The joy of being able to run into a father’s strong arms. The serenity of falling asleep to a mother’s soothing lullaby. Finding two unassailable forts standing in your protection at each turn of life. No pleasure can be held above that of knowing the unconditional love and support of one’s parents.
But what about children who grow up with only one pair of feet guiding their path?
According to what a 2019 UN report had to say, 12.5% of all Indian families are led by lone parents. And a single mother leads 8 out of 10 families. Invariably, these figures have exponentially risen owing to the pandemic that the entire world is reeling under. But are all these children, growing up under single parents, really being left behind in the race of life? Are they really missing out on something precious?
Amisha, a 10th grader hailing from a reasonably conservative region of the country who has been a part of a single parent family from as long as she can remember, states that growing up she has been acutely aware of their lives being fundamentally different from her counterparts living with both parents; but in no way does that put her on back foot. In fact, quite the other way round, being raised by a single mother puts her in unique advantages in several spheres of life, she remarks.
Indeed, whether a child was raised by a single parent or not is a crucial factor that shapes his personality. Living with a single parent gives the child a higher perspective on many things that no other experience might.
For instance, kids who have witnessed their mothers fulfil the roles of both mother and father, or vice versa, are more likely to believe in gender equality since they do not grow up seeing any demarcation of roles. Men brought up by single mothers are, in most cases, more empathetic towards women’s issues as well. Similarly, children brought up by single parents are observed to become emotionally mature at a significantly younger age than their conventional counterparts!
Given India’s social status at a grass root level, it is easily assumed that children growing up under the wings of a single parent are vulnerable ‘targets’ since they only have one pillar of support. This is more obvious to single-mother families as it is considered that they lack a shield if they do not have the protection of a father. But the fact that is easily missed is that this awareness of not having a secure safety net to fall back on empowers the children and makes them able to defend themselves and their loved ones from a very tender age. These children are not helpless but rather are much more reliable than their counterparts.
Even though not a trait exclusive to single parent households, a lion’s share of single mother families in India are prone to financial crises at some or the point of their lives. Subsequently, people who have seen their mothers, or guardians, battle through such adversities during their childhood, grow up as more financially aware individuals. They are also more likely to become financially independent at relatively young ages.
Being raised by a single parent strangely brings the parent and child closer. While conflicts between parents lead to lack of communication with kids in many ‘normal’ households, a single parent is much more likely to bond better with his kids because both of them become conscious of the fact that each other is all they have got. Choosing to raise one’s kid by oneself instead of opting for remarriage not only protects the children from possible domestic abuse but also reaffirms their faith in their parent. And how can being able to win one’s child’s understanding and support be anything but a joy?
At the same time, the parents raising their children alone have a completely different experience. Speaking about social reactions Mrinal, who is an activist raising her son alone after her separation from her husband, states that society as a whole is quick to judge and many times she is unnecessarily put at the receiving end of snide comments. However innocent one’s intention might be, people need to understand that being a single mother does not make her helpless or vulnerable in any way, she continues. While not everyone has necessarily experienced such discrimination and lack of understanding from those they are surrounded with, many examples can be painful and frustrating. And this is where we enter the picture.
It is important for us to understand that assumptions and preconceived notions associated with single parenthood, particularly single motherhood are not only unnecessary but also indecorous. It is important to learn that being a part of a single parent family does not make someone marked. It is important to realise that no one sets out to be a single parent; they set out to be the best parent that they can and that’s all that matters.
Far from incomplete, single parent families are at times more ‘complete’ and stronger than their supposed normal counterparts. They do not need our sympathy. Because they are much more normal and much better off than we consider them to be. Instead, we need to learn from them. Because every such story is a lesson of immense resilience and bravery.
And it is rightfully said, “Being a single parent is twice the work, twice the stress, twice the tears. But it is also twice the hugs, twice the love and twice the pride.”
Dedicated to all single parents and their children, around the globe. You inspire us like no superhero tale would.
Author’s Disclaimer: Some names are changed for confidentiality.
DISCLAIMER: This article reflects author’s view point. Goa Chronicle may or may not subscribe to views of the author