It’s 2019, and there seems to be an influx of single parents all over the world, the statistics and numbers seem to be increasing every year! Personally, if you ask me, I have been raised in an environment where single parenting has not been very common, so for me, it’s a new life of sorts. A lot to learn from, I have to admit.
Did I choose to be a single mother? Hell no!!! This has been life’s biggest lesson to date. It was the universe’s way of telling me, “ Megha, my darling, you’ve had it very easy, there isn’t going to be a smooth climax for you, we still have to throw you into the dark pit and see if you can pull yourself out!”
And so I got thrown into the pit, took the damn fall! Broken and bruised in every way, I lost my husband in April 2015 in a tragic accident, my son was 8 at the time and my daughter had just turned 5 a day prior to her daddy’s death. I was 29, a widow and a single mom all at once.
My journey since then has been quite interesting, as a young woman in the Indian society, I had to face many struggles, whether it was parenting or my business or running the house and its day to day affairs, let alone my emotional well being, I didn’t really have the strength to focus on mental health.
Along the way I encountered many types of networks, there was that genuine family support system that believed in action and just did what was needed to be done, without questioning or giving their opinions. I’m grateful for this support system which still keeps me rooted. Then there was another peculiar network, I called it the social network, they would call and text consistently every week and make plans to come to see us, or take the kids out, they would ask if I needed anything and tell me to stay strong and then consistently fail to keep their word. I realised then, people who want to be there will be there on their own.
After a point, you become your own support system, it’s none other than you yourself. You are your own main person; no one else can help you brave the storm, but yourself.
I’d like to brag and say that I’ve become very good at this whole single parenting thing in the last 4 years, but I’d be lying outright if I did.
My usual day starts with six and a half to seven hours of sleep, eight hours is mostly luxury, when the wine kicked in the night before while my parents had the kids, otherwise thank God for melatonin that helps me sleep at night before the anxiety creeps in. I’m also very fortunate to be in a position where I can afford domestic help and a nanny without whom my life as a single mom would be very dysfunctional!
I take the kids to school early morning, following which I hit the gym for my daily adrenaline and strength fix. I have grown to realise that keeping your fitness regime going and keeping your system caffeinated (please don’t overdose on caffeine, I am a caffeine addict), is one way to stay sane to deal with the daily pressures of parenting and work, it works as a prevention towards keeping illness at bay, trust me, you don’t want to be stuck in bed with all kinds of viruses, you ain’t got time for that!
I don’t have a choice but to wind up my day early and make myself available for the kids after school. As a family of 3, we try to do certain activities together so we can spend quality time, instead of me yelling my head off most of the time. We play squash, swim, attend fitness programs together and sometimes even read out our favourites books to each other.
There are times when I find it challenging to be in two different places for my kids, who are two different age and gender genres, that’s the time I reach out and ask a family member to step in, I’m a firm believer of the phrase ‘it takes a village to raise kids’, I have my own village and I’m not afraid to reach out and ask for some support when I need it.
I have now consciously made the effort to prioritise my mental health situation, I go to therapy once every two weeks and my kids are exposed to this concept, they seek help from counsellors at their school on their own when they need to talk. We also engage in therapy together as a family to talk freely about our challenges, we have now inculcated this daily communication at home; we call it the ‘pit and peaks’.
There are times when I just want my alone time, just to maybe go on a date, have a few drinks and unwind or just travel solo to experience different things. Trust me these times are hard to come by if you get the opportunity to grab it! The downside is you will feel guilty for leaving your babies for selfish interests of your own, but in order to be an amazing parent, it’s important to take care of yourself and your needs. Let’s face it we all have needs, so don’t try and be a saint and tell yourself, “I can do without certain pleasures of life”. Sex and intimacy followed by shit loads of money is the prime need of the hour for me, I like to elaborate I am at my financial and sexual prime and I’m not afraid to express it.
A little travel, a spa day, fitness routines, a little bit of retail therapy, a nice flirty date night, even a random hookup, a little pleasure here and there in whatever way, is good for us single moms.
