Although it was planned, when Sandra Malinga fell pregnant, she still had mixed emotions – so many doubts, so many fears, but somehow she found the courage to see it through to the end.
Her partner had promised to be there, and for a while, it seemed her concerns were simply down to anxiety. After all, it was her first child.
But as the reality and the responsibility that comes with raising a child sank in, the couple began to drift apart. Malinga found that more and more, her life revolved around her child, while her partner carried on without a care in the world.
After three long years she found herself completely on her own.
Now, 35, and after another failed relationship, she is raising two kids on her own.
A report from the South African Institute of Race Relations revealed that only 33 percent of children live with both parents. For those in single parent homes, 39 percent live with their mother, while only four percent live with their father.
Opening up to the African News Agency (ANA) this week, Malinga spoke softly while sitting on a camping chair outside her Pretoria home. In between short sentences, she would take a sip from her tea.
She is unemployed and has gone back to living with her parents, two siblings, and their children. As many as 12 people live on the property.
“I didn’t plan to be a single mother of two children, I don’t think anyone in their right mind would choose that, but due to the uncertainty of life, I found myself in this situation and I can’t run away from it,” said Malinga.
Her eyes brim with tears as she goes into the details of how she found herself raising two kids on her own with no income and relying solely on the government’s social grant.
“In the beginning, the father of my first child went above and beyond for our son, but after we broke up, he re-married and had another child. Things changed because he no longer provides as much as he used to. I have to accept the little that he does because he has added responsibilities.”
She said the father of her second child disappeared when their daughter was only a year old after they had a fight about buying winter clothes.
Even though Malinga receives support in the form of the social grant, she often she finds herself negotiating with loan sharks to cover some of her basic needs. “Even paying off the loan is another burden,” she said covering her face with her hand while shaking her head.
“Raising children single-handedly without a job is extremely hard, half of the time you find yourself getting angry over small issues because of being constantly frustrated. Every day is a struggle.
“I can’t even afford to spoil them and buy a simple pizza with the little that I have, I have to make sure I prioritise, and it hurts. Imagine not being able to afford something as simple as yoghurt.”
She added: “Another challenge is that when you are in a big family, you can’t only buy for your kids and neglect others, you buy for everyone or we share.”
Her voice quivers when she starts talking about how sometimes her children go to school without lunch or pocket money.
“It’s painful having to watch your child going to school and they don’t have lunch. In such cases, I make sure I cook enough pap to get everyone filled after school.”
Even though the school provides food for the less privileged and Malinga said her children do sometimes make use of the feeding scheme, there are days when they do not eat.
She said she tried to start a small business by selling at a local school but fell ill and had to stop.
“Raising money to start again is not that easy with everything that’s going on.”
While Malinga is struggling financially, Fortunate Nhloko, a single mother of a seven-year-old girl faces a different struggle.
Nhloko is employed and stays with her daughter in a smart duplex in Centurion.
“My daughter craves for a father figure. Even when she was little, she enjoyed attention from men as opposed to women, and now that she can speak, she tells me straight that she wants her dad.”
Thirty-year-old Nhloko said she broke up with the father of her child when their child was three months.
“I tried to reach out to him so that he could be there for his daughter but he would always make false promises, sometimes he would come and before I know it, he has disappeared again and this was extremely hurtful to my daughter.”
Nhloko said she eventually stopped making contact with the father of her child. “He knows he has a daughter but chose not to be part of her life.”
Even though women make out the greatest number of single parent households, some men do find themselves in the same undesirable situation.
Eric Makhafula is father to a four-year-old girl who says his partner left him with their child when she was just two months old.
“She was always a bit wild and we would constantly fight about her lifestyle. Eventually she made her decision and left me with my daughter. I do hear people saying they sometimes see her in Joburg but I’m not bothered, she chose her life.”
The 28-year-old said he was frustrated when he was left with a two-month-old baby as he was working in Johhannesburg and his family was in Limpopo and he couldn’t rely on family members to assist him because his parents are deceased.
“I had to ask a lady from around the neighbourhood to look after her when I’m at work and I would always fetch her when I come back. Lucky enough my daughter was not a difficult baby and didn’t give me a lot of challenges.”
Makhafula said his daughter hasn’t questioned him about her mother and he still doesn’t have answers for her.
“I wish she starts asking those questions when she’s older because if she asks now I’m not sure how I will explain it, maybe I will have to lie and I’ll explain better when I’m sure she will understand. I don’t want to cause her unnecessary pain.”
Makhafula admits that he gets intimidated when he thinks about when his daughter reaches puberty and how he will handle this.
“If my mom was still alive, I would have trusted her to handle other areas of my daughter’s life, but I guess I will learn along the way.”
Makhafula said even if he gets married, he will still take full responsibility for his daughter.
– African News Agency (ANA)