JEDDAH, 29 January 2008 — Raising a child as a single parent is a laborious task. Many single Saudi mothers not only face the challenges of bringing up their children single handedly, but have to deal with countless everyday obstacles created by ignorant members of society who cannot accept a mother playing the role of both parents.
“My husband divorced me and then shamelessly refused to provide financial support for our children. Even though he lives very close to us, he refuses to let our children visit him,” said Bader, a 38-year-old Saudi divorcee. “I have five sons and four of them are teenagers. It is very difficult for me to play the father figure that my boys need,” she added.
“My eldest son has become very temperamental. He stays out late, his grades are dropping, and he doesn’t accept my advice. He’s hurting because of his father’s rejection,” she added.
Bader said that she has often pleaded with her ex-husband to take some interest in their children. He refuses to do so.
Umm Hatim, another divorced Saudi mother, said she is worried about her three children and is particularly concerned about her teenage son’s friends. “It’s very difficult to raise teenagers as a single parent, especially if they’re boys. The moment my son steps out of the house, there’s very little I can do to stop him from mingling with people who could get him into trouble,” said Umm Hatim.
She added that there are people in society who feel that a woman should stay at home and that such people look down on the advice given by women. “When I give my son advice he doesn’t take it the same way if his father had told him. This is because of the negative mindset he has developed because of certain sections of society,” she added.
Fahmia, a widow, said she has had a hard time preventing her teenage son from getting involved with people, who she suspects are involved in drugs. Fahmia went to the extreme of moving home and relocating to an expensive flat in a different neighborhood.
Saudi social worker Suzan Al-Mashhadi told Arab News that single mothers in Saudi Arabia face immense obstacles while raising their children. She attributed their problems to people, who do not have proper religious or social education, and irresponsible ex-husbands.
“Some men will try to get revenge from their ex-wives by neglecting their children and not providing for them. Some will pamper their children. For example if it’s a boy then the father would buy him a car at a very young age, give him lots of money and simply spoil him, leaving the mother to deal with the problems,” she said.
“The Saudi single mother’s troubles are doubled if she’s raising a teenage boy, because she won’t even be able to visit his school without causing him unbearable embarrassment. This is considered a father’s job. But what can a mother do when the father fails in his responsibilities? When there is trouble at school, who will talk to teachers? She’ll be resented by her son just for trying to be a good parent,” said Al-Mashhadi.
“And it’s because of irresponsible fathers and ignorant people in society who are quick to judge a woman... what is a mother to do when she is left alone with responsibilities meant to be shared by two parents?”