What's It Like Being A Single Mother In Kenya?
A single mother in Kenya is a magnet for conflicting and advice negative stereotypes from well-meaning people. She however learns to grow a thick skin quick.
Like gender roles, in Sub-Saharan Africa, single parenting is not welcome, no matter the woman's past achievements. However, even though single parenting was once an anathema, it is fast becoming the norm. Practical experience and newspaper reports show that there is an increase in the number of single parents in Kenya.
A Single Mother In Kenya Faces Stigmatization
A single mother in Kenya, Mary Mugure recalls the Sunday she took her son to be baptised at a Pentecostal church. “I was turned away,” she says. Reason? “I had him out of wedlock. They told me he was conceived in sin,” she says.
Mugure is a victim of a deep-rooted but hidden societal attitude. When she posted her experience on Facebook, it generated a debate that touched on religion, society and gender. While Mugure experienced discrimination from a religious institution, no Kenyan religious leader agreed to comment on the issue.
In a 2011 study on single motherhood, sociologist Prof Shelley Clark noted that women in other African countries became single mothers through widowhood. But a woman was more likely to be a single mother in Kenya as a result of having a child before marriage.
Life And Living As A Single Parent
Life in a single-parent household is quite stressful for the mother and her children. Members of a single-parent family do not function like those in a two-parent family and may not feel comfortable. Mothers risk being overwhelmed by the responsibilities of caring for the children, maintaining a job and keeping up with the bills.
Single parenthood is challenging for children’s social integration because they receive less economic and moral support, less practical assistance, and less information, guidance and supervision than children living with both parents. The family is the first socialising agent that a child comes in contact with. It has a great influence on the child’s physical, mental and moral development.
A study at the London School of Economics by Dr Berkay Orcan found that children do better when the biological father joins the family. It showed that children fair in cognitive tests and suffer less anxiety and depression at age seven. Notably, it's not the same when a step-father joins the family. Even if he brings resources and parenting into the picture.
Angeline Nandwa, the founder of the Single Mothers’ Association Of Kenya (SMAK) bears the brunt of misinformation in her work with young single mothers.
Speaking at SMAK’s vocational centre run by Smak in Starehe in Nairobi, she said she has “been told things,” a euphemism for insults.
“When I stand near the signboard, I hear men say I am encouraging women to be immoral because once they get pregnant, I encourage them. Women say the single mothers are after other women’s husbands”, she said.
Lessons To Learn From Single Motherhood
- You will get unsolicited advice, learn how to deal with it
Being a new mother is a magnet to unsolicited advice by well-meaning people. But everyone has a different idea, opinion, from pregnancy to birth, to rearing kids. Being a good mum listening and choosing what works best for you.
- Trusted Friends and Family can play the role of father
Allow your fathers, brothers and male relatives fill in the father role. It will help your child's growth and development.
- Ignore society’s standards and comparisons
Single moms face a lot of judgment. People will evaluate you using standards of perfection or superhuman performance. Don't give in to society. Also, don’t compare your child with another.
Source: Fatumah's Voice
Read also: I See You: Open Letter To The Single Parent