By Ruchita Agrawal
I was at my cousin’s place last weekend and the discussion veered round to how difficult life can be for a single mother, even in an era when more and more people are becoming single parents, due to personal choice or marital break-ups.
My son is two years old but has spent only 12 days with his biological father. I have been single-handedly taking care of my son and, yes, life has been challenging given that I am a working woman.
People often ask me how I manage my office, home and child, and I tell them I am still learning. But along the way I have learnt quite a few life lessons that are worth sharing with others who find themselves in a similar predicament.
Lesson number 1: One has to overcome the fear of ‘log kya kahenge?’ (what will people say?). For me, ‘sabse bada rog, kya kahenge log’ (the biggest weakness is what will people say). This fear of how society will judge you messes up your life. If you begin to worry about what those nit-picking neighbours, aunties, uncles, co-workers, et cetera say, just ask them to take a hike and mind their own business. You and only you have to decide their importance, if any, in your life.
Lesson number 2: Don’t multitask. This is a huge failure, at least for me and some other single parents that I know. I don’t bring my work home, no matter how important it is. I finish my work in office. Time management is everything. When I am at home, my world is my son. There are times when I have to work, but I usually do that after my child is asleep. Yes I have to sacrifice my sleep at times, time but then kuchh paane ke liye kuchh khona padta hai (you have to lose something to win something).
Lesson number 3: Start looking for schools that are okay with single parents. Believe me, I was denied admission in a pre-school because the authorities said they need both the parents for the activities that they conduct for their wards. I was shocked to hear this, but it is important to know that such schools do exist. Fortunately, there are schools that welcome single parents. In such case, the school also wants to know whether or not the other parent is allowed to visit the child (in case of a minor).
Lesson number 4: Grandparents are the best. Let your child have their chhatra chhaaya (shadow or influence). Believe me, as a working parent, I can only trust my folks rather than the maids and crèches. I am not saying that crèches are not good, if grandparents are not willing or not there to support then that is the only choice one has. Grandparents are the best bet.
Lesson number 5: Hire a maid whom you can trust with all your housework and cooking. Usually those who are willing to do a 9-to-6 job. This way the grandparents need not worry about daily chores and they can supervise your child without any fear or feeling of being exploited. But this isn’t always a smooth affair: often the elders and the maids get into a rift and your phone doesn’t stop ringing with the complaints from both the parties. You have to be the peacemaker and deal with the situation diplomatically. These days, we also have technological solutions, such as cameras, that are a boon.
Lesson number 6: Never lie to your kid about being a single parent or about the other biological parent. Legal issues apart, do not fill their mind with hatred for the spouse who is not around to see their child grow up. This is the most difficult part. Let the child be open and decide on his/her own.
Lesson number 7: Never crib about being a single parent or about the responsibilities you have because life can be so much better than being with a lousy partner. There are days when you will be extremely positive and full of energy, but you will also encounter times when you experience frustration and will feel demotivated: the best solution for such a recurring problem is to find a hobby. I have found mine: mehndi (henna) creations and workout. Believe me, it gives me a lot of satisfaction. A consultant once told me ‘Any form of creativity is satisfying’. It can be anything: cooking, writing, photography, painting, singing, dancing, carpentry, workouts, anything…
Lesson number 8: Find happiness in small things. Don’t look for happiness in foreign trips or leisure shopping or expensive spas (social media is evil that way :P). There are so many small things happening around us and we always overlook them. We keep thinking about a foreign trip, but a stroll in the park with your child can be one of the most satisfying moments. My son keeps scribbling on the walls. Initially, I used to stop him from doing that and, at times, even scolded him. Yet, nothing stopped him from scribbling. Now I allow him to do that. I clean the walls and when he watches me clean he wants to clean them too and that moment is the most fun and satisfying moment.
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