Being a successful single mother should also be given the title of being a superwoman. The reason behind this is that it’s extremely difficult to handle kids alone as well as handling the working areas too. As a mother; you have to take care of your child in all ways i.e. physically; mentally etc. and as a successful businesswoman you need to stay focused on your work to get any sort of progress. Now juggling both successfully with little or no support definitely deserves an applause. Even though women in this situation are super brave and extremely strong , they still need all the support they can get and that is what Orode Uduaghan, a single mother of 2 and her partners, are trying to achieve with SIMBS,( Single Mums Business Support), a growing network of Single Mothers who support other single mothers in their day to day struggles. From volunteer childcare and tutoring services, to business and career mentorship, the network gives every single mother a chance to thrive. In this interview with Konye Chelsea Nwabogor, she gives us an insight into the otherwise invisible struggles of a single mother and what SIMBS is doing to help.
Why did you decide to start up a single mother’s support group?
The network was created by a group of single moms who understand what it takes and what is needed for single mothers to thrive. Since 2013 our organisation has worked and trained about 1500 women in entrepreneurial skills to prepare them for work and a large percentage of those women where single mothers/female bread winners. We had done these trainings under different platforms but decided to bring our expertise under one umbrella and create SIMBS. Our goal really is to give single mothers access to better financial stability from business skills, to career advice, personal branding, freelance opportunities, crafts trainings, counselling. It’s a holistic approach for single mothers. We really just want to see them thrive.
What has the response being like?
It has been interesting. Seeing how much single mother’s really need the support we are creating makes it all worth it. For them it’s beyond the pay cheque, but a support system that really helps them one way or the other. Some single mums just need that shoulder to lay their heads on once in a while and breathe and this is what we are building.
Tell me about SIMBS, how exactly does it help?
We have three aspects. One is Business and entrepreneurial training. We have business mentors who are also single mothers. Women with 17, 20 years experiences in their professions, these women will act as mentors for members of our network. They will not just teach them business skills or give them career insights, but they’ll act as guides for these women for everything life related.
We also have the skill trainings, where we get to teach them hand crafts like we had done in the past; for example, how to create a hair making business, or catering business, but not just create it, build and sustain it. Part of our approach is helping them manage these businesses to scale.
A third approach is the network and community support. We have a growing team of volunteers who will take some burden off these moms every now and then. Our volunteers will act as tutors, caregivers etc. for a few hours a week to give these mother’s a chance to breathe. It’s interesting that most of the people who have signed up to be volunteers so far were raised by single mums and that compelled them to reach out and help.
When nuclear families are the “norm,” how do you build up your own confidence as the head of a single-parent family?
You get comfortable in your skin. Eventually you grow beyond the stigma, guilt or whatever comes with it and you turn your energy to make sure you build the best family you can. Your children are watching, you have to make it count.
Do you have any special quotes, mantras to live by, or sayings that you use to keep you motivated to tackle your goals and chase your dreams?
“Experience the Impossible”. I wake up every day remembering that with GOD’S help this is going to be my reality.
What are some of the struggles you have faced as a single mother?
Personally, my greatest struggle was worrying about doing the right thing. I wanted to be this perfect mum for my children, make sure I was filling the shoes properly. But the truth is you are a mom, you can’t be a mother and a father. So, I accepted the imperfections and learnt how to “do my best” and not try to be perfect. There is a certain pressure that comes with parenting in general, when you are a solo parent the pressure is multiplied. But I have learnt to parent my children in the way I know best. I can’t be two people to them. I can only be one and I learnt to accept that one is good enough.
What do you think are some of the misconceptions people have about being a single mum?
Single moms raise unhealthy children, single moms are always on welfare or some sort of financial attachment; single moms are loose, single moms are at fault for being single moms.
Can you talk about a time when you felt terribly angry, upset, or shocked by the way you were treated as a single mum?
