I am not a single mom but I was raised by one. My husband and I have three kids and we share parenting duties. I like being the good cop and he is the disciplinarian. He is also the fun guy who runs around with them and tickles them and goofs around and makes them laugh.
He plays soccer with them in the backyard while I take them to the library or bookstore to read together. It warms my heart when I see my daughter hugging her dad, or sitting next to him on the sofa, watching TV, with her head on his shoulder.
When the kids were younger and had to be in three different places at the same time, just two of us drivers did not seem enough. Parenting is tough enough for two people, so I cannot even imagine how difficult it would be if I had to do it all by myself. The thought itself is overwhelmingly scary.
I lost my dad in 1987 to a massive heart attack. My mom was left with four girls ranging in age from twelve to fifteen. In India, in a small town, in the eighties, everyone was especially concerned for my mom as she had no sons. In a time of arranged marriages, fixing the weddings of four daughters all by herself was a burdensome task and most people thought that made her circumstances particularly unfortunate.
My mom never considered herself a victim or a martyr, she was and is a warrior. It never mattered to her one bit that she did not have a son. My mother is a strong, straightforward woman who doesn’t sugarcoat, she will give you her honest opinion. I have never seen her try to cater to male chauvinism or try to be politically correct.
She raised us single-handedly in a time and in a country where single moms were rare. She was earning the bacon, shopping for it and cooking it to feed us. She drove a car in a saree in the crazy Indian traffic and made sure we got to where we needed to be. I am always amazed at how good she is with money, saving it, investing it, growing it through smart choices so her daughters could have a good education and a good lifestyle.
Financial independence empowers women. I am so grateful that my mom had a job as a teacher especially when I think about her childhood. She never went to regular school as girls did not have access to education in those times.
She grew up in the small picturesque town of Haveli Kharagpur in the state of Bihar in India. The town was named after its Rajput ruler from long ago who was called Kharag Singh. He had five daughters who committed suicide by jumping off a mountain into the waterfall and they did this to preserve their honor and escape the abuse of the Muslim ruler who overpowered and overthrew their dad. The waterfall was called Panch kumari (In Hindi it means 5 sisters) waterfall and it fell into a gorgeous lake which joined into a river. My mom, along with her six siblings and many cousins spent their childhood climbing these mountains, taking a dip in the river and admiring the beauty of nature, picking flowers and chasing goats.
However, as she got older, my grandfather and other teachers taught her at home. She took the high school exam, went to college and got her Bachelors and Masters in education. I am so proud of her for becoming the principal of the first school for girls in her town called Panchkumari Vidyalaya. I think it is so remarkable that she persevered with her studies as her being financially independent was so important for our well-being later in her life.
When we were younger, it never occurred to us that she needed companionship. Widows did not date in those times. Looking back, I realize that she made so many sacrifices for us. We were her world and she was always there for us.
Coming back to the present, living in America, I see single moms and I hear them. According to the Pew Research center, in America today, fifteen million children under the age of eighteen are living with a solo mother. Working at the library, I met a woman who has to start from scratch as her husband is leaving her for a younger woman and the kids are still in school. I see the judgement in people’s eyes when they see a single mom doing homework on the computer at the library with four kids in tow.
Taraji P Henson has rightly said, “Even the President of the United States — four of them, in fact — were raised by single mothers … Nevertheless, mention that you’re a single mom, and all-too-many of us still have to cut through a thick, gristly layer of stigma before we’re given our proper due.”
Whether single parenting is by choice or circumstance, I admire these women for their hard work and resilience and we as a society should provide support and remove stigma. I will always have a soft corner for single moms and cheer for them as I was raised by one.