ONE of my very close friends is a single mother.   After a failed marriage, she had an affair with a married man and unexpectedly got pregnant.  I didn’t know about the affair — or her pregnancy, until I saw about seven months on the way, during a party.

She told me about what happened, how the father of her unborn child at that time didn’t want any kind of scandal, and how she felt alone.  She had to give up her job to downplay rumors, and had to depend on help from her siblings.  When she gave birth to her son, I saw how she struggled to raise him alone, with no support from the biological father.  But I also saw how her strength grew, and how the love for her son made life have meaning.  Today, her son is in college, doing well.

Being a parent is tough.  Although I have no children, I have seen my parents, brothers and friends go through parenthood and all of its perils.  Having both parents doesn’t make it easy, so just imagine how it would be for a single mother.   There’s having to raise your kid (or kids) by yourself, trying to put food on the table (especially when there is no support from their father), helping with schoolwork, being there when your kids are sick, etc.

Then there’s the shame and judgment from other people.  Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you’re the best mother in the world, as some are quick to judge.

This Mother’s Day as we celebrate all our moms/inays/nanays, we also put our focus on single mothers — whether it is their choice or not.

Fritzie Marie Pascua Umali, 40-something: “There might be struggles in raising your kids alone but you’re not alone and eventually as time pass by, you’d look back and say, ‘I did it alone.’” 

Fritzie Marie Pascua Umali has been separated from her husband for 17 years.    Although their two children — daughter Tritzie Samanta Marie (21) and son Marvin Nicklaus (20) — were still very young when they split, Umali shared that they knew the situation.

“…They would ask questions on whether or not their father really loved them (or me), or if they would be living in a separate house and who visits who,” Umali shared and continued, “I explained to them that their father wanted to go back to their parents’ house in the other city but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love them anymore.”

An online English coach and freelance events organizer in Manila, Umali faced the task of raising her kids alone.    For her, however, the greatest challenge is that she has to be both parents — father and mother — at the same time.  “I face this challenge, head on, and thinking that I would be able to do it even if I am alone.”

Another hurdle that she had to surpass was the misconception of people about single moms, and the mentality that the blame falls on them.

“Most people think that single parents, most especially mothers, were just tossed aside when the kids came,” she said.  “People would start to ask you ‘Why are you a single mom?,’ ‘Did you two do something accidentally and your partner regretted the consequences? (referring to the kids).’ ‘Is he not happy about this new life that’s why he left?’  The point is, for single parents, whether a mom or dad, the society’s weight is always on the women.”

Margaret Fuentes, 50+ going old:  “We were built to be mothers, we even mother people who don’t need it or deserve it.”

Margaret Fuentes and her daughter, Angelique (Alex, who is now 27) moved to the United States almost 10 years ago not only had to face the challenges of being a new immigrant, but being a single mother as well.

“I had to face the challenges of studies and tuition (Alex came here just in time for college), and building a career from scratch,” she said.  “Income was bleak and expenses were over the roof.”

According to Fuentes, her road to being a single mother is a complicated one.  After migrating, she explained that Alex’s father became lonely and prompted him to fill his “void,” technically ending their relationship.

“His filling his ‘void’ resulted to a baby half-brother for Alex, whom she never met and only heard about, and a wife and four stepkids here in California.”

But in retrospect, she said, she actually considered herself a single mom from the beginning, as she made all the decisions, even when she and Alex’s dad were still together.  “It was just like raising two kids instead of one.”

She also shared that she was too busy surviving and keeping her sanity to worry about what other people thought about single moms.

“If I were on the outside looking in, I would say that others might say that it’s not plausible, but that is just their mindset.

“We were built to be mothers. We even mother people who don’t need it or deserve it. Mothering comes naturally and there is no right and wrong, no manual but so many judges.

“It is not a contest to win, it is a life to live. Its main goal is to nurture to bring up your children the best way you could to give them the strength to push on with their own lives.

“It is a selfless act of giving life to another person and giving your life to that person without losing yourself and not expecting anything back.”

Dulce Aysip, 50ish:  “Learn to sit back, relax and enjoy your time with your child or children.”  

By choice — Dulce Aysip was sure about being a single mother even before she got pregnant with her son, Timothy, who is now 20.

“It was my choice, because I wanted to have a child to adore and share my overflowing and unconditional love,” she said.  Not going into details, Aysip also shared that she already explained to her son everything he needed to know about his father, with no doubt or fear.

With her choice, came many challenges.

