Recent media reports announced that divorces in Sri Lanka have risen to 300 a day, making it a high figure for a country with an ageing population. Somewhere in the midst of those break-ups are courageous single mothers, who suddenly find that they have to fend for themselves and their children.
Whether in the West or the East, the reality of today’s society is the legacy of mothers who have to steer the ship of life alone. Often, they do not have economic or emotional support, having to work and take care of the children. In Sri Lanka, there are many single mothers out there who do their bit in the corporate world. They have stories to share but they have above all, to shoulder responsibility, keep the home fires burning and cater to the needs of growing children.
It is never easy being a single mother – it is twice as hard being a single mother who has to work. In many ways, the work helps to pay the bills but also to add value to someone who may have faced trauma and abuse at the hands of her former spouse. A career often empowers a single mother, according to experts, enabling her to achieve her optimum potential.
In Sri Lanka, we are fortunate to have a support network of family and relatives who can be a tremendous help in taking care of the kids. Such a supportive structure can only empower a single mother and motivate her to give her best to her career and to herself. Of course, not everyone has access to such supportive structures and some have had to struggle to balance everything just rightly so.
Sri Lanka also happens to be an ageing society which adds a burden on top of single moms who must stretch themselves to make ends meet. We still have leftovers of social stigma and dogmatic issues that tend to cast single mothers striving for social equality, in a negative light. Yet, among the scores of corporate ranks, silent but efficient single mothers hold responsible positions and count themselves as important wheels that keep the corporate machinery going.
In a perfect world, single mothers working in the corporate environment would have better child support facilities but unfortunately, that is not the case here in Sri Lanka, at least not yet. We like to pay lip service to concepts that are new to us such as mothers working from home and single mothers with access to office-based childcare facilities but we really haven’t tested them out yet.
Although there are hundreds of mothers who work from home, the concept is still not widely accepted and proven within the larger corporate culture. Online commuting is a popular and a powerful concept in the developed world but we still have to see it deliver effectively here at home.
Single mothers, who work, benefit from a strong support network of childcare, flexi-timing and work sharing. Again, they that are new to us but they are concepts that can be tested, nevertheless.
What we need is organised and disciplined outputs that ensure that no matter where you are or what takes place, the work gets done. In a sense, running a home involves similar disciplines. Women as we all know by now, can multi-task easily and do their best when running several tasks simultaneously, be it cooking, supervising homework or planning next day’s work.
Single motherhood, whether by choice or chance, is tough to handle no doubt. Not having a supportive spouse can be trying, especially when it comes to balancing the work-home roles. It is tougher when as a worker she has to face intimidation, sexual advances or simply the kind of vulgar behaviour some of our men reserve for divorced women and single mothers in the workplace. It takes a tough exterior and a tougher mindset to deal effectively with such challenging conditions. It also takes determination, courage and a singular focus on overcoming it all.
What single mothers need is unconditional support, whether at home or in the workplace; the kind of well-meaning support CEOs, supervisors, managers and colleagues can lend. Recognising the contribution of these women and empowering them to attain their goals in life, is the ultimate gift any organisation can give.
Female headed households are on the increase around the world, due to various reasons. Such households do not have father figures who can inspire the children but place a tremendous burden on the mother to fulfill both roles. For most of them, their work is their lifeline that adds much value to their self-worth. And it is time for the corporate world to acknowledge them for who they are – courageous women who are determined to see themselves and their children through. (Nayomini, a senior writer, journalist and a PR professional can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)