By Joey Wee
In many aspects, Huda Lee lives a typical Singaporean life.
The 34-year-old has a degree and works full-time in a white-collar job.
She’s also a divorcee, a single mother to a 10-year-old boy and lives in a three-room flat in the eastern part of Singapore.
Perhaps one key difference is, unlike other single mums, Huda doesn’t shy away from sharing her story.
Not to complain about her life, mind you, even though it has been tough, but so that others like her can feel a little less alone.
Huda met her ex-husband in 2011 and they tied the knot a year later. In 2013, their son was born.
For the first few years, things went well with her ex-husband.
But as time went on, the couple grew apart.
“Whenever a problem arose, it was difficult to solve it with him because he was more avoidant when it comes to confrontations,” Huda tells The Pride.
The pair tried working things out: They went through multiple counselling sessions with three different counsellors but they didn’t succeed in resolving their differences. In 2016, Huda moved out with her son and went back to her parents. The couple divorced a year after.
Her ex-husband, who was a permanent resident, returned to his home country a year after their divorce.
Navigating life as a single mother
Getting back on her feet after her marriage fell apart was a difficult transition.
Huda was a stay-home mum during her marriage, and at first, she wanted to get a full-time job right after the split.
However, she ultimately decided to go back to school.
“I wanted to jump back into work, but my parents encouraged me to pursue my studies instead of committing to a full-time job right after my divorce. They wanted me to take some time to grieve,” says Huda.
Growing up, Huda has always been interested in social work but never had the chance to study it. So in 2017, she enrolled in Singapore University of Social Sciences for a degree in social work.
“I’ve always wanted to become a special education teacher. However, I realised that I wanted to learn how to help these children beyond the classroom, so I chose to study social work,” Huda explains.
But the initial few years were tough. Huda had sole custody of her son and because she was not working, she had to use her savings to support their living expenses for the first two years.
When her savings began to deplete, she took up a part-time job as an administrative staff at a law firm.
This meant that Huda had to juggle school, part-time work, her son, and still find time for herself.
She found little pockets of time to unwind. She shares: “Because I had to travel often – from class to work, or to pick my son from school – public transportation was a big part of my life. That was my down time, listening to music, reading a book, or just zoning out.”
In 2020, she managed to buy a three-room resale flat.
She graduated in October 2022 and now Huda works as a full-time teacher at a special needs school.
Though Huda’s journey has not been smooth, she survived by looking for ways to help her cope with her divorce and life as a single mother.
It was her son, family and her friends who kept her going.
“My son is a very energetic and bubbly child. He loves to play a lot and can be stubborn sometimes! But he can also be very loving and affectionate. He has his own room, but some nights he would ask if he could sleep with me,” Huda says with a smile.
In 2015, before her divorce, Huda set up a regular play date group with the mummies who often took their kids to a nearby playground. It grew to over 100 members and became a good support group for everyone.
“These mummy friends I have made from the playdate group, I connect very well with them. Single parent or not, parenting is something that we can all relate to,” says Huda.
She has also found comfort in sharing her story.
“When I share my story with other people now, I always find some sort of enlightenment (from the interaction),” Huda explains.
However, it wasn’t always like that from the start.
“I was so consumed by the idea of feeling that I was not good enough and that I didn’t deserve to get help. In fact, there were people around me who were willing to reach out and listen,” says Huda.
It was this help that she got, from listening to others, and interestingly, from retelling her story, that made Huda decide that she wanted to be there for others like her.
“I decided to do it to because I wanted to challenge myself (to reframe my narrative). The more I told my story, the easier it became to accept myself.”
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In Dec 2021, Huda started volunteering at It All Starts Hear.SG. IASH.SG provides peer support because it wants to make mental health more accessible and acceptable to Singaporeans.
The ground-up movement offers counselling, therapy and free “listening buddies” called Hear Buds. As a Hear Bud, Huda serves as a trained listener to guide people to work on their problems by helping them get to the root of their issues.
Telling her story on YouTube
As part of its new push on social media, IASH.SG released a video series on YouTube titled “A Walk With…” to encourage viewers to break away from their fears of talking about their challenges.
Huda is featured on the first episode and talks about her divorce frankly and candidly.
Sharing about divorce is very personal, so I asked why Huda decided to do so on a public platform.
“I was initially very hesitant about sharing my story for IASH.SG’s video, but I figured that the more I share about it, the more I learn to accept it and to be more vulnerable with my feelings,” Huda explains.
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“It’s a passion project for since we believe it would help people open up more about their feelings,” says Tong Xuhan, 24, who produced the series. Different episodes would focus on different topics, such as toxic masculinity or dealing with loss. The team is also planning shorter videos that are more topic-centric and practical rather than story-based, like Huda’s.
The longer episodes show people being vulnerable with their emotions and struggles.
“We wanted people to showcase people being raw with their emotions. We believe that it is a way to encourage others to do the same and share their emotions since people tend to be afraid of being vulnerable because it is seen as being ‘weak’,” says Xuhan.
“Building a good support system is important, because doing it alone is never easy,” says Huda.