In June 2018, Kim Mouton went from a married mom of one to a single mom. And she was none the wiser about the many struggles life would have in store for her following her divorce, including being without an income.
Divorced when her daughter was just a year old, initially Kim stayed in her marital home, and her husband moved out.
The house was later sold. At the time, Mouton was a recruitment administrator, relying predominantly on commission-based earnings.
This is one article in a series on the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on ordinary South African families. Find the full series here: Behind the Mask
"Once we had separated, this was no longer feasible as I needed a predictable income to care for myself and my daughter. I struggled to find a job with suitable hours or income in Cape Town, and that's when an offer from a family member came."
It was an offer, Mouton said, that required her to move to another province for a couple of months.
She had to start from scratch with her daughter, although it was not a permanent job offer. She was going to assist in a passion project by establishing a food truck business.
Fast forward to November 2019, when Mouton and her daughter settled into the new city, and she learnt on the go.
"My family member paid me a salary each month to do so. We were almost ready to launch. I employed and trained an assistant, the truck was ready and our menu offerings were tested thoroughly. It was just a matter of having the menus printed, and we would be ready for the busy December season."
Food truck stolen
"Then, one random Sunday morning, the food truck was stolen from the premises where we stored it and towed off into the sunset, last seen heading towards Benoni," Kim recalled.
"So, there I was, left without a means to an income. The food truck had been insured, but the thought of starting all of that hard work from scratch again was soul-destroying."
Refusing to give up, she got online and joined numerous job boards to find employment. In the meantime, she got financial assistance from her UK-based parents.
'Working during lockdown'
"In January 2020, I started a new job as a virtual account administrator with a company based in Ireland," Mouton said.
"Three months later, Ireland went into a very heavy lockdown. The company started losing clients, and as a result, so did I. We went into lockdown Level 5 around the same time as Ireland, and with the schools closed, I had to navigate working from home with my 3-year-old daughter present 24/7," Mouton added.
She told the company she was struggling to get her tasks completed during the day. But she told them she would assist her clients with their accounts in the evenings. Not an ideal situation, but they were very understanding, she said.
Mouton worked from 20:30 in the evening while her daughter was asleep. "I went to the shops and bought as much paper and crafting supplies as I could, and that's how I entertained my daughter during the (very long) lockdown days," she said.
"We met and spoke to more people in those five weeks than we had in the previous eight months. We also did a twice-weekly walk to our local Pick n Pay, conveniently situated across the road from our complex," she added.
However, things became worse for her by May 2020. Mouton had to give up another client account, which meant she was no longer earning enough to pay her rent in Johannesburg.
Return to Cape Town
"I had to make the sudden and difficult decision to return to Cape Town. Thankfully, our long-standing close family friends offered to come and stay with us (in their garden cottage) upon our return to Cape Town.
"Things got slightly easier once we were in Cape Town. We lived in a house with a garden, three lively dogs, two cats and some close friends," said Mouton.
"We slowly adapted to life back in Cape Town, although it was hard to process the sudden move and change and accept that I hadn't been able to say goodbye to my family or the friends I had made while in Johannesburg," she added.
"We are now living in a house-share scenario, and my daughter and I share a large bedroom. It's a three-bedroomed house, and we share with my friend, her fiancé and my friend's 14-year-old son."
At that point, she was working as a half-day personal assistant (PA), earning a half-day salary which could not cover their rent and other expenses.
"Fortunately, my ex-husband does pay maintenance and the school fees. My daughter is also covered by his company-provided medical aid," she added.
Compromising and letting go
Mouton is now working as a virtual PA for a UK-based company.
"That has been a blessing in terms of having the free time to spend with my daughter, and structuring my work around her, getting housework done, doing groceries, etc."
Mouton said they were managing now, but she wanted to move into her own space because it was hard to share accommodation with others. According to her, it takes a lot of compromising and letting go of things to keep the peace.
"Not a situation I expected to be in at 41 years of age!"
Read the full series here: Behind the Mask
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