- Date : 25/07/2018
- Read: 7 mins
Raising children on your own might seem impossible at first. But with a plan and a little help, you can make it work.
Being a single mother is beyond difficult – it is super difficult. But what many people often miss is that few women prefer being a single mother in the first place. Regardless, the barbs flow freely.
A man, who if not cheating on his wife, could be abusive to her and their children; he could be an alcoholic or a drug addict who never wanted a father’s responsibilities to begin with, or he could merely suck the life out of the family by just being indifferent. But let the marriage disintegrate, and more often than not, it will be the wife who will be sneered at.
This is common in India; it is common elsewhere too. Among the teeming multitude of women who have been snubbed for being single mothers is billionaire-author JK Rowling – when she was a struggling writer with a baby and no husband. “I remember the woman who visited the church one day when I was working there who kept referring to me, in my hearing, as ‘The Unmarried Mother’,” Rowling writes in an online article for Gingerbread, a UK charity for single parents. “I was half annoyed, half amused: unmarried mother? Ought I to be allowed in a church at all?”
Rowling, like many women before her, walked out of an abusive marriage. She left her Portuguese husband and returned to England for good with their infant daughter- Jessica. But the world was not altogether supportive. “Assumptions made about your morals, your motives for bringing your child into the world or your fitness to raise that child cut to the core of who you are,” she writes.
Today, Rowling tells single parents grappling with stereotyping or stigmatisation that she is prouder of her years as a single mother than of any other part of her life. It is not an ideal situation for a woman to be in, but if she finds herself there, she should know that there is enough ammo in her to overcome the pitfalls. She only needs to be brave, believe in herself – and take charge of her life.
As a single mom, one way to face the challenge is to start listing factors that come into play in the life of a single mother, and loosely prioritising these:
Money: Is it adequate? Is there an independent source of income? Do you need to work?
Assets: The house you live in – is it yours? If not, how will the rent issue be addressed? Are there any savings?
Support System: It is difficult to manage the diverse demands of a family with two parents; it is doubly so for a single parent. Can your parents or siblings, uncles and aunts or even a kindly neighbour be depended on for support, such as looking after the kids while you go out to earn?
Your emotional state: It is essential to address this, which is easier said than done. Your children, too, could need counselling, depending on the situation.
Your capabilities: No one is trained to “handle kids” unless they are a professional governess. If you lack practical experience, you have to learn the hard way: it is that simple.
Life will not look at you kindlier just because you are a single mother: bills will still have to be paid. Rowling, fortunately, was provided benefits by her government; unlike in India, where there is no state support for single women. Your best option here is a job – it will also keep you from brooding.
But earning is just one part of the job done, so heed the words of Kimberly Palmer, author of 'Smart Mom, Rich Mom': “You can't manage your savings account if you first don't know where all your money is and where it is going.”
Work hard, work ethically; alongside, build your savings by staying on top of your recurring payments. Pay off debts, work towards meeting your house EMIs (if any), stash away living expenses for at least six months for emergencies. Keep this money in an account separate from your regular account; basically, remove the temptation to dip into the emergency fund.
Also, check what benefits your job offers: this can save you a tidy sum, thereby freeing up cash that can go into your savings. Do not forget to get life and health insurance: this is very important. It can provide financial assistance when you and your children need it most.
This is one of the most important aspects that a single mother needs after financial security – a support system comprising friends and relatives. A patchy support network could make it far harder than not having a partner.
It is possible to make life adjustments to fit a dependent child into your work schedule, but do plan – not only financially, but also regarding how you will be supported emotionally. Make no mistake: you will need all the well-wishers you can find – families were not created just to annoy you, they can be beneficial when you have children.
You should also reach out to other single mothers (and single fathers) who are grappling with the same issues as you. Who else can empathise with you more than them? They have faced or are facing the same challenges as you; you can relate to their situations and can expect sincere advice from them.
There are even online support groups available for single mothers, and social networks will be a handy tool in this respect. Do not hesitate to seek help if you need it.
To live in an emotional void and deal with that could easily be the hardest part of being single. Sometimes, it's harder than perhaps even raising a child on your own. Loneliness sets in when there is a fixated notion of joy coming from a particular place and people, and that familiar world crashes around you.
But lose that fixated notion of joy, and open up to more possibilities and new ways to relate to the same people or even to new people, and you will start finding your feet again.
Your job and raising a child (or children) will take up most of your day and probably drain you physically, and even emotionally. But it is also important to find quality me-time too. The happiest and best parents make time for themselves, so why not join a baking class once a week while someone takes care of the kids for an evening?
Meeting new men, socially, can be scary, but you don’t have to go hunting for love. It is okay to date again, if only just for the laughs and a pleasant meal. Who knows, you just might come across a single guy who does not want to remain childless.
It is far better to be a single mother and celebrate the singleness than to be bruised physically and emotionally: a single mother is free to raise her child the way she wants to – according to her values and wisdom.
But in the end, it is all in your hands. Says Karen Leigh McConnel, who became a mother in her mid-teens and today runs a consultancy for small businesses in the US: “Life is what you make of it.”
McConnel, who also authored a book titled 'Was It Worth It, Fifteen and Pregnant', also has a word of caution: “If you go around saying the glass is half empty, that is the result you will get.”
Disclaimer: This article is intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as investment or insurance or tax or legal advice. You should separately obtain independent advice when making decisions in these areas.