Having a loving relationship with yourself is extremely important, your kids see you take care of yourself, smile laugh has fun and they impersonate your behaviour. I have observed that children can sense sadness, irritation stress on all levels and that’s the time they act up the most, so as hard as this may seem, keep your shit together, crack open a bottle of wine later when they go to bed, but otherwise please keep it together!
My children and I have healthy conversations about me moving on and dating other people and who knows maybe even get married again, it makes it easier for them to embrace these developments with an open mind. I know our society firmly believes in filtering many things with the kids, but trust me the kids today are not exactly carrying brainwaves from the 90s. They are much smarter and forward than we think they are. So please treat them as smart individuals and share your thoughts.
So, when I read about single moms and their lives or tips, I always find data that is just plain sad and demoralising, I understand that its not exactly the best situation to be in, if I had a way, I would not choose to be a single parent, but my situation is different. I’m glad some couples end toxic relationships before it causes further damage to their kids; I also see nowadays women are opting for surrogacy to have babies and raise them on their own, without a co-parent, this is all very liberating, but some of us don’t have a choice!
So I actually want to talk about how to make the most of the shitty hand you’ve been dealt.
Self-love, self-care, me first, screw the rest! Look, mama, sort yourself out first and then be the mama bear you need to be. Take care of your health – physical and emotional. Take that dance class or yoga, talk to a mental health counsellor, even if you think you can do it all by yourself. Wear clothes that make you feel beautiful and sexy, go to the salon, and go for walks by yourself. Get on to the dating apps, there’s always someone out there, and trust me from the first-hand experience there’s a buffet out there and you get to pick and choose what you fancy. Do be careful though I have learnt that in India, some men tend to think single moms are a vulnerable and easy target for a simple one night stand, and you shouldn’t have to go through with it if that’s not what you fancy. Having adult time is important to keep your sanctity in place.
- Communicate freely with your kids: Your parenting style is yours; no one else should influence how you choose to raise your kids. Remember that the dynamics of a single parent family is very different from others. So your family your rules! I know there are a lot of opinions that float around; I have always heard them with a blank expression on my face with known satisfaction that nothing got registered in my head! It is important to talk about each other’s feelings, look for signs when your child is not talking much and staying quiet, whilst bottling emotions up, you will know that it is a sign for intervention and professional help.
- Movement: Movement of any kind, be it sports, dance or walk or just simple yoga and meditation is a great way to channel our energies together into positive feelings. Sweating and releasing all those toxins in the form of any movement or exercise every day is the best way to bond together as a family. My kids have luckily enhanced their good genes and turned into fine athletes and swimmers respectively. (The sporty genes didn’t come from me FYI!)
- Good days and Bad days: There will be times when you just don’t want to exist, your loneliness gets the worst of you, you shut yourself from everyone but you have your kids constantly asking for attention, you simply cannot do it! Find a way to take the night or day off from parental duties, there’s always someone or the other who you can trust. For me, the most challenging days are birthdays and festivals when I just want to leave town and run away, when I can’t stop myself from fantasising about all the wholesome families being together and then end up feeling guilty for being jealous! I’m human after all!
The good days are tricky too, you have no control sometimes and you end up overindulging, remember your kids already get a little extra love and care from other family members, so you don’t want to overdo it and spoil them.
- Tough love and soft love: Remember you have to be both parents, it’s hard to play good cop and bad cop at once but it’s just art you’re going to have to master. I have recently made a very strong decision to send my son away to one of India’s leading boarding schools, this decision wasn’t easy but to me it seemed like it was the best opportunity I was giving him to be on a platform away from home issues, to shine as an individual. I’ve had to be tough and sensitive all at once and it’s the hardest thing I’ve done but I know it’s good for him. And now I’m convinced once my daughter is eligible she too will go to experience life differently on an even platform.
For a single parent every step every decision is different, we have to keep in mind our well being and our kids best interest, be a badass mom one day and soft jelly the next. There will be a time when you’re tired, so slow down, rest your body and soul a bit and then go again, the world will move in its own pace but you just do it the way you think is best! When you’re rested and ready, do your hair, slap on that lipstick, stare at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself ‘I LOVE YOU, YOU BEAUTIFUL BADASS BEAST’ and here we go again!
The writer is Megha Vohra Babaycon Founder and CEO, Quickfix (Views Are Personal)