Parenthood brings with it a host of challenges in ensuring the offspring receives a proper upbringing. For a single parent, this challenge is multiplied.
However, single mother Siti Norkarlina binti Abdullah of Kuihkasih.bn is undeterred by the obstacles and hardship that come with raising six children, instead keeping her focus on providing a better life for her children.
The 33-year-old has put to good use her tools and baking knowledge, resulting in a growing popularity for her kuih makmur, commonly known as kuih mor in the Sultanate.
Speaking to the Bulletin, Siti Norkarlina said she had initially started a biscuit-making business in 2005, after learning to bake from her former mother-in-law.
The business was put on hold after Siti Norkarlina’s late mother had fallen ill and became paralysed in 2015.
At the same time, the single mother had to provide care for a relative with special needs, making it difficult to adjust the timing to operate the business.
After some time, Siti Norkarlina started working on contract. When that ended, she found herself without work or a source of income to provide for her children.
Earlier this year, she gathered the courage to run the business again – for the sake of her children, especially considering she does not receive any financial aid. Her eldest child is 16, while the youngest is just over a year old.
“My daily kuih mor-making routine is dependent on customers’ orders. I typically start the dough preparation after Subuh prayer, before baking them by 7am as customers come in to collect the orders by midday,” she said, adding that orders are taken a day prior.
In a day, Siti Norkarlina uses an estimated two large cans of ghee butter to produce 13 large containers (each containing 50 kuih mor pieces) and a small container with about 20 pieces.
“The profits are sufficient to cover the weekly family expenses. From January to February, we did not face difficulties in terms of kitchen expenses. I’ve been able to buy formula and diapers, sugar and other essentials,” she said.
Now that the eldest two are of age (the second eldest being 11), they are able to help their mother after returning from school. The eldest daughter will be sitting for her GCE ‘O’ Level Examination this year, while the second child will be sitting for his Primary School Assessment (PSR).
“This business was revived because of the support I have from my children and the need for an income. To find work now is quite difficult for me as I still have younger children to care for,” she said.
Relying on government financial aid is not an option; an application made previously had yielded no results. Perhaps there are others who need it more, she opined.
“I don’t receive financial aid of any sort, not even that for single mothers, so this is the only income we rely on,” she said. “Alhamdulillah, the reception we’ve got from customers daily has helped add on to what we need,” she said
The business is experiencing a steady rise, with customers from as far as Sungai Liang and Temburong District commuting to Siti Norkarlina’s Kampong Rimba home to pick up their orders.
“Regardless of what happens or even if I am tired, I have to strengthen my spirit and intentions for the sake of her children.
“Sometimes there is a sense of giving up, but looking at my children, I know I will have nothing to spend on them if I quit. Their hopes and wishes cannot be fulfilled if I do,” she said.
Her view is that single mothers have to make sacrifices to generate an income and provide for their family. To solely rely on aid will be an obstacle once money is needed urgently.
“Making cakes and biscuits will be able to patch up what is lacking. We need to pluck up the courage to carry all this out. Courage to try doing things such as selling biscuits, cooking and handicraft is important… the important thing is that we try even though we might fail at first.
“We just keep trying and trying until we rise, and remember that all this is for the sake of the children.”
The single mother hopes the business thrives to the point she is able to have an actual business premise, as they currently bake in-house in their living room.