“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage.” We all grew up singing along to this verse, and believing that this sequence was the natural order of life. You meet Mr. Right, and get married, and soon after, start having kids ─ together. But not everything always goes as planned. While single motherhood is becoming a common circumstance in today’s society, in Malaysia, single parenthood is still stigmatised and seen as something between a morally-questionable act and an unfortunate accident that happens to sexually-negligent women. This stigma is far from the truth. In fact, a single mother is─ whether she has gotten unexpectedly pregnant, divorced or widowed─ the most responsible woman there is. She has no choice to be otherwise.
Imagine going through sleepless weeks and infant mood swings, making long-term, life-changing decisions, and sorting out the never-ending financial stress that comes along with raising a child, all without a partner, a co-conspirator to help. Would there be enough money, enough time, enough love? This Mother’s Day, we speak to six strong single mothers who have navigated through those questions and raised their children solo─ without losing herself entirely.
“I got two positive results after completing high school ─ in my SPM exams and a pregnancy test” – Nattlie
Fresh out of high school and having only just received her SPM results, Nattlie Taialan found herself pregnant and facing a difficult decision of whether to raise her child alone or give her baby up for adoption. Being so young, Nattlie did not expect the baby’s father to take responsibility, despite his supportive presence throughout her pregnancy. Abortion was never an option for her, and she knew she would go through with the pregnancy. The only issue she had was her uncertainty of whether she could give her baby all the best things that life has to offer. But those doubts were overcome with love the very moment she laid eyes on her daughter, and the young mother decided she was going to raise her child on her own. For the first four years, Nattlie raised her daughter alone. She didn’t approach her parents for help, as their disappointment was too much for her to handle. When her daughter turned four years old, Nattlie decided that she wanted to advance in her career for the sake of her daughter. “I was determined to fight the world ahead for both us to strive and survive in this world. I need to do something more for me and my daughter.”
She signed up for a Diploma in Management while juggling a nine-to-five job. Thirteen years later, Nattlie now holds a strong position in HR, and is a true role model to her daughter, proving that a woman can be whatever she sets her mind to be. Her daughter is now her best friend and her closest confidante.
Another strong working artist is Nadeera Ismail. Many know her as the well-known makeup artist who works with the likes of Nora Danish and Sophia Liana. Nadeera’s brand NVDISM even launched its own skincare range known as Pop That Skin Set. Nadeera has come a long way since her divorce when her son was only a year old. When her divorce was finalised, she quickly left her home in Seremban and moved to the city centre in search of a better life for both herself and her son. As she was a freelancer, there was always the concern that she wouldn’t earn enough to allow her son to live comfortably. When she discovered that her son had autism, the going got tougher for her. She was determined to send her son for proper treatments even though it added to the strain of her financial state. Nadeera is not afraid to admit that she was scared when her son was first diagnosed with autism. To conquer her fears, she went in search of fellow mothers whose children were also diagnosed with autism online to discover the best ways to help her son’s situation. The help of these mothers was especially helpful when Nadeera had to bring her son on a seven-hour long flight. Knowing that this would prove to be a tough situation to keep him calm, she requested help from fellow mothers whose children were facing similar disabilities on how they handled the situation. She stresses to all single mothers that it is important for them to accept their children’s disabilities and to not be afraid to ask for help in a community as they are not alone in their ordeals.
“I wanted a normal life for my children, especially my son who was diagnosed with ASD. That was why I decided to send him to a normal school instead of a ‘special’ school.” – Shakira Mirza
Shakira Mirza echoed Nadeera’s sentiments. When she was going through divorce procedures from her first husband, Shakira dived headfirst into her work to drown out the failure of her marriage. Her two sons were her first priority when she was coming to terms with her divorce and even then she knew that her younger son was different compared to other children. Even at two years old, her younger son was not speaking, and her sons were not playing with each other, even though they were only born a year apart. Her suspicions were quickly proven true when she sent her son for a diagnosis. Shakira knew she had to accept her son’s disability to help him, but unfortunately, both Shakira and her parents were new to autism. Even though she scoured the internet to help her son, she couldn’t help but feel the frustration building whenever her son went into one of his tantrums. Nevertheless, Shakira made sure to send her son to treatments while drilling into her elder son’s head to always look out for his younger brother. She was determined to give both her sons a normal life. She made the toughest decision to send her younger son to school alongside her elder son instead of a special school where he would be treated differently. Six years ago, Shakira was lucky enough to meet her current husband who is not afraid of the commitment to care for not just two children from her previous marriage but one with autism as well. Shakira has since given birth to three more children and is glad that her sons were able to accept the transition into a new family.
For the full article purchase a copy of Marie Claire May 2019 issue. For a digital copy click here.