After interviewing Dr Yeap, our team has written her story for you.
This is her story.
A single mother with three lovely children (two girls and a boy), aged 20, 18 and 14 years old respectively.
She divorced when she discovered that her ex-husband had committed adultery, at the time when her son was about one years old. Dr Yeap asked her ex-husband to move out and as the months passed by, she realised that the marriage could not go on. Thus, their marriage was dissolved about ten years ago.
Difficulties as a single parent
It was a very difficult period for Dr Yeap. She had a lot of thoughts running through her head as she knew her marriage was breaking down. She was thinking whether the marriage could be salvaged and things could be patched up, or the marriage had to end.
During that period, Dr Yeap recalled that she could not function very well. Thankfully, she had wonderful friends and colleagues who provided the much needed support that she needed. They were there when she needed people to talk out her feelings and worries. In addition, she did not have to worry much about finances as she has a stable income.
There were times during work, in between consultations where she was not able to control her emotions and had to stopped seeing her patients in order to cry out before resuming work. There were occasions where her emotions got the better of her, and she was not able to focus on performing surgery. Fortunately, she had colleagues who were willing to perform the surgery in her place.
Her family played a massive role during this trying period after her divorce. They supported her in any way possible. Her mother helped to take care of her children when Dr Yeap is away at work. Her father helped to fetch her children to and fro from school.
She was also thankful that her ex-husband was a gentleman and the divorce went through smoothly for her and her children. She had heard cases where the spouse would poison the children’s thoughts. She was thankful that her ex-husband did not badmouth and so her children were not damaged in any way. She is no longer bitter about the divorce and her children grew up to be resilient people, having to live in such a special family. As such, she sees her divorce to be one of the successful cases.
Positive experiences being in a single-parent family
Dr Yeap sees that her children and herself became more thankful for the things that they have. They treasure much more whatever things, material or social support or health etc.
They learnt to live more frugally. They lived more simply than previously, cutting down most of her expenses and not waste money. This is especially since the family was no longer a dual-income one. She also made the right move to sell off her private property and downgrade to a HDB flat. If not, she would still have to finance a big bank loan, and she would then have to work very hard to pay it off, on top of the daily expenses incurred.
She sees that children mature much faster when they are in a single-parent family. Also, the children were able to live in a much happier familial environment and allow them to grow up cheerfully and not be bitter about things. They would not have to see the uglier side of things such as their parents fighting.
Single parent is NEVER LESS of a parent
Dr Yeap disagrees the idea that “a single parent is less of a parent”. Rather, she believes that a single parent is more of a parent. She has to double up the duty of both parents. For example, she would have to take up the duty of a disciplinarian who is usually the job of the father.
There are at times when the pressure is high, aside from doubling the parental role. For example, Dr Yeap’s mother would tend to be overly-anxious over her children and would fuss over them when they misbehave. This indirectly would induce some stress for Dr Yeap herself as she trusts her children to be sensible and would not be causing problems.
However, there are some issues that single parents tend to face and that is, maintenance*. Maintenance is a lump sum of money that the husband would have to pay the ex-wife and children on a monthly basis. Unfortunately, the maintenance comes late.
*There are two types of maintenance. One is paid out to the ex-wife and the other is paid out to the children
While Dr Yeap is financially able and can support her children in terms of obtaining the necessary items like textbooks and uniforms for school, not all single parents are in such a fortunate position, mentioned by Dr Yeap. They are some who may be struggling financially and the maintenance would be of great help to ease the financial burden that those parents face. It is then very taxing and tiresome for these single parents to chase after their ex-spouses for the late maintenance payments. They would have to take time off from their work and head to the family court to hear their case, as well as from the ex-spouse’s side of the case, before any action can be made.
Other examples include having the family court to issue orders to determine visiting arrangements, especially during festivals like Chinese New Year. This can become a messy affair at times, adding stress and frustration to the single parents and their children.
