No One Sets Out to be Single Parent But…

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People

Ms Chinwe Anwunobi is a public relations specialist. The delectable mother of two is a single mum who uses her experience to champion the cause of single mothers in Nigeria, having suffered stigmatisation from ignorant members of public who acted as if a woman who lost two men to the cold hands of death in her love life should be condemned. She speaks on single parenthood and the life of a single working mum in this encounter with Festus Akanbi

Society’s views on single parents

Society’s views (especially our society) of single parents depends on the ‘single parent’ in question. Single dads gets off easily than single mums, to be honest. They are usually more supportive and full of praise for the men. It’s mostly ‘Oh he’s a very hands on Dad, doing all this alone without help from the mother of the child’’, ‘’Oh he needs to get married. It’s all too much for him.’ If he ever sends financial support to the mother of his child, then she should be thankful because not many fathers would do this’.

A single mum? If you became a single mum through divorce, then you are strong-headed and couldn’t bend under the authority of a man. I am a single mum with two sons, aged 16 and five. Both dads are dead. I raise eyebrows whenever I say this. I’ve had friends accuse me of always putting the cart before the horse and I’ve actually had someone call me a ‘black widow spider’ with a warning to keep my distance. At that point, I decided I’d focus on building my life, raising my children and trying to block out as much noise and negativity as I can.

There’s always a back story that society never bothers to find out. As long as you had the child without a ring on your finger, a promise of marriage or you moved them out of your marital home (doesn’t matter if it was an abusive one) then you pretty much useless as they come.

Sometimes, life doesn’t go as planned

As a people, we are yet to understand that life happens and things don’t always go in that perfectly planned order. No one sets out to become a single parent but, when life throws you curved balls, you either learn to swerve them or hit back hard, like your life depends on it. I also think women are fast realising that they don’t have to put up with toxic behaviours and spaces just so that society can be happy with them. If you’re pregnant for a man and six months down the line, you realise you can’t live with a certain behaviour or toxicity for a lifetime, then wouldn’t it be best to just stay on your own and raise that child in a healthy space?

While a lot of women became single parents under different circumstances, quite a few are choosing to become single mums by choice and if they have what it takes to bring up a child with the proper values, then why not? It doesn’t make them irresponsible. There are married women who are solely responsible for raising children, catering for the home financially. They are in the same situation as the single mums. The only difference is, they’re tied down with a man who is nothing but a colossal liability. So this unfair judgement of single parents, particularly single mums, needs to stop already.

Single parenthood not a joke

Being solely responsible for a child or children is no mean feat. It’s a huge responsibility balancing a job, a business, paying bills regularly, doing chores, with taking care of the children and keeping up with all their school related activities, at the same time. For women who don’t have a steady job or steady finances, it can be extremely overwhelming. And when they start running around asking for help, that’s where the judgement starts. I think single mums face the same problems like their married counterparts, but the pressure to succeed is much greater because the burden of planning and decision making rests squarely on their shoulders.

When you’re not dealing with people and their judgements, you’re worrying about raising your children right and providing adequately for them. Did I also mention that dating as a single mum is hard?! It’s like a recruitment process because you’re careful about not bringing any insanity into your children’s space.

Life of female entrepreneurs

Life as a female entrepreneur has been one long road of mistakes, challenges, skill perfection and finding the perfect work-life balance. I’ve been very fortunate and blessed to have great mentors, who have kept me focused and grounded over the years. I don’t think gender has anything to do with doors of opportunity opening for me. I move in the right circles because I’m aware that who I hang out with or spend time talking to, greatly determines what I dream about and what I collide with (Thank you, Seth Godin!). I’m also a curious person who’s always asking questions and always willing to take up challenges whenever I get the chance.

I think my willingness to learn, grow and harness my skills, plus surrounding myself with the right mentors, have been responsible for the doors of opportunity that have opened. When a child washes his hands clean, he eats with the elders. I think this Igbo proverb sums it up best.

