women

Tamali Auma talks inspirations, men and resilience as she celebrates 9 years of single motherhood with her son

(Last Updated On: 16 May 2023)

Lira, May 15, 2023: Single motherhood is one of the common tasks most mothers are dealing with today. The responsibility is undoubtedly quite wild for many who have children whose fathers have either passed on or, they are alive but chose to neglect them.

An assessment carried out in 2004 by the Single Parents Association of Uganda (SPAU) found that over 50 per cent of families in the country are single-parent households. The majority of these households, SPAU said, consist of single mothers and their children.

In learning from her and how she has been able to sail through alone, bringing up her son who made nine years old on May 15, 2023, Tamali Auma – a daughter of Lango had an exclusive interview with TND News on Monday.

In this lengthy interview, read Tamali’s words.

Tell us who you are and how you have been dealing with the situation

My name is Auma Tamali. I’m a 31-year-old single mother. I became a single mother at the age of 22 and all along it has been me. Life of course has been me and myself. My son today is turning nine years and I’m so thankful that we made it this far, very many people give up so fast. We have had cases of abandoned children, we have had cases of children who have been handed over in the hands of steps, in the hands of parents but mine has been quite a journey of a struggle to make ends meet for the two of us since I realized that if I don’t do it no one else will do it for me.

So, how has it been for you for the last nine years?

Single motherhood, first of all, is not something nobody wishes for because honestly I should tell you that it’s quite challenging, very challenging and I can say ‘it’s not for the faint-hearted’ – you’ll need to put up with a lot of things including tears. Every time you’re overwhelmed with responsibilities you will begin to reflect, you’ll begin to ask questions ‘Why did I do this?’, ‘Why did this happen?’, ‘How can I get myself out of this?’ Imagine asking yourself questions that you can’t answer and you are asking these questions to nobody but yourself.

So, it’s not a journey for the fainthearted, it has not been easy for me as a single mother for these nine years given that first of all I became a single mother when I just had a three weeks old baby, that was the time when reality came before me that Okay, the relationship couldn’t go on anymore. We had to part ways and to me, it was shocking but I didn’t know it was going to be even harder as time goes by because that time the kid is just breastfeeding.

But the time came when I had to. And first of all, I became a single mother when I was a student at the University in my second year and you know juggling life as a single parent and you are a student at the same time…. you know what that means, you can’t live in the hostel anymore, you have to rent, probably you have to work for a few hours, you have to attend lectures. So, it was quite challenging and mine was even worse that I didn’t have a job, I was sustaining life the hard way at campus together with the child and the babysitter, we were just trying to put things together and it was one of the worst experiences I had during that time.

Even if responsibilities were not yet overwhelming at that time but what was before me was overwhelming because, imagine you have a baby, babysitter, and have to buy milk. So, it was a rough road.

Was that the primary reason why you parted ways with the father of your son?

Not really. The decision to part ways wasn’t mine first of all. Yes, I was a student but when that thing happened I knew of course it wouldn’t with his support I would manage because if you have someone supportive, a supportive partner you can still do your classes while he takes care of the other things given that he was already out of school and working. He would support me in a lot of things but all these did not come to pass, I had to wake up to the reality after giving birth and 21 days later he tells me something that…yeah, it was very hard to believe but then, at last, I had to take it that there was nothing much I could do because his family came in and made the break up very possible. I couldn’t also object. I was left with nothing to do at that point because many times we have seen people fight for their relationships even when the family does not want the partner you have brought, people usually fight but mine refused to fight and succumbed to the family’s decisions.

Even when I asked him he told me that ‘there is nothing I can do. If my family has objected to it, there’s nothing I can do.’ I had to leave.

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It’s now nine years. When was the last time you heard from him and he was asking for the boy?

