Life as a single mother: “You have to sacrifice a lot”


South Africa is a nation of children raised by single mothers. Research has shown that 60% of South African children have absent fathers. The Daily Vox spoke to two single mothers about their daily struggles.

Dorah Molopyame, 32, customer service specialist, mother to Kago, aged 6
Kago’s dad passed on last year. Before that, he was unemployed so he couldn’t do much for him. If he had money, he would rather have maintained his other children because he always believed that I work well and I can maintain myself, which is true. They had a good relationship. I didn’t deprive him from seeing his father.

I moved to Durban from Pretoria early last year and he moved four months after me. The relocation was tough. I don’t wish it on anyone, especially if you’ve got kids. The time I was without him was miserable. I literally lost 8kg.

In the beginning he didn’t like it at all here. He didn’t have friends and he had to start a new school. One morning he didn’t want to go to school. He said he doesn’t want to be here and that it’s always about me. I tried explaining that the reason we’re here is because of money and it’s not personal. He understood and now he’s better.

My family hardly helps with taking care of him. Now it’s worse because we relocated to Durban. My mother is not one for kids because she’s got three and she’s tired of this whole thing. My biggest support base is my friends, rather than my family. When he went home for the school holidays, support from my family wasn’t so good. In fact Kago was staying at my friend’s house.

Luckily I’ve got a job that’s flexible so I’m able to work from home if he’s sick. I take him to the doctor and then come back and work from home. Otherwise if I’m sick, I have to be strong. I drop him off at school, go to work, knock off early, and pick him up. I only sacrifice if he’s sick.

He’s in grade R so school hasn’t become demanding. I’ve been to his sports days. It’s a bit tough but he understands that I’m alone and that his father isn’t here.

It’s hard not having a support base here. I haven’t made any friends. I have to do everything on my own. The poverty here is much worse than in Joburg. It’s very rare to find a young person like me who’s working well. So if I make friends they’re going to be friends that will be dependent on me and I’ve got Kago already.

The worst thing is that it’s just the two of us living here. One of my biggest fears is if anything had to happen to me, who would take care of him?

Betty Mahlangu, 40, domestic worker, mother to Nompumelelo, aged 18
I separated with Nompumelelo’s father when she was five years old. He was a liar who was dating other people, and I just couldn’t put up with it. It was heartbreaking and very difficult having to raise her by myself and it still is.

Nompumelelo can see that I’m struggling and I can see that she wants more but she doesn’t make a fuss about it. She knows her father doesn’t want to talk to her and I can see her anger. He doesn’t work and makes no effort to come see her. It’s difficult for her to go visit him because she’ll have to catch two taxis and I don’t have the money for that.

When you’re a single parent, everything depends on you – school, money for trips, food. I struggle to get money together. It’s stressful being a single parent. When there are two of you, you can help each other out. Now all the money has to come from you. You have to sacrifice a lot. You end up not being able to do anything for yourself, all so your child can grow up happy and healthy.

I make R1 800 a month. My transport costs R1 000 every month. I have to raise a child with R800 and a bit extra from the grant. Things end up not coming together. I also have to save up for the doctor when she gets sick.

I live with my mother. Sometimes she would help me when Nompumelelo was young. I used to work for a family that was close to where I stayed. I used to send her to creche with the money I saved from travelling. But they moved, so then I had to start travelling and that money was gone.

Now that she’s older, she takes care of herself. When she leaves for school, I give her like R2 or R3 and some leftover food for lunch. Sometimes she gets lunch at school but you’ll find that some of the teachers take that food.

It would make things easier is if we got a bit more from the grant. If you have money it’s easier to raise a child.

I tell her that she needs to be careful around boys and that she should be careful about getting pregnant or she’ll end up living a harder life. I explain to her that she even though some of her friends live a better life, we’re not the same in life. She understands at least.

Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Featured image via Unsplash


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