Dr Yeap did not feel much stigmatisation from being a single parent as she tells people that she is a divorcee and her ex-husband committed adultery. As such, people do not judge her badly. However, she tends to be very cautious when she is interacting with men like her male colleagues. She would be careful not to joke with them as people tend to judge.
She sees that if one dresses up in a rather sexy fashion, it could lead people to assuming that that person was the one who was responsible for the divorce. At times, there is an assumption where people became single mothers was because they were engaged in pre-marital sex and is promiscuous even though this is not case for all single mothers.
A case in point to illustrate this assumption was her friend who was widowed at a relatively young age of 35. She noticed when she talked to men, their wives would be watching her warily.
Some people may think because these single parents are single, and so may covet for company. In addition, some single parents may think that if they could find a new boyfriend or husband, the pain and shame of losing a husband could be washed off. However, Dr Yeap feels that it may not be that easy to forget that pain. Second and third marriages have a tendency to fail as things become more complicated, with both parties carrying more baggage from their previous marriages.
Dr Yeap does think there is a little bit of stigma being a single parent in Singapore. However it is not that great and single parents are becoming more common, but people do not openly talk about them. A possible point of discrimination could be the purchase of HDB flats. Single parents who are not divorced or widowed, are not allowed to purchase a flat of their own, even though they are taking care of a child. Another is in form of personal discrimination by the former spouse. Even though there are several safeguards in place to ensure former spouses pay maintenance on time, the occurrence of late maintenance is still common. This could be seen as a form of indirect punishment from the former spouse by delaying the maintenance, which some single parents are in need of to ease their financial woes.
Dr Yeap has not heard of any discrimination at the workplace. She is self-employed and she has not experienced any discrimination on her own. However, from the employer’s perspective, there does not seem to be any form of bias towards single parents. If she knew that the employee is a single parent, she would be assured that the employee would not be likely to job hop. These employees would tend to be hardworking so that they could support their families. This also requires the single parents to have a good work ethic and how they carry themselves in front of others would affect how others treat them.
Single Parents – Invisible?
Dr Yeap does sees that single parents can be considered to be a big invisible group. These people often do not share openly about their situation as single parents and so they would not be on the radar. There are help that these single parents can seek if they need it. They would have to search for it and suffer in silence.
Help can come in many different forms. An example would that in one of the schools that her daughter was in, they gather a few of the students who they learnt that were from single parent families once a week where the students will do handicraft and the teacher will talk and check on them on how they are faring. The children also learnt gradually about certain things so that they were better able to cope with it. This helped ensuring that the children were not adversely affected by the circumstances back at home.
Solving certain issues regarding late maintenance payments would help these single parents with their finances. While handing out money to single parents would not be good, in Dr Yeap’s opinion, but we as a society should be more sympathetic towards them. This is in view when the economy would not be doing so well, and this group of single parents would be hit harder than others.
Having the acceptance of their family, friends and hopefully the society would also help these single parents mentally and emotionally.
Dr Yeap feels that prevention is necessary to avoid people becoming single parents. One is that couples, particularly the young ones, have poor work life balance. Most of them focus heavily on their work and less on their own families. The connections are not reinforced on a regular basis and so, when a little bit of temptation comes along, the marriage may likely to break down. As such, Dr Yeap sees there is a need to have more initiatives or platforms to bring families closer.
Another is to promote marital relationship harmony. She feels there should be more to encourage couples to spend more time together, to continue to build up their relationship as husband and wife, and thus their marriage. This would help them to iron out problems in the future and prevent their marriage from breaking down.
- When the marriage is not working out, seek help and work through the problems.
- Give the children the best environment that they can grow up in. Let the children grow up in a peaceful environment and spend time with the children.
- Prioritise what is important in life. Children will grow up whether the parent is there or not. Parents need to make sure that they bring up their children properly as it is their responsibility. To do this, they would have to spend time with their children and connect with them.
- Be pro-active in seeking help. There are help services around to assist them.
Thank you for reading.
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