I think I spoke to him last year in June. It was not even his call, it was my call. I made a phone call because at that point I was struggling with certain things that were pressing me down financially. So, I picked up my phone to call him and told him that would you just support me in this situation, I know I’m going to pick up and things will move on, well for me once again. And after we talked, the next thing I see is a call from his wife whom I don’t know anyway because I never met that woman that came after me. His wife made a phone call to me and started abusing me, insulting and then I am like, ‘Really, I think this is beyond you’. I just told her I can’t talk about anything with you, allow me to talk to the father of my baby, I’m not whatsoever interested in him but he has a responsibility to play.’

I don’t even remember the last time he called me to check on the child, how he’s, maybe to contribute anything. He doesn’t do that. So when I called and then I later got a phone call from his current wife with a lot of insults then I said, ‘Okay, I’m not discussing my child with you because you are not his mother, I’m his mother and I have called his father. If you don’t know that, he has a child, now you know that and there is a responsibility he has to take.’

Then I got to him later and asked him have you not told your wife that you have a child? He told me, ‘That’s the thing of you women I don’t want to enter it.’ It was a very sarcastic response that I got from him and I think that had to mark the end of my conversation with him since last year.

As I talk he even doesn’t know the class his son is in, doesn’t know that school, and doesn’t know where we live. I want to believe he even doesn’t know he’s alive because how do you know certain things if you don’t get close to them?

In all these situations what has single motherhood taught you?

Aah! Single motherhood has taught me a lot of things but I’m so appreciative. From the time I became a single mother, first of all, I didn’t know what I was capable of doing. I didn’t know myself. I grew up as a child that is so loved at home and I knew it would be a smooth road all along because everywhere I would go, even to my aunties, and uncles – people just showed me love, people supported me. There was a time when my dad was not doing well financially and I realized that three of our relatives all gave my dad money, and two people already cashing into the school account my fees. My money had to be moved to the next term… that is how I grew up. Everybody wanted me, it was always Tamali. I’m not saying they hated my siblings, no. So, that thing made me grow up (I can say I was a very weak kid because I knew everything was at my disposal anytime I wanted).

When I became a single mother, I saw a new world.

What was it like? It took me five months to break the news to my parents. I couldn’t even break the news myself but when I got home and I told them about the pregnancy everybody was bitter. The background that I come from, being a child from a religious family, I was not expected to do that before marriage but it happened and then they (my parents) had to put up with whatever I had done and three weeks later after giving birth, the man abandoned me. I became like tennis that everybody could toast here and there.

I learned first of all to be resilient. I wasn’t resilient; I used to be a crybaby in everything. I found myself all alone even after coming back home. Yes, I was accepted at home but you know when they accept you there are also things you will see and say ‘Okay, I think I’m not, really, really welcomed wholeheartedly here’ and of course, they were just reacting to whatever I had caused to the family.

And the second thing that single motherhood taught me was self-acceptance. I first lived in denial when all these whole situations started, I didn’t want to believe that it had happened, I thought it was going to be a temporary thing – something for a short time, maybe after one month or two we are going to get back together and things would be normal but it was a reality. I had to later believe it was now here, please accept it because no matter how much I tried to get back to him or change his mind about the support that I needed as a single mother it wasn’t there. I had to move on.

Single motherhood taught me strength. All along I didn’t know how much I could do as a person and believe me if I had been married even up to now I would still not know my strength but single motherhood helped me discover every bit of strength beneath my skin. I learned to wipe my tears alone, I fell and stood up and walked, I laid sick in bed and because I don’t have anyone to pick me up and take me to the hospital, I took myself, I discovered the strength that I didn’t know and up to now, sometimes when I look at myself I also wonder, I get shocked and like, ‘Is it me?’ ‘Is it me doing this?’ When I was starting a foundation of a house, a very big building that I don’t even think one of my close relatives has built, and then looked at this woman… Sometimes I also don’t want to believe it’s already me. So, I saw myself coming out of the cell that I grew up in; I grew up in a cell where everything you want is pushed inside there, now I learned to come out and look for it myself. Those are the few things that I can mention but single motherhood has taught me a lot of things.

