Originally published in the Women & Media Collective periodical OPTIONS, in October 2015. The photo essay discusses single motherhood – a cause that hits too close to home. I share my story so that other single mums know they are not alone. And I demand that both state and society acknowledge us and our children.
The issue was curated by Dr. Shermal Wijewardena.
In 2010, Social Services Minister Felix Perera announced that a staggering 23% of households in the country function as single parent ones.
After three decades of war, this isn’t really surprising, and there is much respect for war widows here.
But what about single mothers who can’t speak of such tragedy—those who became pregnant and bravely decided to journey onward alone? And what of wives who are abandoned without child support?
One woman, then, must become mother, father, breadwinner, nurturer and more.
This is a struggle that neither society nor the government has stopped to acknowledge. In fact, these women face disrespect and shame.
I would know – I am one.
Finding a place to house us was near impossible at first.
One landlord demanded that I vacate their premises because I was pregnant without a husband. Three others have lodged reports with the police, claiming I was a sex worker.
My husband works overseas, I now say, toting a fake ring, or else doors would be slammed shut in my face.
How is it that you have a child and no husband? How can you afford to run a household on a woman’s income?
Having to answer these questions on my own becomes exhausting – and not something I have the luxury of time to endure. But I have in fact spent many hours at many police stations, sometimes with lawyers, answering many ridiculous questions thrown my way.
No place of work has been able to acknowledge my circumstances as special ones. If the state doesn’t recognize me, why would private organizations find the need to?
I can’t come to work today because there’s no one to take care of my son.
I’m sorry, that’s not acceptable. There are other mothers at work.
Yes, but they aren’t single parent households. (And I suppose no one really understands what that means.)
And what of our children? When their birth certificates unabashedly state ‘parents unmarried’ or ‘father unknown’, how do you get them into school?
Would a school want to be associated with such a child when most other children come from ‘good homes’ and ‘good families’?
What does that mean really? Does it mean that my home is not ‘good’ because there isn’t a husband in it? That my endless trials ahead make my family a ‘bad’ one? That I must pay for the sin of choosing to raise my child alone?
The question is simple, why am I not acknowledged?
I don’t asked to be put on a pedestal, my son does that for me every day. Merely to be acknowledged so the road isn’t so long.
And so I’m not laying awake at night, wondering what tomorrow holds.