Anonymous female, who is also a mother to a five-year-old boy, and our interviewer Soumita have been sharing the ups and downs of life since their early twenties – distance being totally disregarded. Being married in her early twenties, this interviewee never thought she will have to raise a child alone. So when they met after years, it was no surprise that they talked about single parenting. Yet, it’s all worth it, this young mother says. Read this wonderful interview about a mother-child relationship and why sometimes it’s just best to move on.
Anonymous female, 34 years, originally from Guwahati now settled in the United Kingdom
Interviewed by Soumita Basu
Why did you decide to give us an interview on parenting?
I think because it is the most immediate and pressing issue in my life. That’s what comes to my mind…
Why do you say it’s pressing?
I am a single parent. It determines what I can or can’t do, or the other career or social opportunities that I can take up. That’s why I use the word “pressing.”
How is your day-to-day life different from a two-parent family?
In every which way you can think of. Everything needs to be pre-planned. I need to organize child care so that I can do things outside school hours. But also I need to be emotionally available all the time. I can’t be unavailable the way you would be if you were with someone. I have to be there to answer my son’s questions, and I can’t assume somebody else would answer those questions if I don’t. So in that sense I have to be constantly present. There is no switch-off.
How old is your child?
He is five and a half.
Have you always been a single parent?
No. But even when I was with my partner, it wasn’t very different from what it is now. Or at least in my case. But of course, there was someone to rely on if I was running late from work. I could call my ex and tell him to pick up our son. Now I need to call up my friend, so I need to plan my time more meticulously than I had to before.
Sometimes I get annoyed with my son when he is not getting ready in the mornings, but later I realize he has nobody else. I can’t tell anyone to look after him because I have lost my temper. So in that sense, there is no fallback. I need to watch my own behavior more carefully.
Is it very difficult? Because it does sound difficult…
It is practiced. It is something you grow into. You don’t become a single parent in a day. You prepare yourself and over a period of time, it becomes your style of parenting. It becomes a habit.
Is it stressful?
Yes it is logistically speaking. Things like what if I fall sick tomorrow? There still needs to be food on the table, the child needs to be taken to school, so it is stressful to think about those kinds of things. There is anxiety and lots and lots of pre-planning. I started building social and network connections accordingly and more consciously because they had kids and they also went to my child’s school, so these were the people I would need to fall back on.
How has it been different for your child – from staying with both the parents to just you now?
I am sure it is very different, and I wish I could know exactly how it is…I wish I could look into my son’s little head and know what he was thinking. But I do know the positives of staying with a single parent. I don’t know of any negatives yet, which probably I will know down the line. But the most positive thing is that the child gets a consistently same message. For instance, my partner believed boys shouldn’t cry, but I think it is okay to cry and to express emotions. Two people are never going to be on the same page as far as parenting is concerned. Even with the best of parents, you are two different types of people. But now it’s easier because I don’t have ideological conflict as far as parenting is concerned, and my child is getting a consistent parenting message through out.
A lot of couples don’t think of separation because it is not good for the child. What was your thought process?
In my case I felt my son’s relationship with my partner wasn’t strong enough. That was one of the things that bothered me and in fact it helped me make a decision. If my son had a very strong relationship with his father, I would have had much more difficulty in making a decision. I was always the dominant or primary caretaker, so his relationship with his father was relatively weaker.
Does he look out for family setups like yours?
He looks a lot at other families like ours. So he will tell me so-and-so also lives with his/her mum. He is quite intuitive about this sort of family structure. All his friends except for one live with both the parents. I think what he is doing is affirming that we are normal too, and there are other people like us too.
You were talking about parenting ideologies sometime back. Have you adopted some of the ideologies your parents followed?
I think the one thing that I have appreciated in my parents over the years is giving a fairly unstructured environment where I could be who I wanted to be, instead of them actively moulding me and putting me in a particular direction. That’s shaped the person who I am. So, that’s something I would like to do with my child.
The last question has nothing to do with the interview topic, but we ask everyone we interview – what does love mean to you?
Love is unconditional caring, but it is also respect for the other individual and his/her choices however uncomfortable it might be for you.