You are not alone in this and many women, young and old mothers are like you. What would you tell them?

For many women especially those who are single mothers, the only thing I would tell them is, ‘You have to get out of your comfort zone and stop crying for split milk. It’s gone, it’s gone. Wait for what comes but as you wait you will work it out.’ A child or children being raised by a single mother, you as a mother should, first of all, know that child has you because by the time a relationship fails and the other person moves on and leaves you (especially for those whose fate is like mine: someone leaves you and doesn’t contribute anything you have to know that child is entirely on you) including their future.

Imagine carrying your future and the future of the child that you have, it means that you are going to work extra. If you used to work 6 hours, you must work either 10 hours or 12 hours. You will get out of that comfort zone and stop crying, that is one thing that single mothers waste a lot of time on, crying, crying. Yes, it’s okay to cry but as you cry keep making those baby steps. Today people see me and think I’ve not been there, I have been in the trenches, I have done odds that I wouldn’t even imagine as a degree holder, I have done things that I wouldn’t do if maybe fate had not sided that way. I put pride aside; I did everything and for who? For my child. I didn’t have to wait.

I kind of depended on people but not as a beggar, they gave it to me willingly, they kind of related to my story and a few friends would give me shop, and buy my baby milk but after University I had to put everything aside because there was no job and I had to start doing what I could to make ends meet.

I want to tell you that I sold chapattis; baked bread for sale to school children made mandazis, sold tea; sold charcoal, I did everything that I could do if I saw that I don’t have a bar of shop to push us this week. Many people just keep crying. One other thing that I don’t want to forget to talk about it is that after University, I decided to even leave home. My leaving home was to learn how to fend for my child because I realized that if I was to be home they would still be buying me shop, they would be buying me sugar, they would be providing me accommodation. I wouldn’t learn how to do things on my own. I only picked my mattress, a basin. I moved out of the house with six plates (I bought them shs1, 000 each) and about four plastic cups to a one-roomed house, it wasn’t cemented. I wanted to discover how much I can go, but my parents became so worried, especially my dad. When I left they kept on calling me, asking me how are you doing there? My dad kept on asking me and to him, he felt like I wouldn’t manage life alone and indeed it was hard but I knew I was building myself. I needed to face that, to realize how much I could go and I never returned home since the time I left eight years ago.

From the time my son was starting nursery school, I was already prepared and I was paying shs1.3m. Imagine the hard work between age zero (0) to four years and then you take a child to a school of shs1.3m, baby class. It was at that moment I said ‘Now I can do this’ because I saw term one got done, term two got done, and the year is done. We have been pushing on and my son today goes to the best school in any district I’m in. He must attend the best school.

I want to encourage single mothers like I said earlier, to get out of their comfort zone. That degree you are carrying won’t put food on the table if you don’t work it out.

What has the son told you that you will never forget?

My son tells me a lot of things that sometimes puzzles me. There was a time he asked me whether we could go back to the dad and I don’t want to always discuss my relationship with the dad, I don’t get him into an in-depth discussion about what has happened between us.

My son lives knowing that my mother and father do not live together. I have not always gotten so deep into conversations with him about that.

Do you think your current status will one day change? Perhaps you will say ‘I have had enough of this’ so let me try. 

Okay. We do not know what happens to our lives tomorrow. Like we live today and we don’t know what is happening tomorrow. I can’t rule out that it may change or it may not change, I can’t say that but every woman would wish to be married but single motherhood has also made me believe that you can’t also marry anybody. I’ve now learned to also set standards for whoever I would wish to marry, that is if my current status must change which I even see very many people can’t meet because I have those conditions as I learn from my lessons… I want to say that at this point it’s very, very hard but God is God. I can’t say that maybe it won’t change because I know even what I have set as a quality or prerequisite that I would take to change my status if that person is God-given and would meet all that. But without that I’m comfortable.

What is your best plan for your son?

My best plan for my son. I wake up planning for him, I sleep while planning for him. I can’t mention the best. What I plan for my son is to make him have a happy life and future. In this happy life, I’m instilling some values that are quite significant that I would be happy to see him having.

