We get an insider's view of life as a single parent in Singapore and share how to get the support you might need, from benefits to counselling and your rights as a single mum...
Raising children as a single parent is a challenge, no matter where you are in the world. We all know that motherhood changes everything, but coping with a relationship breakdown brings a whole new set of hurdles on the road to finding your independence and strength as a single mum, and finding the best situation for your child. How do mums raising kids alone in Singapore cope practically and emotionally? What support is available to one-parent families in Singapore? What happens when you need to juggle a career as a working mum too? And how do you find your support network if grandparents, aunties, uncles and family friends are not around to help? Here, three mums who have experienced going solo as parents share what it’s like to be a single mother in Singapore.
Are you a solo parent in need of some support? Read on to learn about Singapore’s benefits for single parents, and where to get essential practical and emotional help.
LAURA is mum to a gorgeous three-year-old, Olivia, and manages to juggle her role as Mummy with her job as the best eyebrow tamer in Singapore. Laura started her own mobile beauty service with the love and support of her family (learn more about her work in our guide to the best mobile beauty services for busy mums in Singapore). She is sharing her story to help lift the stigma she feels is still attached to the words ‘single mum’.
“I became a single mother when my then partner of three years decided he did not want to financially or emotionally support me during the pregnancy. I was about five months pregnant. One thing I will say to any parent or parent-to-be in Singapore is to make sure you have a good medical insurance plan!
Unfortunately, the baby bonus is applicable to married couples only and is also restricted to Singaporean citizens and not PRs. I am a PR from the UK, so when it came time to apply for my daughter’s birth certificate and her PR status I had to go to the Supreme Court and pledge an oath that I was a single mother. Sadly, Olivia’s application was rejected! I do wonder if this was because I decided not to place her father’s name on the birth certificate. He had made it very clear that he wanted to have nothing to do with me or our child, and despite it being a decision that was not of my making, I still encountered people who looked down on me and my situation.
Raising a baby in Singapore can be very challenging, and even more so for single parents. Financially, it really can be a huge struggle. Luckily, I had help from my parents who supported me both emotionally and financially until I finished my qualifications and was able to set up my own business, Laura Tait Professional Make Up & Beauty. A lot of single parents are not as fortunate as me. I absolutely applaud both couples and single parents here who are making it through daily struggles, because it is very expensive to make ends meet at times. My advice to ALL parents, and especially single mothers, is to do your research and apply for any financial assistance that you can.
Online support groups for both single and married parents were a lifeline for me during and after my pregnancy. I received so much great advice, and made some fantastic friends. Practicality wise, when preparing for my daughter’s arrival, I bought the majority of my baby items second-hand at garage sales and through classifieds. I still buy lots of fabulous clothes and toys this way!
The real cost of school is very high here, especially for foreigners who can find it difficult to get a place in a local school (read more about the debate between international schools and local schools in Singapore here). I had to do a lot of research and visited around 20 different day care centres before finding one to fit my budget and needs. Perseverance is something I have learned in abundance through my single mum experience!
My daughter is now four years old, I am fortunate to have found a very supportive partner, and the support from our families here is neverending. Graduating from university and starting my own business meant I could be flexible for my daughter in terms of her school hours, etc.
For me, being a single parent was a far better option for providing a safe and happy environment for my child rather than subjecting her to a bad relationship; it does make me sad that there is still a belief in society that being married is better, regardless of the parent’s happiness. My daughter is happy and well adjusted, and I have everything to be thankful for.”
CHERYL became a single mother when her little girl Kiara was one year old, and tells us the trials and tribulations she has faced since…
“I decided when my daughter was still a baby that it would be best for me to move forward in life as a single mum. Kiara’s father and I still do our very best to be awesome parents, and that really matters to us all.
As with all break-ups, there was some bitterness, and for a while we just could not speak to one another. It also was difficult for Kiara to adjust to the situation. It is still a work in progress, but she understands that she lives with mummy and sees daddy a couple of days a week. As much as it was my decision to leave, it still hurt. I mourned the relationship that I had spent four years building.
I’m thankful that my parents asked no questions when I came knocking on their door with Kiara and a bag full of clothes in hand. There is nothing more comforting than knowing that whatever happens, my parents always have my back. When I left the relationship I had to find a job fast. I had been a stay-home-mum since the day Kiara was born; financially, I was fully dependant on my ex. Luckily I had good friends who spread the word that I needed help, and so I managed to get a job quickly. Anything is possible, and that is something I remind myself of constantly.
