Being a single mom is one of the hardest jobs, trying to be the good cop and the bad cop at the same time, making enough money to support yourself and your children, and of course making difficult decisions for your family. Being a single mom in Egypt is even harder, whether these hardships come from the society and how they look at you, or from the actual laws that make a difficult task even harder.
Sometimes, the Egyptian society believes that the ideal, most proper, situation – in which a couple has children and remains together forever – is what must happen. Disregarding the fact that sometimes things don’t work out as they would expect them to; sometimes people aren’t happy together and they get a divorce, sometimes accidents happen and people are widowed. Anyone whose situation doesn’t fit the ideal is immediately frowned upon or at least looked at and treated differently. This is especially true for women. The ideal solution would be to move back with your parents, but not everyone can do this. It might be because of the independence they’ve gotten used to, or it might be because it’s just not feasible.
We spoke to real women who have been through this whole process; we asked them how they dealt with it, the laws, career and even dating!
Suzanne Mokhtar, Chef and Founder of A La Suzanne Boutique on Wheels.
Women are starting to notice that Egypt is lacking laws that protect women and their right for custody in the case of divorce. Who better to explain this than women who have been through it, and experienced this first hand?
Suzanne Mokhtar, Chef and Founder of A La Suzanne Boutique on Wheels, has her own views on this, “the only law that could protect a single mother and her child would be the implementation of the law that protects the child’s future by having the father fully responsible of the coverage of all his children’s financial responsibilities”, she tells us. On the other hand Rowaidah Bibers, a single mom of three kids and Media Director at a PR agency has a different view, “It’s not about laws, it’s about the parents respecting each other and keeping their children as the main priority. They should try to keep things as clean and easy as possible”, she says.
“I find it shocking that I cannot keep my son if I got married!”
Getting separated from your children is every mother’s worst nightmare. Suzanne recalls her own experience “when it was time to get my divorce papers signed, my most shocking news was that having a son is not the same as having a daughter. A son gets to stay with his mother only until the age of 6, unlike girls. For a mother of a boy, that seriously freaked me out”, she explains.
Nariman Sadek, mother of a 3 year old son and a Business Development Director tells us about this revelation, “I find it shocking that I cannot keep my son if I got married! Nobody can replace a mom, no matter what”, she tells.
Mariam Habib, PR Manager at Fairmont Heliopolis Hotel.
Being a single mom is not easy in terms of your career. Having a full time job to support your child, and wanting to be there for them is a lot to juggle. Mariam Habib, a single mom of a 6 year old boy tells us all about it, “I have a 9 to 5 job, but I make sure I’m there for my son all weekend when we can really do things together”, she says. She explains that a flexible job is key when it comes to being a single mom, “they have to understand that your children are the priority”, she confirms. Nariman emphasizes the difficulty of juggling both tasks, “it’s very tough, I only get to spend 3 hours a day with him, and on weekends he goes to his dad, but I try as hard as I can to plan play dates and trips for just the two of us”, she says.
“They have to understand that your children are the priority”
When a single mother applies for a job it’s not a simple task, “it’s very challenging, because I’m not as flexible as I was before having a child. Not every employer can accommodate”, Nariman says. Discrimination against women because of such matters is illegal. Rowaida explains, “if it’s a respectable company, they shouldn’t care about such things, but I know this still happens in Egypt”.
“Single mom, be patient. Don’t let your anger out on your kids. That’s what I try to do, give them time”
Nariman Sadek, Business Development Director.
“Mentioning my son from the start is the most important part before even considering dating because he is me, he is my package, take it or leave it”
“Dating? Yes I do date and it’s what a single mom should do”, Suzanne says, “be only in a relationship with a man who totally respects your duties as a mother and helps you maintain that balance”, she continues. Rowaidah agrees, “I think single moms should give themselves a chance”, she tells.
Balancing between dating and giving your children the attention they need could get quite tricky, but is very important. Mothers are still women and should have the right to have partners. Nariman explains it eloquently, “I believe it is healthy for me and therefore for my son. It fulfills some areas inside me that need fulfillment and therefore I can re-balance myself and give my son what he needs”, she tells, “of course, mentioning my son from the start is the most important part before even considering dating because he is me, he is my package, take it or leave it”, she concludes.
Rowaidah Bibers, Media Director at PR Agency.
We can all agree that being a woman, let alone a single mother in Egypt, has its challenges, “it’s being a mother and father at the same time. Not knowing when to pamper and when to teach some manner”, Nariman says. She adds, “Especially in my case with a boy, learning boys’ psychology. To give him love without spoiling him and turning him into another jerk”, she elaborates.
It is, without doubt, a big responsibility, and can take its toll on you, Mariam confirms, “the biggest challenge is that all the burden is on you. You are the decision maker. Responsibility over the education, manners and even the activities you want your children to be involved in. Sometimes the emotional burden is worse than all the other things”, she says.
“Being a mother and father at the same time”
Here is a piece advice for all the single mothers out there, tried and tested by fabulous, successful single mothers:
“Single mom, be patient. Don’t let your anger out on your kids. That’s what I try to do, give them time”, Rowaidah Bibers.
“Dear single mothers, always believe that everything falls in the right place, work for it, be easy on yourself and exercise to release stress and keep your beauty. Passing through all these life challenges makes you very proud of yourself, and a much stronger woman”, Suzanne Mukhtar.
“Abolish the word guilt from your life and treat yourself, don’t wait for someone to do it for you! And enjoy the love you get from your kids”, Mariam Habib.
“Never look at what you cannot do, focus on what you can do. What you have already done is a lot!” Nariman Sadek.