Beneath single mothers’ hard work lies deep-seated pain, says ex-journo in new book
Single mothers are not superwomen and need help and support when raising their children, admits former journalist-turned-author Mantombi Makhubele, in her debut book Let’s Have Some Tea: A Single Mom’s Conversation.
This, according to Makhubele, goes against the pervading narrative that single mothers have it all figured out when in essence they are in pain.
Makhubele says beneath the hard work lies a deep-seated pain.
This is the pain that most single mothers don’t know how to navigate and that sometimes shows up in the decisions they make even in the dating game, says Makhubele, who until recently was also a single mother of two daughters.
A study by the Human Sciences Research Council and the SA Institute of Race Relations showed that 60% of South African children have absent fathers, and more than 40% of mothers are single parents.
Add to that the high teenage pregnancy figures and one gets a picture of what kind of society we have.
With these stats in mind, Makhubele, a former Independent Newspaper journalist and travel editor, lays bare the details of her failed marriage and the many relationship mistakes she embarked on after the trauma of that divorce - all compounding the pain of rejection that she details is the biggest affliction suffered by single mothers.
“Rejection in that the man ended up not fighting or choosing you, and that does hurt,” she says.
“The book was initially birthed from observing the many single mothers, from one’s local supermarket to company chief executives, and yet with so many of us I felt we have no place to remove our heroine masks and say things like ‘I am tired’ or ‘I need help’.
“The truth is that our country and many organisations alike are built on the back of single moms, from churches to raising powerful individuals who now sit on influential seats, and yet single moms are marginalised because we are viewed as failures for not being able to keep a man.
“This narrative is very often joked about but it is within this stigma that the very struggle lies. Single mothers sacrifice so much, and because nobody wakes up in the morning and decides to be single, society needs to hear this side of singlehood and do better to accommodate us,” she says.
The book took five years to complete and covers themes such as dating, sex, stigma and the loneliness that single mothers feel. She also touches on the vicious cycle that creates a lineage of children raised in single-headed households.
A narrative she strongly disagrees with, although many women find themselves in the middle of it, “because in these situations, you end up not getting the support that you need and let’s be honest, we all need someone”, she says.
And without overlooking the fact that the other reason for single parenthood is because of an absent father, Makhubele says her core focus in the book is on the single mother finding healing to raise children within a healthy environment that will benefit generations to come.
“Everybody has a single mom in their lives one way or the other and I wanted to expose people to what goes on in the life and world of a single mom. Because sometimes the world judges harshly and society doesn’t create spaces for healing and support, single moms are told that since they made their bed, they must lie in it.
“The truth is that we have a lot of broken people in society, unknowingly, and that is why when we start to support a single mom and fortify her, we are helping the children as well and are healing our society.”
With her new-found passion after travelling, Makhubele is on her way to launching her non-profit organisation, SMILE Sisterhood, an organisation that aims to positively empower and inspire single moms to dream again while creating the much-needed safe spaces for them to be.
Her honest and raw account of her life journey has left her feeling like she is “walking around naked in the streets of life”, but to normalise such stories, Makhubele says she has traded her privacy for the greater good.
“I look back at how far I have come on this journey as a single mom and I smile. I have become an amazing God-fearing-yummy-woman who is a single mom, and that is my journey,” a line from her closing chapter.
Let’s Have Some Tea: A Single Mom’s Conversation is available as an e-book on Amazon for R180.