Of course I had days where I felt like a failure and struggled with the fact that I had no money, but I initially moved out of home at just 18 so I had learnt to take care of myself and be independent from a relatively young age. I soon got myself back on my feet and I credit my parents and my godfather (who is like a second dad to me), for giving me unwavering support and understanding when I needed it most. My fantastic friends, who grouped together to listen to me and offer support, were also a lifeline.
A lot of people view me as a tough cookie, and they would be right, but I have felt broken and hurt along this journey. But the main thing that keeps me going and fills my heart with joy is my little girl, who is always full of smiles, giggles and hugs for me. She is the main reason I am so determined to get my life on track again. I must be the absolute best that I can be, for her. I know that I am a great mum and that I don’t need to be in a relationship to be a great mum. I do everything that I can for her.
We now have our own place; it’s rented but it’s our little cozy home. From a financial perspective, I do not get much help besides the subsidies that have just been awarded to single mothers like myself, which helps with daycare. Schooling is expensive, but now it has become much more affordable. She loves her school! And finding the right pre-school here in Singapore was very important!
I do wish that I had had more financial assistance as a single mother. At the end of the day my main status is that of a mother, not as a single person, and I would love to get the same help that married mothers are entitled to. Hopefully this discrepancy will change over time. (See below to learn about Singapore’s financial benefits for single parents.)
If you are reading this and relate to my experiences, my advice is that you don’t need to view being a single parent as the end of the world; far from it! Do get a part-time job if you can so you will have financial independence and eventually be able to save some money for rainy days. It’s important to show our children that we can be capable regardless of being single. My daughter has been my biggest teacher and has taught me far more lessons than I could ever teach her!”
REBECCA separated from her husband here in Singapore and is co-parenting their two children, Maxwell and Alexandra with her ex. They have managed to keep things amicable for the sake of the kids and their custody arrangement has been negotiated mutually so that both parents get quality time with Max and Lexie. Rebecca has them the majority of the time, but her ex is very much involved in their daily lives as well as having them stay at his home on a regular basis…
“Ending our marriage was not an easy decision, and it came after two years of counselling, but it was a decision that I believe brought a huge amount of relief to both of us as we knew that the marriage was no longer viable. Of course the end of a relationship also brings with it a feeling of loss and I believe that everyone has to take time to grieve the end of a relationship; you have to re-imagine your entire future. I went through my grieving process, which was an unhappy time, but it was clearly the right decision to end the marriage.
I would say to anybody having marriage issues here that seeking counselling was a really worthwhile and therapeutic process to go through, because ultimately the best scenario is that your marriage and family will get through whatever challenges you are facing. Despite my marriage breaking down in the end, it really did help us move forward to a decision that was best for all. We used the SACAC Counsellors at The American Club, whom I would highly recommend.
The children took the separation well, which made the situation much easier for us all. Lexie was still very young, but I was concerned that Max might have some worries about what was going on. We did ask a school counsellor to talk with him to check that he was coping well. She then pulled together a small group of children who were also going through similar breakups at home, but after just two meetings she said that she would no longer need to meet them as a group…. This was because Max had been such a positive role model that the children felt that they could go to him instead for support!
When the marriage did end, we decided that neither of us would stay in the house we had made our family home. I moved to a home where the children and I already knew the community quite well, which the kids were very excited about, and their dad moved to an all-singing, all-dancing condo, which put a huge smile on their faces. In fact, they considered themselves very lucky that they had not one, but two amazing homes! Sometimes Max’s friends become puzzled as to why he does not have a daddy living with him; I guess in Singapore it is not very common to be living here as an expat single parent. Most foreigners move back ‘home’ when marriages break down. For myself and my ex, though, we were both very keen to stay here for the foreseeable future and make the co-parenting arrangement work. Staying in Singapore, where my children have lived most of their lives, also offered stability for them in what could have been an unstable time.
Going it alone, despite having my ex still around the corner, was scary and daunting to begin with. But it was easy to be positive as I was in a much better place emotionally, having left behind an unhappy relationship. Financially, my ex does still help out with the children’s expenses, but I am very fortunate in that I have always had my own financial independence. However, living in Singapore is not cheap, and I do still have the worries that many parents here have in terms of financial stability and the rising cost of living.