I want the boy to have a very stable home; a stable family where people don’t have to struggle because I know in every struggling family there is no happiness. The reason why I’m struggling to do everything, especially for him is because I want to set him prepared for the kind of life I want to see him have in future, I want to prepare him for it because I know in the Uganda of today you can have all your degrees, masters and you are fidgeting on the street. Especially by the time he’s graduating with his first degree, I want him to be in a position to live happily.

I think at an appropriate time you will talk to him about the kind of life his father has, and how you managed to build him up, into the man he will be at that time. What message for the future do you have for him, and for the wife he will have to choose?

The only message I’m prepared to give my son when he’s choosing a wife is: take whoever makes you happy and can grow you, able to build you, and is able and ready to grow with you. That is all. Why I have that specific message, my relationship failed because his dad failed to think for himself, I don’t want to judge him but he failed to think for himself, he allowed others to think for him. I don’t think I can even choose a partner for my son but I will advise him on who would make him the kind of man I wished him to be.

He always tells me every time he wants to be a minister so as his desire I think I also have a role to play in whoever he’s going to marry though I cannot choose for him, I have a role to guide him.

How close are you with your family as far as his growth is concerned?

I’m very close to my family. First of all, because my boy was taken by my parents at six months only. I had to go back and finish school and of course, concentrate. Living with the child at campus and the situation of single motherhood was quite challenging, I was not doing well so they decided to take up the boy. For every decision I make about him, I consult my family, they are very close. When I need fatherly discipline it is my brothers who do that, he respects my brothers because he knows that those are the fathers that are raising him.

If I am to go today or tomorrow (God forbid), they know everything of mine and I trust them that they can take care of my son, they can. My family is that close to me, to my house.

What would you tell men doing this?

Whereas we cannot decide things to do with companionship everybody has that kind of a person they would wish to settle with and at some point you may see things fail and we do not know why. But what I can only tell, especially men is if you know you are not decided to stay with a woman don’t have a child with them. There is that bitterness a woman will grow over you that if she is a prayerful person it will never go well with you.

There is that moment of dating and I think dating is not a waste of time, it is meant to make people know each other, understand each other, get to know those think that you think you don’t like but can be improved, all the things that you like and you would want them to continue, those are the aspects of dating we should take seriously.

Even when you find someone let your family know. For my story, I dated this man for two years before we had this boy but it was shocking for me to hear that his family has not agreed to the marriage and I was like all the two years what was he doing? Had he not discussed with his family that this is the kind of person that I have in my life? Because his family would have stopped him from that time and we wouldn’t be having a child.

Men don’t produce with anyone’s daughters if you know you will not settle down with them, don’t. Do everything within your means not to have a child; probably don’t even date someone you don’t wish to marry. If on the first day of dating, they are not meeting your qualities, let them go, let the lady go. The reason is that even that child won’t grow up a happy child unless maybe you put an extraordinary effort into making them happy. No child wants to grow up without a father or mother but there is that exceptional condition.

Today, March 15, 2023, he makes 9 years, how are you celebrating his birthday?

This is the first birthday of its kind. I’m also excited about it. I’ve celebrated all his birthdays from the time he was 3 up to now. We have not missed any celebrations but this one comes at a time when I’m able to meet one of the things I wished to do for him. Yes, we have lots of food today, we have drinks, and we are going to gather as a family and celebrate.

But one extraordinary thing is, I’ve been able to gift him a 40×57 meters piece of land and it’s just one of the things I’ve always wished to do for him because I want to achieve my plans for him and by the time he’s turning 18, I want to have put in place everything that I wish to do for him.

Tamali Auma
Tamali shows her son the land she has bought as a gift for his 9th birthday celebration.

Today we have just achieved one. We still have 9 more years to go and I know that in between those 9 years by the Grace of God, I will be able to fulfil all that I have laid before me that I must do for him.

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