Sexual harassments

On two occasions, yes. I was working with a media consultant, the first time it happened. The second experience was while working in hospitality. I think that, as a young woman trying to make her way in the world, people assume you’ll do anything, accept any untoward behaviour in your quest for success or fulfilment.

I wasn’t having it but, I also knew that if I brought the matter up, no one would believe me because of the people involved. So I simply removed myself from both environments.

Support circle for single mums

I’ve got a strong support system that’s made up of family members and friends. Having them around me just enforces the fact that it takes a whole village to raise a child, which is why I believe single parents in Nigeria should have their own support circle. Not matter how much of a supermom you think you are, you need to know it’s okay to get tired, it’s okay to be overwhelmed, it’s okay to be exhausted, it’s okay to not always have it all figured and it’s okay to reach out to friends and family if you need to take a break and want them to watch your children for a few hours.

Social life

On a scale of one to ten, I think I’m a six when it comes to being sociable. To be honest, I’m usually reserved and only come alive when I’m with people who set my soul on fire or when it’s work related. Once I connect with a person, it feels like I’ve known them my entire life.

If there’s no connection, I’ll clam up like an oyster and no amount of prodding will make me open up!

I’m not a club or party person but will show up if I’m invited by a close friend or client. I prefer hanging out in quiet locations with a friend or two, with the perfect music, easy drinks and small chops.

Record keeping

I love to keep a record of all my accomplishments for the day and my thought processes. Whenever I’m battling with different thoughts or have a light bulb moment, I go to my journal. As a matter of fact, I just got rid of three completely filled up journals from last year and I’m

already half way through my first for this year. When I don’t feel like writing, I turn to music. I’ve got Beyonce Knowles, Demi Lovato, Michael Jackson, Ed Sheeran, Simi, Burna Boy, Kelly Clarkson, Savage Garden and Katy Perry on my playlist. I recently added Kelly Rowlands ‘Coffee’ and ‘Hitman’, which is an absolute favourite because it paid tribute to the Afrobeat King, Fela. On days when I do both, I always make sure there’s a bottle of Coca-Cola right next to me!

Growing up

Growing up was pretty memorable. My siblings – I have five of them – and I grew up on an estate where all the kids would come out every evening at 5pm, ride bikes, race each other round the estate until we got bored and then we’d start deflating our parents’ car tyres. I know, it’s terrible isn’t it? We didn’t realise we were deflating the tyres. All we knew was that we enjoyed the hissing sound the tyres made when we pushed down on the valve stem.

I have pretty remarkable memories of my school days. I attended Nigerian

Navy Secondary School and went from the timid class captain to become the President of the Press Club and Editor-in-Chief of ‘The Marine Waves’, which was the school’s magazine, at the time. I was always arts inclined but didn’t realise this until after my final year in senior secondary school. My dad wanted me to study medicine which didn’t quite work out but, after acing all my arts related subjects, I went for English Language at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.

I chose Awka because I’d spent all my primary and secondary school years in Lagos and wanted a different environment. I’m a sassy introvert, quiet extrovert, Coca-Cola loving, single mum of two boys and a PR specialist.

I’m a graduate of English Language and a qualified public relations practitioner, with 10 years experience spanning media, hospitality, FMCG and events management. I am also the founder of Peach’s Public Relations, a boutique agency focused on the promotion and advancement of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in Nigeria, especially the ‘nano businesses’ that don’t fall under the MSME category. I help level up their business status, transform their identity and presence, while communicating the value of their products and services to potential customers.

I recently created Peach’s Publics, a laid back blog that discusses issues that affects my publics from ‘mompreneurs’, single mum entrepreneurs and MSME enterprise owners while also letting my audience into my private thoughts. I’d actually started the blog last year until phishing attacks forced me to shut it down but I’m so excited to be starting over, this time, on my new website.