In a world that seems to be made for pairs, it takes courage to go it alone and do what is considered the job of a couple: raise a family. But while single parents navigate many hurdles and learning curves to bring up their children, do they have enough support when and where it matters?
In her latest book Going Solo: Raising Happy Kids , (published by Vishwakarma Publications) Delhi-based writer and counsellor Sujata Parashar focusses on the rising number of single parent households in India, through the lens of her personal experiences along with those of 50 single parents.
The stories of 11 single fathers and mothers have also been featured in a separate section of Going Solo .
The slim volume covers myriad issues related to the subject, such as parental self-esteem, mental health, discipline and communication, in a concise style.
“A vast majority of single parents in the country — most of them women — go solo due to forced circumstances. People assume that single mothers are bad decision makers, poor caregivers and even doubt their character,” says Sujata, explaining how this leaves them emotionally distressed.
Excerpts from an email interview:
What inspired ‘Going Solo’?
I’m a single parent. I’ve raised my (now 17-year-old) son Lokevidu by myself for most part. I’m also a psycho-social trainer and have been holding parenting workshops across the country. The seed for Going Solo was sown a few years back while conducting a parenting workshop, but it took me a while to finally write the book. While there is a lot of emphasis and material available on dual parenting, there is hardly any literature or guide available on single parenting. I wanted to address this gap as the challenges and needs of single-parent households are different from those of dual parent households.
How accepting are we of single parenthood in India?
In India single parent families are on the rise, due to reasons such as divorce, desertion, death or even a desire to experience parenthood without marriage. While Indian society is slowly opening up to the idea of single parenthood, their numbers are still small.
Society looks down upon such single parent families, especially those headed by women. Single mothers have it worse, as not only do they have to face multiple responsibilities but also lack social and financial support. They have to bear the brunt of social disapproval for their broken marriage. People assume that single mothers are bad decision makers, poor caregivers and even doubt their character.
Besides one’s own family what kind of support network should a single parent try to create in order to bring up a well-adjusted child?
For single parents, one of the best ways to create a stable environment for their children and themselves is to have access to people who can help them, by making or becoming part of a strong social network. For my research, I got in touch with three online communities. One of them, the Single Parents International, has over 700 members from India and other parts of the world. The founders are from different cities but are like a tightly-knit family and readily available to help their members at any hour of the day. The platform offers its members legal, medical and financial advice and support.
It is important for working single parents to have friends (especially someone who lives close by) who they can talk to when feeling low or can help with their children during emergencies. For working professionals, it is also important to keep their boss/colleagues in the loop about their domestic situation.
Does staying cordial with ex-partners make a difference to a child’s well-being?
Yes, it is highly recommended to maintain an amiable relationship with ex-partners. It is difficult for children to accept their parents’ divorce. They remain emotionally conflicted and blame themselves for the disintegration of the family. So it is important for parents to keep their differences aside and come together to take care of their children. Ex-spouses must be able to clearly convey their unconditional love and support to their children.