I met single mum, Madam Walter, 53, on Christmas Eve. An acquaintance of mine had heard about her and thought her sharing would be inspiring for us all during these difficult times. Now 2020 has been brutal, hasn’t it?
Decades of Struggles, Still Optimistic
Madam Walter is no stranger to difficult circumstances.
A single mum. Mother of a 20-year-old daughter currently studying at a local polytechnic. Carer for a 21-year-old son with Down Syndrome. Volunteer at National Library Board’s kidsREAD programme to facilitate reading programmes for underprivileged children.
As we chatted, she choked back tears as she recounted her lowest point in life. Madam Walter recalled the countless hospital visits when her son was young. The mother’s love was evident as she recounted every parent’s nightmare – their beloved children going through health challenges.
She and her ex-husband both lost their jobs after the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. They even had to move out of the bungalow they once owned. Everything started going downhill for the family in the years to come and the marriage came to an end in 2002. Back then she was a finance manager in a landscaping company but had to give up the job in 2009 to care for her son full-time.
Despite the tough years, Madam Walter strikes me as a very optimistic lady who takes challenges in her stride. A lesson that we all need to learn! After going through the series of challenges in her life, overcoming each challenge with relative success, she is optimistic that she can handle any challenge life may throw at her.
When Covid-19 Hit
When the pandemic hit, like many, the family’s life was disrupted. Many of her son’s classes were cancelled and she had to make alternative arrangements. Now, families with special needs children would know that disruption to routine is far more painful and frustrating for these vulnerable families. Take for instance, before COVID-19, Madam Walter has almost successfully coached her son to follow a routine which he was comfortable with. But when COVID-19 struck, any routine that she had painstakingly built up with her son was disrupted. Needless to say, it was hard for the family.
COVID-19 has also impacted her financially. Madam Walter is currently a Level 1 Bowling Coach. Her coaching assignments stopped from April to late June. Even during Phase 2, she had only one or two coaching assignments. For many freelancers, things are starting to pick up, albeit at a slower pace. For now, she is looking to upskill and actively trying to attain Level 2 certification. In the future, she hopes to attain MOE certification to enhance her employability, and to get more long-term assignments.
Counting Blessings, Even as A Struggling Single Mum
“In April, everything was at a standstill, so the various social aids helped me survive,” Madam Walter recalls the tough period. Daily expenses, utility bills and transportation expenditures to ferry her son to programmes designed to help individuals with Down Syndrome. The NTUC Care Fund, Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS) where she received $1,000 a month for 9 months, and other COVID-19 cash payouts helped her along the way.
Organisations like the KK Hospital and the Autism School provided psychological help through counselling her son to help him understand the current situation and the situation at home. HCSA Dayspring SPIN also provided resources like counselling, and sponsored grocery bags and packed meals for her family during this period. As a single mum, every bit of help matters.
Madam Walter has also received support from the National Instructors and Coaches Association (NICA) set up by the NTUC to represent the interest of instructors and coaches. The NICA courses that she attended helped her in keeping relevant professionally.
She also recalled how she herself has benefitted from the bursaries given to her during her schooling days as her father was a union member.
The Days Ahead for The Single Mum
“I aim to be a better bowling coach, perhaps turning professional someday. I also hope that my son can be increasingly independent,” Madam Walter tells me.
A mother’s love is like no other indeed. Her joy and pride shone through as when she was scrolling through her photo album finding pictures of the precious boy and recounting the different events! Brings a smile to my face.
“My focus is to help my son be independent – I know I can’t care for him forever…” the single mum recounts her worries several times during the conversation. “He faces several medical conditions such as asthma, hole-in-the-heart and sleep apnoea. Madam Walter also occasionally suffers from vertigo and is anaemic too.
In sharing Madam Walter’s story, I’m acutely aware of the difficulties that vulnerable families with special needs children face. As a society, it would mean a lot to share some comforting words and to point them to resources that will help them get through one more day, one more month, one more year. 2020 has been brutal for so many of us. Some have it harder, some more blessed than others.
If you know of someone who is struggling or you are facing a difficult situation yourself, as Madam Walter shared, “There’s no need to be shy or embarrassed because everybody will have difficult times. Help is there if you want to reach for it.”
This holiday season, reach out if you know someone who needs support. The pandemic has caused much chaos and we all would appreciate a helping hand to get through the storm, wouldn’t we?