“Making fair decisions, learning to trust my child (now that he’s almost and adult) and for my child to trust me, try to be emotionally and physically stable, and be a mother that my child could depend on,” Aysip said.  She also added that she spends 99 percent of her time with Timothy when she’s not working.

“The common misconception of people about single moms is that a child is meant to have a father no matter how hard a single mother plays both roles,” she said and then added, “Single moms should learn to sit back, relax and enjoy their child/children.  Bring lots of love around your home for a peaceful ambiance.”

Cherie Llorin, 43: “Happiness and love starts with me first before I can give that to my son.” 

It was a mutual decision for Cherie Llorin, a footwear product developer, and her husband to separate two years ago.  In fact, they have an amicable relationship and are partners in taking care for their son, Rockwell, who is now seven years old.

“My son was pretty young when we split (four years old).  At that age, he didn’t know that it was a major life-changing event that Daddy didn’t live with us anymore.  I just calmly explained that we didn’t live together anymore and he was okay with it,” Llorin said.  “He does understand that we were married at one time, but doesn’t really ask too much about it.”

The biggest challenge for her, however, is asking for help from others.

“When I am in ‘Mom Mode,’ I feel the tendency of needing to do everything.  I don’t want to be a burden to others, so I try to be ‘Super Mom’ and do everything myself,” she explained and continued, “But there are days that I cannot do it all, and I’m starting to realize it.  I am learning to ask family and friends for help, and actually accepting their help when they offer it to me.”

Llorin also shared that single moms can spend 99.9 percent of their time taking care of their child/children, plus deal with other things in their life such as work, bills, etc.  Because of this, single mothers forget that they have needs and have to take care of themselves.

“I felt unhappy and didn’t realize the reasons why.  Once I reintroduced things I was passionate about into my life (i.e. dance and yoga) I felt a renewed spirit inside me.  Whatever time I could manage, I would fit them in.  I felt like I was being a better mother because I was happy inside and my son could feel it,” she said.  “I feel more inspiring to him, because he sees me pursuing my passions and he in turn wants to do those things.  He has a positive outlook, where as before (when we were still living with his dad), he seemed like he could not do anything.  It is still a work in progress with him, but I see so many changes in him.  Happiness and love starts with me first before I can give that to my son.”

Her advice to other single moms is to take their time.  “You won’t have all the answers right away.  Don’t be too hard on yourself.  You’ll figure it out one way or another.  If you fail in your journey, acknowledge it and move on..”

Jona Jane Tajonera, 47:  “You can’t argue with stupid.”  

According to Jona Jane Tajonera, a businesswoman, one of the misconceptions about of people about single moms is that they are “failures, losers, immoral” — or all.  This, she said, is what makes her upset.

“Someone asked me if I go to communion when I go to church, so I said, ‘Yes!’  And this person said, ‘You’re not suppose to do that because you’re a single mom, you’re divorced, it’s a sin.’ I didn’t argue because in my mind, I can’t argue with stupid,” she said.  “Most men think that I carry huge baggage until they get to know me.  Then either they think they hit a jackpot or they get intimidated by my status.”

For Tajonera, it was a bitter journey to single motherhood.  Divorced for 12 years now, her marriage crumbled when her ex-husband cheated on her.  She was able to get full custody of her two children — Joshua Bailey, 19 and Jason Bailey, 14 — but did allow their father to take them on weekends.

“It turned out he was not even around during those times and the kids were left with their stepmother.  So, they stopped going there,” she explained.  “Since they were still young when we got divorced, they don’t have a good relationship with their father and they don’t ask or look for him even on Father’s Day. “

Because she did get full custody, it was a challenge to be both father and mother to her kids.   Balancing work while taking her sons to their sports and extra curricular activities was tiring, so she decided to start her own business.

“I decided to start my own business so I can have more time with my kid and have a more flexible time. During the day I make sure it’s all about my kids and at night I worked late to catch up. It was hard but I was able to manage it because I saw my kids happier, and I am happier,” she shared.  “Now that they are both teenagers, they don’t demand much of my time anymore but we still do activities together (I feel like I became their older sister).”

She also believes that although single motherhood is hard, nothing is more important than giving her kids her love and time.

“Those two (love and time) are the things money can’t buy, and they need it badly.  I gave up a high-paying salary and started my own business because I want to be there for my boys.  It was hard in the beginning, I struggled and made almost nothing, but with hard work, perseverance and faith, nothing is impossible.

“Lastly, for single mothers, do not worry about what others will say because it is your life.  Your children’s happiness comes first and then yours,” she said.  “I wake up everyday and say, ‘Today is another day to be awesome.’”

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