Meleane is a community-minded single mother of five on a mission to create opportunities for New Zealand-based Tongan artists and creatives to find success. It’s also in the community where Meleane has discovered the benefits of accessing help and support services for her family.
As a single working mother, Meleane Tuakalau knows the importance of asking for help – and it has nothing to do with pride. The mother of five is a passionate community worker and business student at Unitec. She is also pregnant with her sixth child and lives in Mt Roskill with four of her children, daughters Trinity (13) and Kaho (2), and sons Sione (7) and Vili (5).
Meleane says being a solo parent while working and studying is a challenge, particularly because she doesn’t have family living nearby to call on when she needs support. “A typical day for me involves preparing lunches and running the kids to school – primary and high school – and daycare. I’ll then get myself to uni before picking them up again. “At home I’ll do little chores here and there, sit down to get assignments done or spend time with the kids before making dinner, then bedtime. That’s basically the day for us. The only time that I get for myself is when the kids are asleep.”
Older siblings have a role
At home, she is also grateful for the support of her daughter, Trinity. “Trinity is a great support for me, watching the kids while I study and do work around the house. She’s awesome,” says Meleane. Trinity says it feels good to be able to help her mum out with the kids. “I can see how much work she has to do, and I’m glad I am here so I can help out.”
“I admire how committed she is to working – she does a lot of community work – and how strong she is, to look after four kids with one on the way,” says Trinity. Trinity’s advice to other older siblings is to help out with the younger kids; “read a book or put them to sleep because that would give mum and dad time to rest.”
Say yes to support
Meleane says, as Pacific Islanders, a sense of pride can make it hard to ask people you know for help if you fall short on things like food or finances. “Sometimes we don’t access the support available to us because of this pride.”
However, Meleane has found it easy to reach out to local community initiatives and support services when she needs a helping hand. “I started asking during the first lockdown. There were people walking around our neighbourhood delivering food boxes to our neighbours. That’s when they asked if I’d like a box too,” she says.
“The box was full of a lot of food and vegetables; all the stuff that was good for the kids to eat, and things that I wouldn’t shop for so I thought it was great.” Now Meleane asks for anything they can offer because she knows every little bit helps ease her load.
Still, the only time Meleane has for herself is when the kids are asleep.If she could ask for one thing it would be to have an adult to mind the children from time to time. “I don’t have somebody onhand to watch the kids so I can have time to go out and chill or hang out with a friend without the kids. “This is something I can’t get these days.
My children are my biggest joy. I love the kids but it’s also important to have me-time as well.”