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As a single mother, I battle the pandemic and learn from it too

As a single mother, I battle the pandemic and learn from it too

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Being a single mother in India is not an easy task. It comes with unique challenges. The societal prejudice about single women has made their jobs during the Covid pandemic even challenging. Some take the challenges as an opportunity to learn and inspire others.

Being a single mother in India has its own set of challenges. Constantly under the scrutinising lens of society, you are responsible for everything. You raise your children all by yourself, you look after your ageing parents, you manage your own finances and have to always ensure financial independence.

Enter the Covid-19 pandemic, and your challenges shoot up to another level. As one of the 1.3 crore single mothers running their households in India, I can vouch for this. As the world shut down around me, the economy floundered, and stories of loss and suffering began to grow, I knew I was in for one of the toughest phases of my life. Yet, as I grappled with the personal and professional challenges the pandemic threw at me, I discovered (and told myself) that in each of them, there lay an opportunity.

I will mince no words – it is incredibly tough. Especially for single parents; yes, single fathers too. The struggles of playing multiple roles in the family notwithstanding, the pandemic has added multiple layers of insecurity.

You have EMIs, monthly bills, house rent, school fees to be paid. In times when even a job does not guarantee stability and security, being an entrepreneur like me is riskier. You have the added responsibility of your staff’s salaries; it’s not just yours, but also their families that are dependent on you. Top this with the absence of an earning partner by your side, and the risk multiplies.

As the parent playing the role of both, the mother and the father, you have to now do extra to keep your kids safe, healthy and happy as they remain unnaturally cooped up at home. If your parents stay with you, you have to take care of their needs while ensuring they stay safe as well.

I will not be surprised if the vast majority of us single parents end up neglecting their own mental and physical health.

And then, there is always the fear nagging you deep inside. What if I catch Covid? Who will look after my children? My parents? The finances?

In all this, I will not be surprised if the vast majority of us single parents end up neglecting their own mental and physical health. Yet no matter what you do, the loneliness creeps in. The fears stay. The paranoia, the stories of excruciatingly painful losses of near and dear ones start getting to you. Like many other single parents, I too faced growing anxiety over the past one year and had the added responsibility of not letting it percolate to my children.

The pandemic has led to record loneliness and depression, which is not being addressed at the scale at which it is occurring.

Those of us who are not in a relationship or do not have a permanent partner face a gaping void. Yes, you will have friends and family, but they will not always make up for that one person all the time. At times, you need close companionship, a light, comfortable conversation, or just time together, watching a movie or chatting over a meal. The pandemic has restricted all this and led to record loneliness and depression, which is not being addressed at the scale at which it is occurring.  For now, we just have to keep ourselves going.

The key is to be less hard on oneself, and more open towards life.

And yet, there is an opportunity at every turn in this nightmare. The key is to be less hard on oneself, and more open towards life. It is important to not falter. I believe in keeping a dialogue with myself and my ecosystem at all times. I realise that my children and my immediate people count on me for support, and that empowers me to stay fit physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I work out regularly, and I keep seeking ways to keep my mind engaged. What’s the point in brooding? I’d rather expose my mind to things I never thought I would have the time for. This lockdown, I have signed up for quite a few online classes, and learning Hindustani vocal and art is shaping me in ways I never thought they would.

The uncertainty of the pandemic is an opportunity to truly learn and absorb the value of the present.

The uncertainty of the pandemic is an opportunity to truly learn and absorb the value of the present. Be aware of the moment, live in it, cherish it, and be thankful you have it before it goes away. Taking things one day at a time reduces my anxiety. I do not plan too much or too far. I let life flow and realise every day that it flows quite well. Why do we try to exert so much control over it? Why not sit back and enjoy the subtle gifts it brings to us?

Some days are tough. As the pandemic spreads and grasps more people in its clutches, I cannot ignore the scary reality. Despite my efforts to keep the home safe and happy, my family sees what the world is going through and is affected. I see this as an opportunity to step and practice gratitude, individually and as a family, for being safe, together, and alive.

I am grateful for having my loved ones close, and for having access to people, thanks to digital connectivity. The online world has opened up infinite possibilities of keeping old relationships going and forging new ones. The pandemic has enabled me to call or write to that old friend I haven’t spoken to in years. It has made me connect with people across the world and melted all boundaries of work and friendships. By keeping us within our homes, the pandemic has made us open our minds globally.

Each negative thought is an opportunity to vanquish it and engage constructively.

There is a lot to learn each day. Each negative thought is an opportunity to vanquish it and engage constructively. Each negative person is an opportunity to build the courage to let go of those who don’t enrich us and seek new ones who do. Each struggle is an opportunity to derive solutions and build an abundance-based attitude. And each solved problem is an opportunity to tame our financial, personal, health and family insecurities and prevent them from growing any larger.

I may be speaking from a single parent’s perspective, but this is not just about them. It is about all of us. Whether you are married, a parent, a joint family member, or alone, you are always an individual first. Your aspirations are in the most private corners of your mind. So are your fears. And while we can try to share as much of our thoughts and emotions as we can, we cannot share it all. Ultimately, we are all “single”.

This realisation has led me to ask myself – “what more can I do?” How can I be a better mother, daughter, colleague, boss, or friend? How can I make people around me feel less lonely, more cared for? These questions drive me.

The world might be going through trouble, but we have not lost.

The world might be going through trouble, but we have not lost. The worst is over, better things are coming. Better yet, we are bringing them. I do not know how long the pandemic will persist, but I am looking forward to facing it and all of its problems and struggles with courage, grace, abundance, positivity, and cheer.

We are all in this together. We will meet some extraordinarily kind strangers in these times, but we must be careful with each other because everyone is vulnerable. I aim to not let the situation overwhelm me, but instead, take it as an opportunity to churn out a better version of myself for my children, my people, and me. I hope you will too.

Also Read: Women entrepreneurs in a so-called man’s world

(Sonia Kulkarni is a PR evangelist, Pinkathon ambassador, long-distance runner, social media influencer, TEDx speaker and a single mother of two boys.)

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Autofintechs.com. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.)

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