“Just a few months into my marriage and we started having troubles. I naively thought that having a kid will restore the marriage to normalcy. But when I gave birth to a daughter, things only got worse in a household that desperately wanted a male child. I knew I had to walk out, but it would mean raising my child without a father. Ultimately, I decided that staying would hurt my happiness and that of my daughter far more than leaving. So I left,” shares Yogini Patel from Gujarat.
Our society isn’t particularly kind to single mothers, especially if they decided to end the marriage. The most common advice doled out to women in troubled marriages is to endure for the sake of the child. But is it worth enduring? Does it add any value to the marriage or the individual? Is it even healthy to raise a child in a toxic environment that a strained marriage is bound to create? And if you move on, how do you thrive as a single mom?
Two brave women- Yogini and Pooja (name changed) share their incredible stories.
Yogini says, “It’s difficult. Before things got better, I was sustaining on a measly amount of INR 4000 from a basic job every month. Of which, INR 2000 would go towards my house rent. I was failing at providing even basic necessities to my daughter, and I was the reason she was living in such scarcity. It made me feel guilty beyond measure till finances took an upswing.”
On being quizzed about the unending challenges of being a single mother, Yogini candidly shares, “It’s nerve-racking sometimes. You do so many things alone. Clean the house, send your kid to school, pay the bills, go for work, cook food. Gosh! There’s no time left for yourself. I am the housekeeper, the friend, the mentor, the teacher, the father, the person my daughter fights with, the everything. It isn’t just your responsibilities but the added challenge of fighting to survive in a society that thinks you are available just because you are single that makes things more complex. All of this can test you to your threshold. But you just have to stay strong and keep at it!”
Sharing about her equation with her daughter she says, “Daughters are gold. My daughter is a mature and sensitive child. Her ability to move forward without complaining about the lack of a father-figure inspires me to move on. She is as cued into my emotions as I am into hers. But as she is growing up, I feel like having a father figure would allow setting more discipline in the house.”
“One advice that I have for single parents, especially single parents in India is to not give any heed to the society. They aren’t the ones who faced what you faced. They will speak all kinds of things, but you have to help yourself.”
Pooja is a single mother who is raising her teenage and adolescent daughters with grit and determination. Pooja (name changed) got into an arranged marriage very early in life. She had an emotionally and physically abusive marriage. While her husband would be away for most of the months, Pooja and her daughters stayed with her in-laws succumbing to torture for 11 whole years. “It’s like a fool’s paradise. You stay in the marriage for the sake of your kids, and that’s the thing that keeps destroying you from within. I just wish I had taken this step earlier,” rues Pooja.
She has seen her own set of challenges after moving out of her marital home. She shares that initially there were times when her daughters would crave for a full-member family. Pooja came from a small town which had the culture of big joint families. When she moved to the city with her kids, they craved the company of people and desired the combined attention of a mother and a father.
“My elder daughter never really expressed the thoughts that were plaguing her mind. In fact, I chanced upon an email she wrote to her friend expressing how she couldn’t fathom why people would separate. She was going through a turmoil of emotions but didn’t vent it out. Over the years, through tremendous communication based on trust, she has reached a comfortable place where she understands that whatever happened was for good. She is in the process of becoming a doctor now.”
When asked if she looks back at her journey with any regrets, Pooja quips, “None at all! I am ecstatic I took the step despite being scared. I can’t recollect a single memory of my daughters growing up when we lived in the marital home as I was too preoccupied with overwhelming negativity. Now that we are on our own, I can live their moments. We are far happier now and isn’t that the whole point!”
As an endnote, she says that being a single mother is a courageous act but advises women against over thinking the same. She strongly feels that if you need to walk out, just take a leap of faith and things will fall in place. She simply suggests that “Bad marriages create complex kids. That’s why they need lots and lots of unconditional love, attention, patience, and care.”
Being a single parent is humongous, but we find real-life examples of parents who are thriving and turning challenges into opportunities for themselves. They are inspiring people, starting businesses, empowering others in a similar situation and being grateful despite so many hardships. The most we can do as a society is: support them, can’t we?