Super Sri Lankan mums: Christina Francké on being a single mum and rocking it
"Don’t let people shame you into making bad decisions. What ever you do, weigh the pros and cons of the decisions you are making, some of them will have long term impact on you. Speak to other Mums. Accept help and advise." Keep reading for more of this awesome ammi's interview!
Christina Francké (Chrissy) is clever, vibrant, funny and warm. She’s also mum to a smart little boy, Sammy, and two fur-babies, Bella and Pepsi.
To kick-start our ‘Super Sri Lankan Mums’ series, we thought of speaking to Chrissy because she is a single mum in a country where being single and raising a child goes against the norm. The single mum status often raises questions from curious aunties and other concerned parties such as, “Why child, not getting married again?”, or, “Aney, apoi, how on earth can a single woman bring up a child these days, ah?”.
Chrissy shows us how to handle such unwarranted advice and questions with grace and a grain of salt, while absolutely rocking motherhood, despite encountering a few challenges along the way.
We hope you are inspired by our conversation with this awesome ammi!
What’s the hardest part of being a single mum? What’s the best part?
The hardest part would definitely be the fact that you are solely responsible for this little human who is growing in your home! The fact of the matter is that there are no breaks, no time-outs and no holidays or even moments away from the child — and if you do happen to stumble upon a break you honestly don’t know what to do with yourself, as they are few and far between.
Financially it can also be a huge strain (and drain) because I am 100% responsible to generate income for every expense in the home.
The best part are all the little rewards I get as a mum. The smiles, the hugs, the jokes and cuddles. I also think the rewards are all the more sweeter when you know how hard you have had to work to bring this child up and he turns out to be a good kid.
Who has been your biggest source of strength and support when it comes to help/advise with raising your child? Why?
I have to say it has been my mum. I had a crisis pregnancy and there was a lot of conflicting advise given to me. But my mother stood firm and just told me to concentrate on being a mum (even though there was a lot of pressure on me to give the infant up for adoption).
I can never repay my mother for her wise words and her positive attitude that helped me believe that I could make it alone.
How did you get through particularly rough days, especially when your son was younger?
Oh wow.. and there were some really rough ones too! Fortunately for me I had a great support net (my two brothers and their wives) who were just brilliant.
But a lot of the time I would just cling to the fact that what ever we were going though would pass and things would change for the better. I have strong faith in God, and I think that a lot of the time this really helped as I always knew we would be okay.
Does your son ever ask where his dad is? How do you manage those questions?
Well, he is almost 10 now and yes, there are days he is full of questions. I am as honest as I can be with a 10 year old! I don’t think he needs to know all the gory details, but it really helps that he too has a very pragmatic nature and tends to take things at face value.
I don’t discourage his questions, but sometimes I tell him that I am not ready to answer certain parts of them. He understands that.
What it is really like being a single mum in Sri Lanka?
Sometimes I really struggle in Sri Lanka, since while living in Australia I had a lot of emotional support. Also, people tend to be more inclusive of single parent families over there. Occasionally, I think people are not quite sure what they are supposed to do with the two of us.
A lot of people think that ‘finding me a husband’ will magically solve all my issues and concerns! But for the most part I also think it is your own attitude. I have had a lot of people reach out to me and ask me for help and to advise friends and family who are single parents, and think that we really need to create a safety net and take away the silent stigma attached to ‘being alone’.
As far as help and support in day to day activities go, I think that since maids and extended family are easily accessible here, it is much easier than doing all the hard yards alone overseas. I still joke about the fact that I have not locked the toilet door in ten years!
On days I feel really overwhelmed, I remind myself that there are over 40,000 female single parents in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka… war widows who are far worse off socially, economically and emotionally than I am. What a sobering thought.
How do you deal with ‘Aunty questions’ such as ” So child, when are you getting married again?” and so on?
I usually joke about things like this. Of course I would love to have a ‘proper family’ – but who says I don’t already?
We have all got so used to the traditional family portrayed in 1960 hollywood movies and still shown in our local advertisements (husband, wife, son and daughter), that a single parent family looks abnormal to us.
When aunties ask me these impertinent questions I usually joke back at them and tell them that they married the best looking man in the room and I refuse to settle for second best! (This way uncle is also delighted).
Has motherhood changed you? How/ why?
Absolutely. I never realised I could love someone as much as I love my son. I have also realised that I am far more patient that I ever gave myself credit for.
I also discovered that I can function on little or no sleep..and I learned to cook (and loved it). The last ten years have been a journey of discovery of myself as well as this amazing little boy I gave birth to. He is such a little character and he delights me. Once you become a mother, life stops being all about you, and starts to be all about the child in your arms.
Have you ever felt judged by others for being a single mum? If yes, how did you deal with the judgement?
Actually a lot of that happened when I was a new mum. I was dealing with a lot of other personal issues and trauma so I didn’t cope very well. My mother was my rock. She also told me to focus on being the best mum I could be, and that is exactly what I did. I still get the occasional ‘hostile vibe’ or a ‘sleazy vibe’ off opportunists, but those were around even pre-baby days.
I tend to be very open and forthright about my life and my journey, so I think people have learned to either love me or hate me. There is no pretence in my life and I try to keep things as uncomplicated as possible. And I have a well developed sense of humour. I cannot stress that enough. You have to learn to laugh at yourself.
What was the first week of single mum-hood like? The first year?
I honestly can’t remember much of what happened after my son was born. The first month passed in a daze. The first months brought about huge changes in my life.
I had to constantly think of this other little human and be there for him and I felt so surreal. It actually took me a few months to bond with him and I used to feel like I had gone to the shops and come home with this baby. I had no emotional connection to him.
But after a few months, he turned my heart to mush and literally switched a light on inside my head. Ten years on, I cannot imagine my life without him.
What’s your message for single mums out there?
Don’t let people shame you into making bad decisions. What ever you do, weigh the pros and cons of the decisions you are making, some of them will have long term impact on you. Speak to other Mums. Accept help and advise.
There are a lot of well meaning people who say the wrong thing, but have good hearts – learn to ignore the insensitive comments and appreciate the good ones. Most of all – breathe! As long as you are happy and healthy, your baby will be too.
Have a sense of humour and have a few friends with whom you can share your journey with. These friends will be your lifeline.
You can listen to Chrissy on WorkDaze on weekdays from 10 am to 2pm, as well as The Sunday Brunch with Chrissy from 10am -2pm on E FM 88.3.
Are you a single mum with words of wisdom to share with us? Or would you like to be featured in our ‘Super Sri Lankan Mums’ series? Just leave a comment below!