Growing up in a single parent family

Growing up in a single parent family

When Chung Jing Kai found out that his parents were getting a divorce, he was relieved. He was only 14 when his parents separated. His father, who often smoked and gambled, was a poor example of a father figure in Jing Kai’s eyes. ‘My dad would often come home drunk at night, and end up arguing with my mum,' recalled the senior laboratory analyst, now 26 years old.

Not the end of their struggles

On the verge of poverty, his mother struggled to make ends meet and provide for the family. ‘My mum was the sole breadwinner. She had to save her dough all the time and not spend on luxury wants. Being the youngest among my siblings, I spent the least amount of time with her, especially while she was working as a retail assistant. Because of that, I am not very close to my mum,' said Jing Kai, who studied biotechnology in ITE College East.

$10 per week for food expenses

He received $10 per week for food expenses, but it was not enough for him. ‘My sisters and I receive the same amount of money, but they eat less. They don’t spend as much as me,' said Jing Kai. ‘Back in secondary school, everyone’s going through puberty. And for guys, we feel hungrier. We will definitely spend more money on food.' It also meant that he could not afford the luxuries his schoolmates could, like school bags and fashionable items.

I got teased

He even cut down on showering to save on water bills, which caused him to develop body odour. ‘I got teased, for not showering enough, by my classmates, my sisters had to shower once a day too, but they didn’t get teased about getting body odour because maybe it doesn’t come as strongly for them, as compared to guys,' he added hesitantly. ‘At the back of my mind, I really wished my classmates could understand my family situation.'

Working part-time jobs at a young age

To ease his family’s woes, Jing Kai took up a part-time job as a chef shortly after he completed his ‘O’ levels. For 10 months, he kept to a strict budget, setting aside about $200 of his pay for his mother and another $100 to pay his bills.
‘My eldest sister has been supporting the family income for about eight years. She did part-time studies all the way. It’s been tough on her,' he said.

Things got better when he found a job

After going through six interviews in a month, he secured a job as a senior laboratory analyst in January this year. While he admits there hasn’t been much change in their relationship since he was young – they are still not close – Jing Kai believes in supporting his mother as much as he can.
‘I made her breakfast once for Mother’s Day,' he said with a bashful smile. ‘I mean, I’ve worked in the kitchen, so I thought might as well lah.'

Becoming a better father

After witnessing the impact of his parents’ divorce on his family, he only hopes that his future family will not experience the rough patches he went through. ‘If I get married, I hope I can become a better father to my children than my father was,' said Jing Kai.

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