A FRIEND once told me that humans have the resilience to wade through hard times and come out stronger.
This friend lost partial hearing as an adult and she was courageous to say this when I asked her how she was coping with her disability.
This view about human resilience stuck a chord in me.
I always remind myself that with care and support, we can do almost anything.
However, this belief was tested recently when some friends decided to end their marriage, leaving them as single mothers of several primary and secondary school-going children.
These women are smart, courageous and hardworking but like many others, the Covid-19 pandemic brought about changes to their lives and careers.
Some of these women lost their jobs during the pandemic, with only six to eight months’ worth of retrenchment benefits for them to sustain their lives while finding new employment.
One single mother from the beauty industry is still struggling to secure a job one year on.
In the meantime, she started selling home-cooked food but it cannot replace her once stable income.
She wants to be hired full-time but is finding it hard as there are few vacancies for someone in the mid-level career position.
Though there has been a lot of news about unemployment among fresh graduates, they have fewer family commitments as compared to those in mid-level careers who have to contend with car and housing instalments, besides having to care for children and ageing parents.
For some of these new single mothers, living in the Klang Valley can prove to be too costly.
A friend decided to leave Shah Alam and move to the smaller town up north, where her children are living with their father.
I feel her pain and understand her struggle.
She came to the city wanting to build a better life for her and her children but the cost of living and job uncertainty made her change her mind and return to the smaller town.
Though she still has a full-time job, she has taken to selling garments online as a backup plan in case she is retrenched down the line.
Planning for the future during a pandemic is especially challenging.
One friend ended her marriage earlier this year but always had a stable income and was brave enough to enrol for her postgraduate studies in May.
Unfortunately, she was retrenched recently and is having sleepless nights.
She is now frantically trying to find a job while wondering if she should continue her postgraduate studies due to her financial situation.
I hope she continues her studies because that will allow her to upgrade her curriculum vitae and seek better job opportunities in the future.
Mind you, all these women do not receive any alimony from their former spouses that can help support their lives. Instead, they need to be able to stand strong on their own feet.
My hope is that more women empowerment grants for single mothers to kick-start business will be made available.
These single mothers are from the middle-income or M40 category and if they fail to secure a decent paying job, they will fall into the B40 category soon.
With a lack of family and community support, they will go into depression and that would just cripple the harmony of the family units.
During this difficult period, they need a lot of support from their peers, family, co-workers as well as the government.
It is time to have more avenues such as professional counselling services made accessible to these women too.
They need friends and family members who will not ostracise or criticise them for choosing to end their toxic relationships.
Instead, lend them a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on when they are trying to wade through these tough times.
As for the public, we can always support them through their business, with their children’s needs or anything that would make life easier for them.
The pandemic did bring its share of opportunities for some people, but also brought social and economic disadvantages to many.
Having braved two world wars, we can overcome this too.
But only if we choose to be kind to one another.