BY MITA ARORA
They seem to be self-sufficient, cheerful, carefree, and unaffected by their children. They may even be able to pursue their own interests because they "chose" to be a single parent.
This is a reference to one statement, that I came across while attempting to comprehend how challenging it must be to raise kids alone — that is, without a spouse by your side. The individual who made this statement raised children in a dysfunctional household, had been in a loveless marriage for more than 20 years, and believed that this was predetermined by the stars.
Not everyone has this feeling, and they are aware that raising a good and healthy child requires more than will. It takes a parent who is prepared to take charge and act as the super parent, protecting the child from the pessimistic views of a select few with an invisible cloak.
I met these amazing parents who, because of the choices they made, were able to raise their kids to be strong, independent adults who had a stable upbringing.
“I understood when they parted ways, it was for the good. They explained that they will love me, and I knew that they will. They did too. I was glad I no longer had to hear them yelling at and blaming each other. I was happy as I got to spend quality time with both, even though it came post months apart from each parent. I respected them more afterwards,” shared Harsh (student of class 12 in Goa).
Life has been difficult for 60-year-old Baga resident Suhana Pandey who was divorced at the age of 34. It has been full of obstacles, from being a homemaker to finding ways to support her two small children. She did, however, decide against getting married again since she was more comfortable raising her two boys by herself than relying on someone else again.
“My youngest son got married recently. Seeing him beaming, I felt all the pain, ordeals wash away. My children are settled in life and are my pride. I left my alcoholic and abusive husband as he was neither a good husband nor a good father. It was better for us three to be happy, than for four of us to be miserable,” said Suhana.
Suhana, a single parent
Neelam, 50, decided to end her marriage after realising that she had been in a loveless marriage for more than ten years and that she didn’t want to wait to be happy until her youngest child reached adulthood. Neelam had raised her children with her spouse for the majority of their married life. She didn’t want her kids to believe that marriage is just a compromise between two different worldviews.
“I would say I opted to be a single parent and made sure they maintained contact with their father. I didn’t let our differences come in between. I wanted them to have the nurturing of both parents. It’s been challenging with so many hats and roles, and not at all easy to be a both, good and a bad cop. I have to often second guess the decisions as I can’t discuss it with anyone else. Though it is exhausting it has worked out as two of my children are adults and only one teenage son is there, who gets all of our help, as well as our love,” she shared.
Neelam, a single parent
There are also super parents, who haven’t chosen to be one. Raising a child with a parent whom they can call/connect is very different from raising ones who are too young to understand the loss, or are old enough but can’t comprehend as to why death knocked on their doors and took away one parent. The onus then shifts to the surviving parent to be free from survivor’s guilt and to possess the necessary empathy to comprehend their suffering and needs.
Joe, a 50-year-old Ashvem resident, lost his wife seven years ago to a medical condition. He was in a dark place for the first few days, and it took his adolescent older son to help him come out of it and start paying attention to both of his sons.
“When my wife passed away, I first learnt baking as that was what she used to do most for the kids. Though it took me time, I learnt it, so that I could compensate this about her and also over the past few years taught my sons to do it. We miss her presence, but are blessed to have each other. I try to be a good parent. I don’t ever feel like I am doing it alone. They are my biggest support and I try to teach them as much as I can, without imposing anything,” shared Joe.
There are many parents like these, who are raising their kids in Goa. Struggling to make ends meet while also attempting to improve and brighten their own and their children’s lives. What they really need is a little assistance with occasional babysitting, words of encouragement and support.
Do make an effort to get in touch with single parents you know, spend some time with them, listen to them and support them. Tell them you don’t expect them to handle it all by themselves. In order to raise a conscientious and capable citizen, they must feel like super parents, assist them to put on their invisible cape.
Please note: Names have been changed, to safeguard privacy of the parents and the child.