The life of a single mom in India is not easy. The society accepting divorced and single women is far from normal; they are subjected to a barrage of criticism, prejudice, and judgements. Given the mindsets of our bigoted society, women who are either divorced or single mothers have to bear the stigma forever for something they aren’t at fault for. Unfortunately, if a marriage doesn’t sustain, it’s always the women who are held responsible. It’s distressing that a lot of them are being pitied and made to feel incomplete without a ‘man’ in their life.
However, despite the challenges, single moms are constantly defying stereotypes and redefining motherhood by setting exemplary examples. We got in touch with certified dietitian and core fitness coach, Zareen Siddiqui, who decided to walk out of her 20-year-old marriage at the age of 40. Zareen shared how it was imperative to move on from a marriage which was doing more harm than good to everyone involved. In an exclusive chat with us, Zareen gets real about the misconceptions people have about single mothers and her biggest learnings.
Excerpts from the interview
1. What are the challenges of raising a child as a single mother?
The struggle is the same as a normal household with two parents who are parenting jointly. As a single mom you are dealing with those issues double fold because you are trying to organise their schedule when the kids come to live with you and ensuring that you are trying to spend quality time with them despite working long hours. The struggle is as real for a single man or a woman. Also with kids nowadays, emotional needs are of a higher priority than what they were during our days. Dealing with their mood swings, keeping your mood swings aside most of the times, you do a good job and sometimes you fail. But you learn everyday.
2. What's your biggest learning as a single mom?
I realised parenting is not about preaching what they should do but living your life in such a way that they observe and learn, and are able to pick out your positives and negatives. Then they are better judges that way. I do put in a word, but I have come to a place where I have stopped nagging or reached a place to consciously not nag my children; if that urge arises, it's more conversation based now—there are no arguments. I either retrace my steps, give them time to cool down and then it's more like can we talk about it. It's more like trying to live my day to day life in such a way that if they think of me they sort of pick out the best I have to offer in terms of human qualities.
3. What do you have to say about surviving as a single mom in our Indian society? Is it easy to be a single mom in India?
I think this has more to do with how you carry yourself and how you conduct your work and personal life. If I am the sort who gets affected by everything that is said about me or said to me, I am sure my reaction will govern how I live my life. So if you are strong, stand your ground, and have a strong base emotionally, physically, and financially—and work towards your goal and setting good examples—then it's a different quality of life you lead as a single mom. I have no regrets about what decision I have taken and to the way things have taken a course after that.
4. What are the misconceptions people have about single parents, especially a single mom?
The only one I could think of is that they think single moms are hassled, over stressed, and over burdened—but I don't think so. I think most are very capable and very self-disciplined, since you know how much time you have with your kids, you know what your responsibilities are, and you know you can't shove your responsibility under the carpet. So you are on point and on top of your game. That’s the case with me—I can’t lax for a single day, I keep myself on my toes. I think we are quite on top of our game. So if someone is assuming that single mothers are a poor lot, they are not… I think they are quite empowered.
5. Were your children part of the reason you decided to start your own venture?
My children were a big part of it of course! Financial independence, a certain dignity, and confidence to lead my life are musts, because I had to take care of major responsibilities. So yes, a major role in my career path and venture will always be my children.
6. What would be your piece of advice for single parents?
Financial independence and financial security are musts, and you have to have a firm head on your shoulders. Like anybody's life, ups and downs are there… a little more amplified ups and downs I would say if you are a single parent. A firm head on your shoulder will see you through.