Looking forward to the annual budget? Here’s our wishlist for Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman!
This personal account of a single mother reveals that there is light to be found at the end of the tunnel – you can and will rise above adversity.
“At last, it’s time!!”
You may be wondering why I said these words. Well, it took me 7 long years to accept that –
It’s OK to be a single parent
It’s OK to raise a Child without a perfect family
It’s OK to stand up as a Mother and proudly say, “YES , I AM A SINGLE PARENT”, without feeling sorry or ashamed about it.
Growing up in a regular middle class and conservative joint family, it was normal for a girl not to look beyond marriage as the ultimate goal of life. Apparently, one has to adapt, accept and move on without complaining as, it is said, this is what life is all about. Fortunately, God seemed to have other plans in store for me. As I grew up, I realised that this ideal image of marriage and family had a lot of imperfection.
However, I come from a heritage of women who support women. While growing up in a conservative household, I was always told to dream, to never give up, to keep trying and accept failures as opportunities for a better life ahead. Above all, I was taught to learn to forgive myself and move on. These are strong virtues that my grandmother a.k.a ‘Ammaji’ taught me. Needless to say, her teachings rubbed off on me and I grew up to be independent .
My mom always lived her dreams through me. She was the one who pushed me into dancing (classical Bharatanatyam); in fact she was my strongest pillar of support after my Ammaji passed away. Dancing became my life, kept me grounded, ambitious, passionate and goal oriented. I performed extensively across the state, even on Doordarshan, had my Arangetram and won a state level gold medal for dance. I was featured in leading newspapers of the time. One can say my dance career peaked at the age of 20-21.
Just when I was making my mom proud, the time came for me to choose between – Marriage , Work or Dance. I chose to work as it would give me some time to be more independent and continue my dancing alongside. I got a job in a hotel as an HR trainee, and moved into the IT
Company as it gave me a constant stream of income as I continued to dance. But guess what? Life always has a way of bringing you back to the same crossroads. It seems I had to marry.
I did so with an agreement with my in-laws that I would continue my dance and work even after marriage. However, I struggled to keep up with dancing as work schedules were hectic, and expectations at home were increasing too. I eventually had to stop my dancing and focus on my family and work.
Five years into my marriage with a three year old kid, I decided to get a divorce and move. Fear, anxiety, depression, arguments, work pressure, physical abuse, the child’s needs – his fevers, colds, and court visits – became my life for the next two years. During these testing times, what kept me rooted was my job, my family and my grit to adapt. A separation is certainly not easy and can create a lot of physical strain and affect one’s mental and emotional health.
Still, I appreciated this change in my life as I received my greatest learnings during this period.
When you decide to separate, it’s not just you; it’s also your family who goes through this experience and the accompanying pain along with you. Further, the world runs on money and that’s a cold and hard truth. For me, financial independence is key. Thankfully I was earning and had a decent job that was sustaining our needs.
Having a safe shelter and a mom who was a lawyer, guiding my every step during these tough times, was a blessing. Children are the ones who get affected the most, and as a mother, you must understand that the child is your first priority and always will be for the foreseeable future. I realised the value of freedom when I stood in the court and had a judge decide my future with my son. It is certainly not something any woman and her child should have to face. Society played a major role in my life, in the way the belief systems are structured.
During my testing times, I did a lot of research to understand how to deal with certain situations and the kinds of help I can get. I came across many women who were single mothers. I found that there are four types of single parents – A Divorcee, A Widow, A Wife whose husband has migrated elsewhere, and a wife who has to earn for the whole family, as the husband is unemployed or incompetent. It’s estimated that 4.5% of all Indian households are run by
single mothers (this translates to 13 million household mothers). And I am proud to say that I am one among them today and have no regrets .
So when you decide to get married, understand that there will be issues, disagreements and fights. But ultimately it is how you respond and not react . Play your EGO down and look at each other as friends. Yes, it took me 7 long years to settle down, pay off my loans, build my own house, create a life that functions seamlessly, without compromising my job. It’s not easy, yet it’s not impossible. This was a life I chose, it’s no one’s fault and no one is to blame. Sometimes situations are such that they keep you pushing hard which in turn brings out the best version of you and helps you grow stronger.
To deal with all this alone and that too with a child, we need to be aware and remind ourselves of a few key points-:
My advice to all the women is to stop thinking that there are no opportunities, that there is no help around and that men are not dependable. All you need is a mindset to surge ahead. It builds resilience mentally and physically to approach any situation that comes your way in a positive manner .
Today, I work with various organisations to raise awareness about women empowerment, the upliftment of single mothers and ‘STEM for girls’ initiatives. I work keenly on projects that help women advance in the world of technology, that help break the social taboo towards single mothers to get them to be accepted in society.
My vision is to build an ecosystem for women to feel financially independent, physically secure and enable them to achieve their dreams without regrets. I found my purpose and peace by helping more women around me- it heals me from within. You really need to be the change you want to see!
The world is brimming with limitless opportunities waiting for you. Don’t feel lost or feel humiliated about what has happened in your PAST, life is all about the now. Embrace the now because “It’s your reaction to the adversity, not adversity itself that determines how your life story will develop”.
Top image is a still from the Hindi movie, Ki and Ka
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