Eva Yoo Ri Brussaard, president of the Single SuperMom Foundation, an organization in the Netherlands which she founded to support unwed mothers and their children, finds many parallels between the Netherlands 30 years ago and Korea today when it comes to single mothers.
“Being an unwed mother in the Netherlands was also seen as shameful and something to be hidden. Young girls were often sent off to convents and forced into giving their children up for adoption. Fortunately, things have changed. I hope things will change for Korea too,” said Brussaard in an interview with The Korea Herald.
Eva Yoo Ri Brussaard, president of Single SuperMom. (Single SuperMom)
In Seoul earlier this month to seek a publisher for a Korean edition of “Single SuperMom,” her Dutch guidebook for single mothers, Brussaard said she wanted to help single mothers in Korea with inspiring stories of famous, successful single moms and practical advice.
“I don’t want to shock the people. It is a positive book. It is a step for creating healthy society, not promoting single motherhood,” Brussaard said of her book.
A Korean-born adoptee ― she was adopted by a Dutch family at 13 months ― who became a single mom at the age of 23, Brussaard brings a unique perspective to the discussion of unwed mothers.
When she was pregnant and the child’s father left her, Brussaard never questioned whether she would raise the child herself. “I thought, ‘I have to give him a good life,’” she said. In fact, her experience as an adoptee made giving up the child an impossible choice. “Growing up, I always missed my mother,” said Brussaard, who eventually met her birth mother some 20 years after her adoption.
“Young mothers should be given a chance to raise the children,” Brussaard said, adding that she didn’t see adoption as a gift.
Brussaard acknowledges that conditions in the Netherlands and Korea are vastly different. A law school student at the time she became pregnant, she was able to support her child because of government support.
“For four years, I didn’t work. I raised my child and finished school,” she said. In the Netherlands, the government supports single mothers who do not work with welfare and rent-controlled housing. Mothers in school are given loans and financial support so they can finish their studies. “Working mothers can either work part time or choose flexible working so that parenting can be better managed,” Brussaard said.
In the Netherlands, where there are 1.5 million single mothers and about 2,000 teenagers become moms each year, single mothers are very common and society accepts single-mother households as a type of modern family, according to Brussaard.
Is Korea ready for a guidebook on single motherhood?
“We have to start it. If nobody does it, things will never change,” said Brussaard, adding, “the book could be a first positive step for single mothers.”
By Kim Hoo-ran, Senior writer