Being a single parent does have benefits that I didn’t even consider when I set out on this journey. The children are with their father on various weekends and weeknights, so I get to have some quality ‘guilt-free, child-free‘ time. I have been able to focus more on my own wellbeing and health than I was ever able to as a married parent. I also have more time to focus on my friendships, which are so important to me.
My experiences here as a single mum have been overwhelmingly positive, for me and for the kids. For women who may be fearful of the journey ahead, be assured that it can work out very well indeed.”
Benefits for single mothers in Singapore
Here in Singapore, whilst it is an amazing place to raise a family in terms wellbeing, safety, quality of education and year-round-sunshine, it is still the most expensive city in the world to live. This can make providing for our families an uphill struggle at times. The financial benefits that single, unmarried mothers are entitled to in Singapore are always under scrutiny, but the good news is that there IS financial help to be had for single mums, and whilst there is still a discrepancy between single parents and married parents when it comes to benefits, the legislations are constantly being reviewed. Recently we saw the welcome news that maternity leave entitlement for unwed mums has now been increased from 12 weeks to 16 weeks – in line with married mothers.
It was also announced that children born in 2017 and onwards will qualify for a Child Development Account (CDA), including the $3,000 CDA First Step grant that was announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his recent Budget speech. The account is intended to make life easier for parents when it comes to childcare and healthcare costs.
Work your way through this current list to determine what you can receive help with, as your status as a citizen, PR or foreigner will affect your entitlements. (And do check out our guide to saving money in Singapore to help you out along the way.)
16 weeks paid maternity leave for working mothers
Medisave grant for newborns babies
MediShield coverage for congenital and neonatal conditions should they arise
Government healthcare subsidies and Medifund
Foreign domestic worker levy concession rate
Child care leave and unpaid infant care leave
Infant and child care subsidies for care centres
Kindergarten Financial Assistance Scheme (KiFAS)
Student care subsidies
Child Development Credits, Post-Secondary Education Account (PSEA) top-ups
Edusave Pupils Fund; Edusave Scholarship and Awards
If you find yourself suddenly single in Singapore…
The end of a relationship can certainly be a huge emotional roller coaster, and even more so when there are children involved. The practical side of a marriage breakdown can also prove a minefield. Luckily, there are some really great sources of information and help available here in Singapore, whether you are a citizen, a PR or a foreigner. Lawyers often provide an initial free consultation so do take advantage of that before deciding what steps to take next.
Singapore-based divorce lawyer Gloria James-Civetta offers a free initial consultation for those who may be caught up in a marriage breakdown, and her website offers great advice for anyone trying to get their head around the legal implications of a separation. Her firm deals with divorce and separation issues no matter what your residency status may be, but it also specialises in giving legal help to expats going through divorce in Singapore. In some cases, deciding where to divorce can have a significant influence on the process and its outcome, so legal advice is imperative. Ms James also writes Singapore Divorce Lawyer Blog, which is full of advice for those who need it.
Emotional and practical support
The Help Family Service Centre is a voluntary welfare organisation, providing help for single parents and their families. It runs a number of services and programs specially designed to meet the needs of single parent families, including recovery from loss, separation or divorce. Plus, it hosts events and camps just for kids. HELP (which stands for Help Every Lone Parent) also runs a great Big Brother/Big Sister scheme for children between 10 and 16 years. This friendship program provides a caring adult companion on a one-to-one basis to help the child cope with any stresses that may have come up for them in the face of their family breakdowns.
AWARE’s support services provides crisis counselling, assistance in dealing with the authorities, and legal advice to women in need. Support groups have been set up specifically to help women either going through a divorce, or contemplating a divorce. AWARE runs a free legal clinic on the second and fourth Thursday of each month. To make an appointment, call 1800 774 5935 or visit www.aware.org.sg for more details.
Single Parent Support Group (SPSG) has been set up on Facebook to help those who need advice and an understanding friend through their single parent journey. It is a community of parents going through similar experiences and a great place to turn for support.
As-Salaam PPIS Family Support Centre has over 20 years of experience working with Malay-speaking or Muslim families who have gone through loss through death or divorce. Counselling and support programs are offered, along with talks and workshops covering topics such as generating income.