They say it takes a village to raise a child. From sending them to school, to teaching them good habits, to protecting them from harm or danger, it is an all-consuming, full-time job. But in today’s world, nobody has a village at their disposal. As nuclear families have become the norm, it is often only the parents who have to shoulder the responsibilities that raising a child entails. And when families break–as they sometimes do–the situation gets more difficult.
Women are often forced to leave bad marriages with nothing but their children and the clothes on their back. Sometimes, it is the death, or estrangement from the spouse that leaves them to fend for themselves. Whatever be the case, they build their lives–and those of their little ones–from rock bottom, with little to no support from a disapproving society. These women wear the hats of both the parents and do their absolute best to raise their little ones into healthy, happy, responsible adults. All this, while also building their own dreams and careers.
“A child needs a father,” “Women cannot have it all,” are among the things we commonly hear. But all around us are inspiring examples set by single mothers who indeed have it all and do it all. In their courage and resilience, there is a lesson for all of us. This Single Parents’ Day, Soulveda speaks to single mothers about their journey, the challenges they have faced, and how they have evolved as individuals.
Walking the spiritual path
I have raised two children–one with special needs–more or less on my own, for the past nine years. My former husband fell in love with another woman and left us out of the blue one day. All of a sudden, I was left to fend for myself. I was in debt, confused about whether or not he was coming back, and struggling to raise two toddlers. Years of financial, emotional and social turmoil later, I have finally decided that enough is enough. I have adopted the path of spirituality, and I have stopped expecting anything from anyone. Now, I have learnt to be content and self-sufficient. This has helped me attain the ideal state of mind to raise my daughters at this point in time. – Vinitha Kusalavan, homemaker
One happy parent is better than two miserable ones
I was a university topper when I graduated with an MBA in finance. Right after that, I married the man I had fallen in love with. At the age of 28, I quit a cushy bank job to raise our baby daughter. The signs were there and people warned me. But it wasn’t until much later that I faced the fact that my husband was a philanderer. His disloyalty to me was so apparent that our daughter knew about it. The knowledge sent her into severe depression and she developed fibromyalgia! It was then, that I realised I had to remove us from the toxic relationship, and I did. And it has made our lives infinitely better. My daughter has overcome her illness and become her cheerful, energetic self once again. And I have started pursuing a master’s degree in psychology. Today, I have realised that one happy parent is better for a child than two miserable ones. – Angeline Babu, entrepreneur
One of the first things I told my daughter when we separated from my husband and moved into a one-bedroom apartment was, “We are not going to cry anymore. From here onwards, we will only smile.”
I forgave him, for me
I walked out of a physically and emotionally abusive marriage when my son was 10 months old. I didn’t take alimony or ask for any share of the property. The initial days were really hard, especially because of the excruciating divorce proceedings. I suddenly had to do everything by myself. But luckily, I had a very good support system. Today, my son is nine. I feel that he has grown into a healthy boy. The hardest thing I have had to do over the years is forgiving my former husband. All the hate and anger that I was harbouring towards him was only hurting me. So, more for my sake than my son’s, I forgave him and let go of all the negative emotions. Personally, I feel more centred, calm and happy today. I live in my home, I drive my car and I’m living my own life. I feel empowered.- Sandhya Rao, communications professional
No more tears
One of the first things I told my daughter when we separated from my husband and moved into a one-bedroom apartment was, “We are not going to cry anymore. From here onwards, we will only smile.” I think I have kept that promise for the most part. She was five at that time, and she had already seen a lot of violence between me and my husband. I got divorced soon after the separation, and have raised her on my own for the past 10 years. From her kindergarten to adolescence, I feel like I’ve grown up along with her. Being a single parent requires you to play the roles of both parents in your child’s life. This balance has been a hard thing to achieve, but the effort has been worth it. My daughter has grown up well. And so have I; I’ve become stronger and more patient. I have overcome the resentment I used to hold towards my husband. And all of this has made me a happier person.- Priyadarshini Basu, communications specialist
Be selfish about your happiness
The most important lesson that I have learnt from my experience of being a single parent for nine years is–it’s okay to be selfish about your happiness. My son is 15 years old and he has been instrumental in helping me design my life as a single parent. He had witnessed a lot of violence in my marriage and it was his wish that we get out of it. Now that we are free from that toxic relationship, we have become closer than ever. He gives me cards on Father’s Day, with a note that says, “You are my father!” And over the years, we have become this island of happiness.-Sandhya Krishnan, entrepreneur
I am free to be myself
I have been raising my 14-year-old son by myself for the past five years. It has been a beautiful and challenging journey. Raising a boy singlehandedly, while also managing my career and running the home, has been quite a challenge to say the least. But what makes it all worth is the freedom I get to be myself and live life on my own terms. Socially, I have had to face a lot of stigma. A lot of people don’t seem to understand how a woman can be happily divorced. But I have learnt to deal with it. From a person of low self-esteem who was totally dependent on her husband, I have grown into a confident, smart, independent woman. I have beautiful dreams for the future and I am working on developing the ability to achieve them. – Savitha Shivakumar, management professional
Becoming my own resource
I have been a single mother for nearly four years now. Although, it feels like it has been longer, given that I was almost always the sole caregiver. My son is eleven and my daughter nine. Dealing with two kids by myself has been hard sometimes. Especially as they grow older, more opinionated and rebellious, disciplining them while keeping the peace becomes harder. On the other hand, it’s good that I don’t have one more person to take care of. Being civil with my former husband and keeping the communication channels open has been the biggest challenge for me. I have stopped feeling like a victim, taken responsibility for my life and become my own resource.- Ashwini Jaisim, communications professional
Learning unconditional love
I have three children–my oldest is 27 and youngest 17. I have raised them by myself for as long as I can remember. Supporting them financially through their school-going years was extremely hard. When it came to disciplining them, I had to play both the good cop and the bad cop. I failed at times, but learnt along the way that a mother is enough for her children most of the time. From being an unsure, unconfident person, I have transitioned into someone whom no challenge on earth can deter. I have also become the epitome of patience; I wouldn’t have survived otherwise. I have also learnt so much from my children: acceptance, unconditional love, and resilience in the face of all odds. I have been blessed that each of them has grown up to be confident, wonderful human beings.- Jyothi Victor, homemaker