I have never actually experienced any physical discrimination, I know the hanging stigma is there somehow, you feel it when you walk into certain places, but I have never experienced that sort of treatment. I think because I grew up in a certain kind of environment and learnt how to grow a tough skin pretty quickly, I hardly get moved by a lot of things these days. I remind myself that everyone has their own issues.
With the ones who attempt to treat you a certain way, I keep it moving. I mean they try but I really have worked on how I react to a lot of things now.
Can you also describe a time when you felt uplifted and empowered as a single mum?
The first day I walked into my church The Tribe Lagos. There was another single mum there that day, it was her first time at the church, and we both shared our testimonies and journey. There was a lot of encouragement that came that day. I think outside of my circle of friends that was the first time I really felt welcomed into any gathering. The lady and I became really great friends, as a matter of fact she is a mentor on this platform. I also got introduced into a community of people who didn’t put a label. You know when you dig deep everyone has their struggle, it was easy to be in the midst of people who recognised the true meaning of “REDEMPTION and LOVE”, just like Jesus did. Remembering that; this which was broken can be made whole again. Staying in the midst of that sort of environment really helped me grow, and I’ll always be grateful for that.
What is it like to start dating again after you become a single parent?
Hmmmm……yet to find out.
What are things that single mothers wish people would stop saying as regards their situation?
“She can’t handle it”. “Her children will grow up awkward.”
A nuclear family is God’s original plan for every family, having children raised with both father and mother, but circumstances arise, things happen, and the truth is, God meets you right where you are. He helps you pick up the pieces and makes sure everything works out for your good. There are so many biblical testimonies of the power of redemption, from Genesis through to Revelation.
So YES, she can handle it and NO her children will not grow up awkward. She has God’s help and wisdom.
What would you say to a single mom reading this interview who thinks she can‘t overcome where she is at the moment?
Isaiah 54:17 “I’ll see to it that everything works out for the best”. God’s Decree (msg).
Secondly, find your way, you need to learn to block out the noise, and this isn’t just about what people are saying but the noise in your head, the judgmental thoughts, the guilt, the frustrating thoughts. Every day when you wake up make it a habit to affirm who you are and remind yourself that you can. FOCUS! This is my mantra for everything in life, FOCUS. I have learnt to streamline my life in so many ways, this helps me stay focused, even on days that are tough. Shed some tears, wipe your eyes and pick it right back up. Add a little bit to the plan every day, it might not come initially but with time things get clearer and you begin to see again. Make it a part of your world to create a plan; economic plan, family plan, personal plan. We get overwhelmed and feel hopeless when things are vague, so take some time to breathe, if you believe in God ask Him for wisdom and make a plan. What do you want out of this? regardless of what you can see now, ask yourself what do I want out of this?
Thirdly, do your best, don’t try to be a mother the way everyone else thinks you should, just do your best. I had to accept that I couldn’t do the things other parents could afford to do, e.g. Go to work and attend all school activities, be at every social gathering or stay up at night to read a bedtime story every day. At first, I tried to but the burn out was real, so I stopped. Imagine waking up every day at 4am, I get sleepy by 8pm, parents can relate to this, I wake up at least 2-3 times at night to check on them and before you know it, it’s 4am again, so trying to be this super woman MOM wasn’t exactly working for me.
I picked on what I could and ensured my kids understood that my being there was a loving sacrifice and they learnt to accept the days I wasn’t.
Study who you are, and what works best for you and your children and do that, please do that.
Finally, a lot of single mothers shy away from getting help because they feel they will be judged or stigmatised and end up struggling. Please ask for help if you need to. Get as much help as you need, from those you can trust. Be comfortable in being honest and vulnerable with wisdom. Financial stability is key in all of this, creating a comfortable environment for your children is very important, so please get the necessary help you need so you can focus on building yourself; work, emotions, mental state, etc. That’s why SIMBS is here, listening ears, helping hands just for you.
Breathe you’ll be just fine.