In a typical African family setup, children are expected to grow up in a fully functional family where both the father and mother are present in the lives of their children, with each one of them doing their very best to ensure that their children feel loved, protected cared for and supported. But in recent times we have seen a huge change in the family structure not only in Kenya but in the whole world. Single parenting is on the rise.
Most parents if not all, will tell you how hard it is for them to get the parenting balance right while trying to be the perfect parent and their children’s super heroes! But the burden becomes unbearable for the single parent who has to work extra hard round the clock to make ends meet and at the same time create time to enable them monitor behavioral changes in the children and bond with them.
Raising strong willed, well behaved, confident and responsible kids is in itself a calling and an uphill task with its set of ups and downs both for the duo parents as well as for the single parents. No parent chooses to walk the path of having to be the only one who wakes up in the wee hours of the night to change her/his baby’s soiled diapers or to feed a hungry toddler or to sing lullabies to a crying baby.
Most men and women who end up in this kind of family setup will tell you that it makes a huge difference to have the other parent around because it makes it easier to share responsibilities, instill discipline and even when it comes to decision making or discussing solutions to family problems.
There are many factors that may have led one into a single parent family setup. It could be either divorce, separation, or death of a loved one. On other rarer occasions the woman may need an heir of her own without necessarily being committed to or settling down with a man in marriage.
It was in March 2014 and Lucy was only 28 years when she became a single mother, at the peak of her youth. It was a gruesome evening when the unfortunate happened: she lost her dear husband and was left alone to raise up two beautiful girls as a single mother. From that moment, it was vividly clear to her that life wouldn’t be the same again now that she was a widow.
Lucy had little or no knowledge where to start from. How was she even going to bear all the responsibilities alone? It’s like she was ambushed. “I wished my life would dissipate from the face of the universe.”
“Life Can be Hard as a Rock”
Months later, the reality of single life struck and she had to learn to battle with this new normal but through her family’s support she found hope in life.
Lucy says that it’s been tough performing both roles as a father and a mother. “At times life is as hard as a rock, going without meals, no school fees. I mean it becomes hard to meet the basic needs in life; one has to adjust her lifestyle.
“We have had ups and downs in our daily lives but I am glad that I have the strength to keep going every day. I am intentional in my parenting because I have learnt to accept the sad reality that my late husband will never come back to life to help me raise our kids; but I firmly believe that my determination and positive attitude to raise up responsible, confident and self-reliant kids will be a good example that will help them for life. Our mother-daughter bond has grown tremendously and it puts me at peace knowing that my children can trust me with their fears and confide in me.”
Just like any other single parent out there, Lucy says that she may not always be present when her daughters need her because she is also human and she gets tired, stressed and feels sad. But she always tries her best to make the most of everyday moment with them both. At times she also creates a one-on-one moments with each one of them while praising them for their individual achievements or successes or even laugh over a silly incident that they may have encountered, or a touching story they may have watched in a movie.
Society has put labels on single parents especially the single mother and it’s not easy for them to raise children in such a cruel world.
Lucy says that she, “encourages people to show gentle attitude towards single mums without belittling or discriminating them. Single mother’s go through a lot of challenges and many times when things go wrong, we are always so hard on ourselves so the last thing we need from anyone is guidance and counseling, but sometimes we need someone to talk to and even psychiatrist help if need be.