How single mothers are coping during the pandemic

Wednesday September 22 2021
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Mama Marther. PHOTO | COURTESY

By Hellen Nachilongo

Whether single by choice, circumstance, divorce or the death of a partner, many single mothers parent under fear. Struggling to provide healthcare, pay bills or look for a job, the hardship of life tests the limits of their strength and resilience.

Now, the coronavirus adds additional risk to the already precarious day-to-day reality of many of the single mothers in Tanzania.

Getting through the actual day-to-day of life under uncertainty — not to mention juggling working from home or dealing with the fallout from sudden unemployment — is stressful enough.

There’s no magic bullet that will make living through this crisis easy but here are three single mothers who talk about how they’re navigating through the pandemic to make ends meet.


Mama Marther: Normalising the fear

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Mama Marther Kalumanga, 42, says that currently she feels tensed the whole time wondering when the pandemic will come to an end so that her daily life routine, including her two children’s, could get back to normal. Being a single mother, she has been trying to adjust herself to cope with the situation and adopt the new life so as to make things look normal for her children and also put food on the table.

Mama Marther says her company has reduced working hours and sometimes they work from home, as one of the preventive measures to contain the virus.

“It’s stressful to go to work, not because of the fear of getting infected but my co-workers constantly talk about Covid-19 and its impact on our lives,” she adds.

Knowing that some of her colleagues have been retrenched due to the novel virus, Mama Marther feels stressed about it already.

But at home, she tries to contain her fear and tension so that it doesn’t affect her children.

“I might lose my job and then what next. How do I put food on the table for my children,” Mama Marther says.

In one way or the other, Mama Marther has learnt to live with this fear, normalising it so that her children aren’t affected.


Mama Godfrey: Alternate source of income

30-year-old Mama Godfrey had to switch the means of earning her daily income during this pandemic. A resident of Mbuyuni in Dar es Salaam, Mama Godfrey, who used to sell vegetables from house to house, now works from home waiting for customers who want to plait their hair. “I used to have a nanny who took care of my three-year-old son while I went door-to-door selling vegetables. But I had to send her back to her village because I could no longer pay her salary,” Mama Godfrey says.

She adds that with the current situation she opted to stay at home looking after her son while she waits for customers unlike how it was in the past.

Before Covid-19 crisis, Mama Godfrey used to make Sh50,000 to Sh60,000 from selling vegetables every day. Out of that amount, Sh15,000 was put aside for savings and what remained was used to cover costs, such as food and other necessities.

“Life has been hard [in general] after the first case was announced in our country. Nothing was the same in terms of business,” she reveals.

Mama Godfrey now makes less than Sh20,000. She further adds that if the pandemic will continue, she will not be able to afford to pay house rent in the coming months.


Ms Maula: The hard-hit

A widow and a resident of Ubungo, Dar es Salaam, Margreth Maula, 46, says she decided to send her children to Songea to her mother’s after the government ordered for closure of schools.

Both her children were studying at a boarding school. Ms Maula, who runs a bar in Ubungo, says her work entails late nights and a lot of interaction with workers and customers.

“It would not have been easy for me to leave the children at home during this pandemic while I’m at work. And secondly, I didn’t want to jeopardise their health and safety because my work requires attending to customers and supervising workers,” Ms Maula explains that it is not easy to stay away from her children during this time but she needs to make ends meet.


Expert’s advice

Though, almost everyone is feeling the pinch of Covid-19 in one way or another, in terms of finance, retrenchment, adjustment to coping with the situation, working from home, social distancing, adoption of technology, single mothers are facing extremes of all this, experts say.

Dr Isaac Lema, a clinical psychologist at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (Muhas) has the following tips for single mothers:

• Live for the present: Avoid stressing about what is not happening and instead focus on the present. Take Covid-19 preventive measures, help children do school work, create a space to do physical activities with children and so forth.

• Learn to accept: Try to adopt a coping mechanism to try to live with the pandemic and accept the situation. • If you are stressed, try to talk about your feelings to a friend, family or a counselor.