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Single Parenting is slowly finding its place in our society. Fraught with biases and challenges, it is still considered a less-than-ideal form of parenting, but is that really the case? Take a look.
When I was a child, back in the 90s, I remember my mother and I being offered a lift from my school, by a lady whose daughter studied with me. We didn't really know the lady, Ms. Ratna (name changed), but my mother had often commented on how beautiful and graceful she seemed, coming to pick up her daughter in her white Ambassador car daily. When we sat in the car and started talking, my mother introduced herself, giving her full name. Ms. Ratna introduced herself as well. "Just call me Ratna. There is no surname." She proceeded to tell us that she didn't use her husband's last name, who had deserted them after she gave birth to a girl child - her daughter Supriya. She was now divorced from him, and raising Supriya alone, with support from her parents. My mother was struck by her honesty. I remember her telling my grandmother later about how she found the woman's candor extremely impressive and courageous.
Nearly 30 years down the line, being a single parent is not as big a taboo as it used to be. According to a United Nations survey in 2017, 320 million children across the world live in single-parent households, and a majority of these single parents are mothers. Though single-parent households are not as common in India as they are in Western countries, the numbers are on the rise.
The law has also started to recognize single parents, particularly unmarried mothers, citing that "A single woman can be a natural guardian and also a parent".
While we know that there has been a 39% rise in the number of single women over the past decade through the 2011 population census in our country, it, unfortunately, does not have data about their family composition yet. So, it is difficult to ascertain how many of these single people are also parents.
Some major reasons for single-parent households are:
According to Dr. Neerja Pande, a Rehabilitation Psychologist, Hypnotherapist, and Trained Counsellor, there are a number of reasons why a parent may take care of their child alone.
"It is a mistake to assume that just because there is only one parent, the family either has some grave disadvantage or advantage. Just like two-parent families, how a one-parent family works depends on a lot of different factors," she says.
Karishma Parker, Bikini Athlete, and Fitness Blogger became a single parent when she left her marriage at the age of 31. Her child was just one year old. She says about her decision: "To me, my self-respect, happiness, and mental health were more important than societal pressures. And yes, giving time to my child, working and managing our finances at the same time was certainly a big challenge."
The road ahead was not necessarily the smoothest, but Karishma held her ground.
One of the major drawbacks of being a single parent is that there's only one earning member. If your child is older and you had a partner, keeping your child's standard of living at par with what she was used to, can prove quite difficult. You might have to work doubly hard to make a reasonable living.
Even though single-parent households are becoming more common in this country, there is still a relative lack of social support, especially for people who choose to become single parents.
According to Dr. Neerja, "How a child reacts to being brought up by a single parent depends a lot on what the family situation was like before the parent took the decision of separating, and on the age of the child." Many couples separate because of excessive violence or conflict, which can hamper their child's emotional growth. In such cases, the separation is likely to help. However, in other cases, a single parent might find addressing his child's issues especially tough on their own, particularly if the child is in her tweens or teens, as children usually experience heightened emotions at that age.
You might have to fight unwanted attention from other men, especially if you are a single mother. Single fathers might also have to resist the societal pressure of getting married or re-married.
However, it is not completely a rocky road. There are quite a few single parents who like Karishma, find that it was much better for her to raise her child alone. "I had my independence. There wasn't any stress of taking care of the tantrums of an adult. I had my peace of mind."
Since children would no longer witness parents arguing, a single-parent household has a more secure and less stressful environment.
Single parents often rely on support from extended family, trusted friends, and neighbors for help. This provides children with a sense of community and other families.
You can decide where you can spend your money without any chance hindrance from your partner.
Since there is only one parent, there are no mixed messages in your parenting - for example - where one parent might say one thing and the other might contradict.
Even though it's a common belief that as a single parent you must play the role of both parents, it is an over-expectation. If you just perform your role as a parent and let your child form attachments with other trusted adults, that is good enough. There is no one right way to raise a child. With the right kind of attitude and determination, single-parent families can be as successful as dual-parent families.
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