Being a single mother is twice the work, but is also twice the pride
Iused to find it rather strange that on a plane they advise you to put on the oxygen mask first before assisting others. I used to roll my eyes, shake my head and mutter to myself every time I heard that, ‘Of course I won’t. I will help my child first and then myself ’. However, there is a rationale behind this recommendation. It is absolutely critical that you look after yourself through a crisis, so that you can give your children the very best of you. The same applies to the life of a single mom.
Yes, it is nothing less than a crisis to be a single parent. There are many vectors of uncertainty, many demands and limited means, many desires and finite resources. So, it is absolutely critical to be as calm, healthy and happy as possible, to be able to instill the same calm and happy energy in your child.
In India, where we like classifying people in stereotypical buckets and giving labels, I am tagged as a ‘Single Mom’ but I believe that there is nothing single about me. Just as I am a daughter and a son to my parents, a boss and a mentor to my staff, a friend and a confidant to many; I am a mom and a dad to my four-year-old son.
I get odd expressions from people when this manifests into reality. In schools, for example, the silent eyebrow communication between parents when you walk in for PTAs or occasions. Even when the principal adjusts her spectacles to double check if indeed there is no father accompanying. From the sudden lust you witness in a man’s expression or the immediate disgust in women when you say you don’t have a husband, the range of reactions that a single mother can evoke is countless.
I didn't let this bother me. As someone said, ‘It is their problem if they don’t like you or find you unacceptable, not yours. You concentrate on providing the best for yourself and your child’. That’s exactly what I did when I moved from a DINK (Double Income No Kid) to a SISK (Single Income Single Kid) status.
I planned. Planning is very crucial to being a successful single mother. Let’s face it; landing with a child in arms, with no shoulders to rest my head on, was not how I had envisioned my life; but having gotten there, the only option I had was to make the best of it. I got my Plan B in place.
Plan B meant happiness and contentment for my kid and me, irrespective of the circumstances. It meant securing all loose ends and ensuring financial independence should anything happen to me or I can’t work for the desired length of time. It meant getting back to my happy self, physically and emotionally. It meant taking a second look at my life to prioritise, up skill and outsource.
A sound career and financial independence is the most critical step to achieving satisfaction as a single parent. Financial independence provides you both security and confidence. It bestows the much required emotional satisfaction of being able to afford your kid’s requirements for now and for the future.
It is hence very critical to choose a workplace that allows for diversity, flexibility, and also the space and time required to singlehandedly manage work, children and one’s life. Most organisations now recognise that the responsibility of a child makes women more mature, tougher and stronger. The proven multi-tasking ability of a single mom is now able to attract more recognition and trust among colleagues, clients and the powers to be; than ever before.
The second most important thing is to stop worrying. Worry hasn’t solved any problems, but actions certainly have. One must relax and get the requisite number of hours of rest. I took some serious actions to put some of my recurring worries to rest. Starting with me, I focused on getting healthy—a bearable BMI, within-range vitals, stronger stamina and reduction in clinking glasses.
As a single parent, there are many insecurities, but topping the list is how vulnerable your finances are. I had a housing loan eating up a huge chunk of my salary, plus personal expenses, lifestyle expenses, kid’s education, medical, maintenance and others. I had to take some corrective actions to secure my life, my finances and my child’s future. Using a range of financial instruments, I picked a life and health cover for myself, a child insurance plan for my son, insurance on my home loan, regular mutual fund investments through SIPs, and dabbled a little with pure equities. I consciously cut down on my expenses, opted out of money drainers like visiting malls and theaters, cooked at home instead of splurging in restaurants and ended up saving money and spending quality time with my kid.
The fact that I am able to pull in long hours at work, juggle travel, do social work, be a role-model mom, inspire women, aspire to become an author; is all possible because of the back-end support system. I focus only on things that are critical for a sane existence like work, training, travel, vacations and weekends. For everything else, find a substitute.
Becoming single again is a phase in life and one has to start loving it to live it. The working mother guilt trip, the family gatherings, the ‘o-my-husband-is’ parties, the valentine days, happy couple social media pictures are mostly ‘society norms’ influenced. Focus on what gives happiness to you and your kid, instead of complying with the customs and ending up feeling miserable. Start living—dress up to work, bring out the make-up, date someone, fall in love, don’t be afraid to take some risks.
Do things which will make you happy. Indulge in guilt-free happiness. May it be your long-lost passion, new-found hobby, beauty sleep or chocolate massage, whatever it may be, do it.
Most of all, one has to come in terms with reality and convince oneself about the present and stop living or pretending to live in the past. Let go, it is over. There is a lot of look forward to. It takes time to come out in the open and admit about being single; but better late than never. The first few times might be tough, but eventually you will figure out an answer that you are comfortable giving and one that is true.
To me, my kid and his happiness is the most precious thing. It is my glass ball which I can’t afford to drop. His squeals of laughter, the twinkle in his eye, his monkey-faced expressions, his acrobatics and stunts, his bruises and tears are priceless to me. He is the reason for my existence in a way and I plan my life around him.
Being a single mother is twice the work, twice the stress, twice the tears; but is also twice the hugs, twice the love and twice the pride. Now when anyone asks me with a sympathetic head tilt about being a single mom, I retort with a wicked wink saying, “Not just single, but sexy and successful too!”