Single mums face unique challenges during Covid-19

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020 00:00 |
Getting casual jobs has not been easy for Stella Kathure. Photo/PD/COURTESY

This weekend will be Mother’s Day like no other. With visits discouraged, restaurants partially opened and people asked to self-isolate to curb the spread of coronavirus, mothers, the vast majority of them solo mums, are as ever at the sharp end of the pandemic.

Betty Muindi @BettyMuindi 

“What would happen if I get coronavirus  and I would not be able to take care of my child?” these thoughts have been constantly going through Stella Kathure’s mind lately. 

“As a single mother, I always think about the needs of my son,” the unemployed mother of one boy aged nine years old says. Yet she cannot stay at home since she has to put food on the table.

“I have been unemployed before, but I am more scared now because it is difficult to get casual jobs as many companies and businesses are closed or not hiring. Before, I could go out and come back with a few hundreds,” she says.

With her son now at home and schools closed for over a month, Stella is struggling with the rising cost of paying for home essentials such as food and rent.

“I am already at breaking point financially. It is so hard for me and I am sure it is the same for many single mothers like me. We are doing it all alone,” she laments.

Vivian Shiko, also a single mother of two children aged five and two concurs. She says single mothers like her who are generally on lower incomes are not able to stockpile and need to shop more often.

But some supermarkets have banned children below a certain age as a measure to curb the spread of the virus.

 At her first attempt to shop after the government effected social distancing directives, she was told by the security guards at her local supermarket to leave her children in the car.

Chantelle Wacheke, a single mother worries about what would happen to her child, if she gets sick. ABOVE: Getting casual jobs has not been easy for Stella Kathure. Photo/PD/COURTESY

“I had to drive all the way to a shopping centre a few kilometres away where I was allowed to go in with the children. And the looks I got from shoppers were awful,” she recounts.

“People who did not care to understand my situation told me I was risking their life. Other women sneered at me. It made me feel like the worst mother on earth.

Of course, I did not want to risk my children’s lives, but I could not leave them all alone in the house or at the parking lot,” rants the online phones and phone accessories vendor.

She says stay at home order has left some mothers in the difficult position of leaving their children home alone, or shopping online, which is more expensive.

Chantelle Wacheke, a digital marketer, Instagram and YouTube influencer an entrepreneur and a single mother admits that the coronavirus adds additional risks to the already precarious day-to-day reality of single mothers.

Juggling work, homeschooling for parents who have older children and household tasks, she says, has exposed single mothers to disproportionate suffering.

“As a solo mother, every parenting responsibility is up to me. I worry about what will happen to my child if something happens to me,” she says.

Hard hit

 As a result, she has been taking extra caution to keep her baby and herself safe. “I’ve become super strict on who handles my baby.

I haven’t left the house since they announced the first case in the country in March,” she says, adding: “We are not going out to enjoy a nice day out like we used to. Cabin fever is real.”

Also, on top of Chantelle’s worries, she can’t take her baby to the hospital for jabs because of fear of exposure to the virus and also because some vaccinations have not been available lately. 

“The fact that jobs aren’t available at the moment means that soon most of us won’t be able to support our children the way we have been,” she says.

Like Stella Vivian and Chantelle, challenges faced by single mothers from the current pandemic reveals the inadequacy of economic and social support for most vulnerable families. 

Whether solo by choice, circumstance, divorce or the death of a partner, many single mothers parent under threat.

Many of them unable to get affodable househelps, affodable healthcare and afford even basic needs such as food and shelter for their children, their strength and resilience has been put to the test.

Leah Wanjiku, a life coach says just as the virus has exposed the faults in our healthcare system, single mothers’ vulnerability reveals the inhumanity of the unrealistic demands they face.

And the current reality of school closings has thrown working solo mothers into a state of fear. 

“Single mothers are scared and scrambling. Even when they have a little money, solo mums are having trouble finding the essentials such as formula and diapers, at their local supermarket,” she adds.

She advises that in this heightened moment of insecurity and fear, there are lessons to be learned as well as call to action for those with greater resources; to build an impressive web of support for mothers in need. 

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