Single mothers push forward despite challenges

Photo used for illustration purposes only

This article is in conjunction with Mother’s Day which is celebrated on the second Sunday of May in most countries, including Malaysia. This year it falls on May 9.

KUALA LUMPUR – Single mothers Samsiah Othman, Noorhayati Yusof and Noor Shakilah Abdullah have no time to wallow in self-pity or to dwell on the past.

For them, what has passed is past and all that matters to them now is to plan a better future for them and their children.

Nevertheless, as these women would readily testify, raising a family single-handedly is not an easy task. The sacrifices made by mothers are unparalleled when it comes to bringing up and educating their children no matter what constraints they face.


Samsiah, 46, who retired as head clerk holding the rank of staff sergeant at the Ministry of Defence in March this year, has been a single mother since 2014 after she and her husband divorced.

The biggest challenge she faced after going “solo” was financial in nature as she had to take care of her only child who is autistic – Amir Hamzah Ibrahim, the apple of her eye, is 15 now.

To make ends meet after her divorce, Shamsiah was forced to take up part-time jobs as a waitress, security guard and even as a singer performing at wedding functions.

Part-time jobs

“I was doing part-time work even when I had my full-time job as I had a lot of debts and commitments. It was tough for me to depend on the income from just one job,” she told Bernama, adding that she could only afford to buy rice and eggs for their meals.

“I would avoid buying vegetables as I was worried I would not have enough money left for my other expenses such as petrol for my car.”

Samsiah, who now earns a decent income by selling various types of tarts that she herself bakes, also wished that society would change their perception of women who are forced to be single mothers after their marriages crumble or husbands pass away.

“What these women need is moral support to raise and educate their children well on their own,” added Samsiah, who also has to take care of her elderly father who suffers from diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and heart disease.

Noorhayati, 48, a dance choreographer, has been a single mother to her three children, now aged 15, 23 and 25, for over 12 years.

“It’s tough being a single mother as we have to handle everything single-handedly. We face so many challenges… we can’t even cry as there are no more tears left in our eyes,” she said.

Stressing how crucial it is for single mothers to have their own careers, she said it is also important for them to hold their head high each time they encounter a failure or loss.

“Women must have education and a career. Whether they have a husband or not, they must have their own job so that they have financial security in case something happens to their marriage,” she said, adding that women must have the mental resilience to overcome whatever challenges that come their way.

Right platform

Noorhayati, who also owns an event management company and a boutique and shop that sells costumes, said since business has been dull after the COVID-19 pandemic struck the nation last year, she has ventured into making and selling traditional cakes to generate an income.

Noor Shakilah, 53, who has two sons and two daughters aged between 23 and 30, was widowed in January last year after her husband passed away due to ill-health. She works in a stall selling nasi ayam penyet and also earns some extra money by selling kuih karas, a traditional Malay delicacy.

She said even before her husband died, she was taking care of the family affairs as both his legs were amputated due to diabetes.

Meanwhile, Persatuan Kebajikan Ibu Tunggal Syuhada – a welfare organisation for single mothers – adviser Aminah Hussin urged single mothers to find the right platform that would enable them to exploit their talent and capabilities.

She advised them to get involved with associations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that provide skills training to women to enable them to gain self-confidence and seize opportunities to improve their financial status.

“The government and many NGOs provide various opportunities, such as free cake-making and sewing classes, to help single mothers. This is why we encourage the women to register themselves with these organisations.

“By associating with these organisations, the women will be able to identify their skills and potential that can help them to generate an income,” she said.

Persatuan Kebajikan Ibu Tunggal Syuhada, whose office is located in Taman Maluri, Cheras, has also helped many single mothers to attain success in various fields, including tourism and business, she added.