Parenting, as we are well aware, is no easy task and being a single parent whether by choice or circumstances, is no doubt more stressful and challenging. This however does not take away from the fact, that single moms and dads are quite capable of raising strong, mature, empathetic human beings. Unflattering assumptions, perceptions and stereotypes about single parents, especially single mothers, need to change.
A single parent plays the dual role of provider and caregiver to the child. These responsibilities, coupled with the circumstances that make one a single parent, can make life quite challenging. Prafulla whose husband died suddenly of a heart attack has an eight-year old son. “Suddenly becoming primarily responsible for the emotional and physical well-being of my son has been extremely daunting. Parenting is hard enough without viewing everything through the prism of ‘what would he have done?’” she says.
As a single parent one needs to relearn their role, change their parenting style, attune themselves to the needs of their child and be responsive, while building a support system for the child and for themselves, and simultaneously coping with an absent spouse or partner.
India has the lowest divorce rate in the world because of the social stigma associated with divorce (particularly for women) and legal battles over custody and child support. Several single parents hence prefer separation over divorce. Those who transition to single parenthood following divorce or separation invariably deal with bitterness, grief and, sometimes, guilt stemming from the broken relationship. These problems are compounded by lack of familial or social support and legal paperwork that may require consent from the estranged non-custodial parent.
Challenges of single parenting
There are physical, emotional, financial, social and psychological issues that single parents have to deal with. This week we will speak about the physical issues.
While already physically and emotionally drained by the transition to single parenthood, most single parents find themselves in the middle of an avalanche of roles and responsibilities:
Running the house: Earning and managing money, buying groceries, planning and preparing meals, supervising care of children.
Meeting the child’s needs: Physical and nutritional needs, emotional support, learning and development, rules and discipline.
Taking care of themselves: “It is most definitely tough being a single parent! However, knowing what to expect and what your new role will entail is the first step in the right direction,” says Prabhav a single dad.
“It is a challenge and your parenting skills, patience and understanding will constantly be put to test,” says psychologist Chetna Parab. However as children grow up, difficulties diminish with the decrease of certain responsibilities. And as their maturity level develops they become the emotional support that a single parent desperately craves for.