once, her child slept for over five hours without drinking or eating. Joan got panicky and reached out to a church friend to help.

And her friend said, “No. They need to be fed and hydrated every three hours.”

Joan immediately woke her daughter up to feed and hydrate her.

She still remembers small incidents like this where others helped her through the initial stages of motherhood.

Others churchgoers who were lawyers offered help with preparing legal documents for her unborn child.

She was overwhelmed by the love that they showed her.

“I am very, very grateful and I feel that I am indebted to them. I would not be where I am today without them. I’m so happy to tell my daughter that she is so loved because we have people who helped us.”

As a jobless single parent with access to only a few channels of financial support, Joan was strapped for cash. Thankfully, her community from church rallied around her and came to her aid.

Her daughter’s godparents from church even put S$3,000 in the child’s Child Development Account (CDA) which is a special savings account for future educational and healthcare expenses.

Other church members bought diapers and even a stroller when the baby was born.

There’s help out there

What’s the best thing about being a mum to her three-year-old daughter?

Joan said that it’s when her daughter shouts mama. It’s the best feeling in the world because she knows that her daughter just wants her mum to be by her and to feel her warmth.

What others thought of her as a single mother almost took away her chance to meet her now three-year-old daughter.

As she reflected on her journey, she said that while some may criticise single mothers, there is a community out there that is willing to help without judging her.

Importantly, she had to have “thick skin” and ask for help.

That mindset allowed her to find a community that was rooting for her every step of the way.

“Don't be afraid to go to a church or an organisation that will help you. Just get out of your cycle of thinking that you don’t have the resources, it is not true. There will be help if you ask.”

Thanks to this sponsored article by the Alliance for Action to Strengthen Marriages and Family Relationships, this writer is heartened by the love and support the community is willing to offer.

Top image courtesy of Joan.