Struggles of Single Mothers: Parenting and Financial Responsibilities
Parenting and Tarbiyah
Parents play an important role in the formation of children's personalities. When we mention the word “parents”, it includes both parties, the mother and the father, whether divorced or not. It is the responsibility of a man to educate his family. This duty is proportional to his attachment to his wife and children. A man's responsibility is to spend his time and effort to inform his family about what is demanded in religion. Allah said in the Quran, ‘O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire’ (At-Tahrim, Ayat 6). Therefore, Islam teaches us to protect our and enhance their consciousness of discipline because from a good attitude comes the good act of a Muslim. Both mother and father need to set turns between them to look after their children and attend to their problems and the mother should not neglect the important role of her children’s father in providing basic Islamic education to her children.
When it comes to single parents who have lost a spouse, the situation may be more challenging. This is where the government and related organizations play a role. NGOs play a role in pressuring the government to implement policies that can help single mothers and the government to implement them. Among the government's initiatives is to add nurseries in government and private buildings to ease the burden on working mothers. The nurseries can help single parents by providing basic discipline education to their children. It can also help single parents to focus on their careers since they are the only ones who have to provide for their families.
The main point that needs to be highlighted in this discussion is the role that both mothers and fathers play in the tarbiyah of their children. Ibn 'Umar said, "Allah has called them the 'dutiful' (al-Abrar) because they are dutiful (birr) to their parents and children. Just as you have a duty which you owe your parent, so you have a duty which you owe your child." (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 94). In this saying, there is an indication of the right of the child to obtain the care of his parents, and to give him a good tarbiyah. Tarbiyah of the children is a joint responsibility between the mother and the father as they have to cooperate in what is beneficial to their children. Divorce should not be the cause of children's tarbiyah being left entirely to the mother alone. The father should also play his role because, in Islam, there are responsibilities towards their children that need to be fulfilled.
In instilling discipline to children, it is important to view the tarbiyah of the children among single mothers. Therefore to see the real scenario, a survey is needed. When asked if they provide the necessary time to give tarbiyah to their children, most answered that they have time to give tarbyah to their children. One of the challenges of being a single mother is how to teach her children to deal with outside pressures, especially when they are around friends. From the survey that was made, there was one person who answered that their children face their friends with stress or depression. One of the factors that can be seen here is that when a child becomes the child of a single mother, they feel that they are different compared to their other friends. Despite being a single mother, mothers should attend to their children's problems. Single mothers also need to realize the role of their children's father in attend to their problems even if they are divorced. This is because, children should not be different compared to other children even if their mother is a single mother.
As we know, finance is one of the most important aspects of life, whether you are married or not, you have children or don't.. Without solid finances nowadays, you will be facing a lot of problems. Of course, money is not everything, but everything needs money. The financial burden is highly challenging for someone and is even worse for a single mother.In order to raise children in a good way, both the father and mother need to play their roles very well. Therefore, without a father, a single mother will have to face so many difficulties in accomplishing it. She has to feed her children and provide them with clothes, residence, education and many more. This is what we call a financial burden. This problem is very dangerous as it will lead to many other problems too.
So, there are some solutions from the Islamic perspective in order to overcome this problem faced by single mothers out there. First, the government has to initiate a solid financial assistance plan for single mothers. As the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “All of you are guardians and are responsible for your subjects. The ruler is a guardian of his subjects”. So, that is why government needs to play their role in the first place. Secondly, the society itself should engage more with single mothers by providing help in terms of education, and other necessities. Allah said in Surah al-Maaida, verse 2,
وَتَعَاوَنُوا عَلَى الْبِرِّ وَالتَّقْوَىٰ﴾ [المائدة: 2]﴿
“Cooperate with one another in goodness and righteousness”
Third, single mothers need to work for a living themselves because dependence on others is not enough. Last but not least, they should get married again. This is for the future of them and their children. Having a husband is better than previous solutions because he will not just support you financially but also emotionally. As Allah said in Surah al-Baqarah, verse 187,
هُنَّ لِبَاسٌ لَّكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ لِبَاسٌ لَّهُنَّ﴾ [البقرة: 187]﴿
“Your spouses are a garment for you as you are for them”
So, from an Islamic perspective, all of the suggested solutions are referred to the maqasid, actually. Those are important to preserve the religion, as having stable finance can help a single mother to provide good Islamic education for her children. Also, to maintain the life of the single mother and her children. Facing a financial problem is very dangerous as it wilsl affect your mental, which may cause you to do some bad things to yourself.
From the survey that has been conducted, we can see that most of the respondents are working either self-employed or salaried. This scenario literally shows how struggle it is in terms of financial to raise a family as a single mother. For example, there is one respondent who has 14 children to raise, and she is currently working as a self-employed tailor, which she gains around RM1000 to RM3000 a month only. It looks like a big amount of money, but not to forget that she has to raise 14 children. Fortunately, some of her children have already grown up and are currently working. So, the burden to provide enough nafaqah for her family is now shared with her children also.
About authors: Degree Students, Department of Fiqh and Usul al-Fiqh, International Islamic University Malaysia.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily mirror Islamonweb’s editorial stance.