Women’s Month: The resilience of a single parent
As Women’s Month draws to a close, we celebrate the resilience of women who are single parents. Raising children as a single parent means that you have to do it all with little to no support, which can put a financial strain on you.
We sat with Miss. Shadi Letlape, a single parent of four children. She unpacks how it was like raising four children on a single salary, the difficulties she faced, the joys that came with parenting, and the results of her resilience.
GetUp: First and foremost, what does Women’s Month mean to you?
Miss Letlape: If it were up to me every month would be Women’s Month because women have it hard. To me, it simply means that the world acknowledges that women are important. Women need to appreciate one another and stand together. With all the gender-based violence happening, I fear for women, I fear for my three girls. The world is very unkind to women. August is the month when we embrace our womanhood with all its advantages and disadvantages. It shows how our lives matter and that they have meaning.
GetUp: What was it like raising four children as a single mother?
Miss Letlape: Raising four kids by myself was hard. Probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. However, because I loved my children, I knew I had to do what I had to for them.
GetUp: As a teacher, how did you manage to raise four children on a single salary and provide them with the opportunity to become graduates?
Miss Letlape: I used to sell candy at the primary school where I worked. Bassie and her siblings were in different schools, so, they all sold candy and simbas in their schools. We did this in order to buy bread and so they could have pocket money. My salary went to school fees, groceries, and bond. I started as a teacher when I was 21 and the moment I had kids, I started saving for their education.
GetUp: How did you juggle being a working mom and a single mom?
Miss Letlape: We had a divide and conquer strategy. When they came back from school they knew they had to clean the house, wash dishes, and do their home works and assignments. When I got home from work, I would then cook and help them with their homework where they needed help. Check how their candy sales went. Iron their uniforms and prepare for the next day.
GetUp: What was the hardest or most challenging part of the journey?
Miss Letlape: The most challenging part was just doing it on my own and trying not to show them that we couldn’t afford it. We would have to discuss what they think is the new “in brand” of candy so we can add them to our stock to entice more customers and ultimately, make more money. I’ve never been comfortable asking for assistance because everyone has their issues, and I believe my children are my responsibility alone.
GetUp: What kept you motivated to keep carrying on and pushing through?
Miss Letlape: My children motivated me. I have good children who listened to me and obeyed me. They were respectful and very understanding. Bassie used to say “mom the day you have money, can you please buy me these shoes”. My children were humble and did not compare themselves to other kids. They were not demanding and they understood that life wasn’t easy.
GetUp: Is there anything you would have wanted to change?
Miss Letlape: One thing I would have changed was their father. Before he passed away, he was not helpful with the kids and he was not a good husband. He was unfaithful and was always running around doing whatever he was doing. If I could change one thing I would have married a better loving man and one that could have helped me take care of our children.
GetUp: Looking back, what is the one thing you would say to your children about overcoming a struggle?
Miss Letlape: They should never give up no matter how hard it seems. It all starts in your head. Once you put your mind to something nothing can stand in your way. They should never let their circumstances define them. They can be whatever they dream to be. Life is hard, but it is even harder when you compare your life to others. They used to laugh at us back then when we were selling candy.
GetUp: What was the most rewarding part of the journey?
Miss Letlape: The most rewarding part is now, seeing all my children working. For a while, it seemed like a farfetched dream but now they are all graduates, they all work and they all have their own homes and cars. All four of them. Two older ones are married and I am proud of all their accomplishments. People say I am lucky, it isn’t luck. Patience, drive, and consistency got us here.
GetUp: What advice would you give to mothers who are struggling?
Miss Letlape: Do not give up. As a single mother, you have to lead by example. What they see you do, they too will do. If your child is still young, save money, when they are older then start selling those fat cakes. The most important thing is that ‘giving up is not an option’.
“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture, and transform.”
— Diane Mariechild