In a society that promotes the traditional family nucleus, single parents face multiple challenges in their road to bringing up their children. Making matters worse, your marital status further determines the amount of support received, or lack thereof. In particular, unwed mothers have it worst; in addition to the typical burden of motherhood, they tend to face additional stigma for birth out of wedlock, which gets frowned upon by society. In this article, we will discuss the challenges single parents face and how we can support them.
Access to public housing
Unmarried individuals, regardless of their parental status, can only purchase a HDB flat after turning 35 under the Singles Scheme and even then, they are not eligible for any housing grants.
Meanwhile, divorced and widowed parents with legal custody of their children are eligible for a priority scheme to apply for 2-room and 3-room flats in non-mature estates.
If their incomes render them unable to purchase a new flat, public rental flats are also set aside for them. However, the way-too-low income cap of $1500 a month renders many ineligible for the scheme. After all, $1500 can barely provide for a family with 2 or more children, but $1501 isn’t much better.
Image Source: Unsplash/Andrea Ang
On the bright side, there has been progress in recent years. MPs, activists, social workers and single parents themselves have been vital in moving Singapore towards greater equality for single parents. In response to requests for greater equality, the government has relaxed regulations to allow more housing options for single parents.
Now, unwed parents between the age of 21 and 35 are also able to purchase a 2-room Flexi flat but, on a case-by-case basis. While this is a step in the right direction, much more still needs to be done to ensure all parents are able to afford a roof over their children’s heads.
In Singapore, government policies often encourage having children only within marriage, leaving out those with children outside of it. This means single parents often face unfair access to benefits. Before 2017, single mothers were only entitled to 8 weeks of paid maternity leave, compared to the 16 weeks their married counterparts get, and their children do not qualify for Child Development Accounts (CDA). Meanwhile, fathers were only entitled to 1 week of paid paternity leave.
As seen in the table above, from 2017 onwards, paid maternity leave for unwed mothers was extended to be equal with that of their married counterparts. Paternity leave was also doubled to encourage paternal engagement in childcare. However, single fathers lose out on the extra 4 weeks of shared parental leave which needs to be taken out of the mother’s maternity leave.
While these policy changes suggest a softening of the government’s stance against single-parent families, there is still much improvement need with regards to paternity leave for single fathers.
Single parents face numerous stereotypes and prejudice in a relatively conservative society which takes a traditional nuclear family as the norm. With single parents already facing larger than normal pressure to bring their children, the lack of support and understanding from their community makes things even tougher.
Typically, the combination of financial, housing and childcare stress places a huge strain on their emotional wellbeing, which without proper support, will result in possible breakdowns.
Granted, there has been a rise in supportive voices in recent years as the community gets more aware and open to the issues single parents face. However, there is still an evident lack of proper support systems in place to assist them.
Online searches for support networks returned results for a Single Parent Support Group on Facebook. But, it is simply used to advertise donations-in-kind, with no substantial interactions or support frameworks for single parents. The Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) has counseling sessions available for single mothers as well but information on it is limited. No support groups were found for single fathers.
Image Source: Facebook/Aware
In an interview with The Pride, single mothers also raised the need to create a support network for single parents, one that helps both emotionally and physically. Having a place to share their experiences and worries will definitely help single parents, especially those who are younger. Meanwhile, concrete physical support will go the extra mile in helping these single parents create a home of their own.
Work towards a better community
A single parent is no less a parent. Regardless of their marital status, single parents and their children are a part of this community. It is time to create a more open and supportive environment for single parents and you have the power to help. Help support this brave young single mother create a home for her two young children by gifting her a standing fan and a vacuum cleaner. Feel free to browse other similar requests on our platform too!
Top Image Credits: Unsplash/Daiga Ellaby