It pained her to give up one of her 11 children for adoption to a relative several years ago because she could not cope financially.
Then, about two years ago, her husband walked out on the family after meeting another woman, leaving her to raise the remaining 10 children, aged between four and 18, on her own.
Just when Madam Rafeah Abdul Kadir, 36, thought it could not get any worse, loan shark runners appeared last year.
They were after her husband, Mr Mazlan Abdul, 37, who had apparently taken out loans using his former home as his address.
After the runners left a note outside her unit demanding that he pay up, Madam Rafeah was so frightened that she made a police report.
She said: "Luckily, they did not splash paint on my door. I don't know who else my husband had borrowed from. I worry for my children's safety."
Fortunately, they did not return. But earlier this year, other debt collectors came knocking.
At the family's bare three-room flat in Hougang last Wednesday, Madam Rafeah showed The New Paper letters of demand from four legal moneylenders.
Mr Mazlan, who was then the sole breadwinner, had apparently borrowed between $300 and $500 from them. His debt was about $3,200, including interest.
Creditors were not the only ones looking for him.
Madam Rafeah showed this reporter a "Final Warning" copy of a warrant of arrest for Mr Mazlan dated June 30 for failing to pay maintenance to her.
She said she had not received any maintenance since April.
When contacted, Mr Mazlan, told TNP that he could not afford to pay the fortnightly maintenance of $500, comprising $300 for the family and $200 as instalment for utilities arrears.
While Madam Rafeah has no idea how to get in touch with her husband, and his parents claimed to have no idea where he is living, Mr Mazlan's presence online is obvious.
On Facebook, he can be seen posing for selfies with his girlfriend, believed to be a colleague. Just last Wednesday, a photograph of Mr Mazlan dancing with her at a Ladies' Night party in a Bollywood club on Arab Street was featured on its Facebook page.
Said an upset Madam Rafeah: "He goes out with his parents and girlfriend to eat at nice places. He's clearly having a good time. What about his children? What are they supposed to eat?"
Their youngest daughter, Tina, suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy, among other ailments and has to be tube-fed.
This means Madam Rafeah cannot leave home to work and has to depend on the kindness of others to make ends meet.
Fortunately, the family has been getting help from several organisations, such as the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, Association of Muslim Professionals, Ministry of Education and North East Community Development Council.
In total, they get about $1,700 a month along with food rations, textbooks and uniforms.
A counsellor, who has helped the family since 2010, confirmed their plight.
"Our aim is to make sure the children remain in school. My biggest worry is what happens to the family if the flat is sold," said the counsellor, who declined to be named.
The flat, which is still under Mr Mazlan's name, has been renovated with new cupboards, beds, lights, toilets and a fresh coat of paint, thanks to Pape Engineering who found sponsors for the $10,000 renovation for this charity project.
Madam Rafeah's daughter, Haliza, 17, said: "We are thankful for the assistance. Now what we have to do is just survive. My father acts like he is a rich guy with a big family when he actually has nothing."
With their father missing, the eldest child, Nazrul, 18, has been forced to become the man of the house.
With Haliza's help, he ensures that the younger siblings bathe and eat on time before leaving for school.
The two, who are studying at the Institute of Technical Education, also iron their siblings' clothes.
Come bedtime, Nazrul lays thin mattresses in the living room for his two brothers.
He said: "Sometimes it's hard playing this role. Two of my younger siblings, who miss their father, will ask about him. I just tell them that he has not returned from work. They just wouldn't understand."