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It’s a tough life for single mums

Posted by Administrator on September 25, 2011

A girlfriend of mine is aghast about the behaviour of one of Nairobi’s top Christian primary schools.

They have rejected her son’s application to join the school. She has a great job and is very religious (she never misses Mass, tithes and fasts during Lent).

The unofficial reason given for the rejection was that the school does not look favourably upon single mothers because they do not reflect the desired poster image of perfect parenting that the school likes to promote.

This may sound bizarre in the 21st century but I know that a quite a number of us, and our institutions, harbour biases against the single mother.

To begin, there is an unspoken assumption that single mothers are gross violators of the Rules of Proper Conduct for Women.

They are women of no morals who got what they deserved. In some quarters, some feel that the woman who gets a child out of wedlock is a tart who would rather dispense sexual favours than swallow contraception.

Important details are forgotten – like the fact that there are many mothers who are single mainly because their once enthusiastic bedroom partners ran for the hills when they heard the trauma-inducing words, “We are late.”

For every single mother we have in our midst, there is also a father somewhere who bears no physical and societal stigma for the fact that he sowed some wild oats.

The single woman who elected to walk away from an unhealthy relationship fares no better.

She is often openly or secretly vilified for being selfish, and for rejecting the martyrdom gene that enables many women to put up with scrubs, good-for-nothings and cheaters, all for the sake of preserving the sanctity of the family unit.

So while she is trying to bring up balanced children on one income and one emotional and spiritual reservoir, some in society chose to view the single mother as a failure and misfit.

The single mothers who fare marginally better are widows, who at least get minimal sympathy since, after all, death is not a function of failed morals or failed contraception.

Society likes to place some rather funny requirements on single mothers. Once the babies come, the woman is supposed to dedicate herself to being both baba and mama and desist from any activities that show that she has either a heart or a crotch (or both).

A single mum who spends a lot of time enjoying a good drink or a good man (or men) is branded with a rougher brush than the child-free woman.

Then there are those men who like to believe that single women are ‘damaged’ goods who are only good for one night stands or for being the long suffering mpango wa kando.

Many men have claimed that it is against African culture for a man to raise another man’s child, while they overlook that they could be raising other people’s children even under the holy institution of marriage.

A greater dilemma for a single mum is what to do when she finds that man with whom she wants to have a non-platonic relationship. How to introduce this man to her child is usually a great problem.

Today’s children are not so naïve as to believe that the uncle who spends the night from time to time only does so because he happens to be homeless or an IDP.

Then again, if the same woman frequents those bed and breakfast facilities, she is labelled a harlot. When it comes to single mother dating and loving, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Most important, though, is that the poor woman takes all the blame for how her child turns out. In a marriage, one can safely blame the other side for all the foolishness and dysfunction that the child exhibits.

Should the child of the single mum have a weight problem, the mother is accused of having stuffed her child with junk to compensate for the absent father.

If he is the child who causes trouble in the open-minded school that accepts him, she is told that all discipline issues manifest the deficiencies of growing up in a broken down, one-parent family.

Simple things that do not bother other mums can prove to be a great headache for single mother. There are those who chose to put a big XXX in place whenever they are required to give the father’s full name.

This is because they know that the absent father might one day come and wave his magic male wand, and the legal system may just let her take away her child.

Some have to battle with real trauma from kids who are forever asking who their father is, and they engage in fruitless quests to find a father who would rather not be found.

Finally, and more unique to my tribesmen, is when the single mums exercise their rightful option to give their children their own names as surname.

So now we have many Moses Njeris, Joe Wanjikus and we all remember our famous, late Samuel Wanjiru.

One cannot imagine how vicious and cruel kids can be when it comes to harassing those who are different, let alone those who are boys with girlish names.

What is the other option for single mums? Is it to borrow names from their fathers, to impose the absentee father’s name on the child, or to possibly stigmatise her child with a girlish name?

For those folks who still harbour crazy hang-ups about single mums, just remember that they are trying to raise normal children in a rather abnormal environment while struggling to maintain their identity and femininity. It is a tough world! Cut them some slack.

Contact the author at njokikaigai1@gmail.com

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2 Responses to “It’s a tough life for single mums”

  1. kingori said

    I Feel your pain mama.

  2. Hannah said

    This article brings out a lot of painful issues but the Christian schools and institutions do the most harm when they reject applications from single parents. Christ did not condemn even the prostitute who was about to be stoned to death and the Bible has enough examples of women who were prostitutes who did mighty stuff even being in the lineage of Christ himself. So why is it so easy for christians to persecute their fellow christians?
    Just take your kid to another school and let them know it is their hard work that will see them through no matter which school they go to and support your child with the tools they may need, your kid may just end up being better overall, remember the stone the builders rejected became the cornerstone! All the best!

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