Until about a generation ago, single parents living all by themselves were largely accepted as a thing of the West. India had a way of re-integrating single parents into larger joint families. This came with its own set of challenges, but they were different than what we have today.
Single parents are a tribe that’s fast rising in India. While parenting itself is not all rainbows and sunshine, single parents face unique challenges: The lack of a partner, isolation, financial difficulties, the lack of time with the child because of having to support the family, the stares, the assumptions of ‘availability’, the judgement, the emotional distancing- everything snowballs to tremendous proportions.
This is what spurred Ishwarya Kumar Ahmed, the founder of Upturn learning to start a conversation with and around the community of single parents. She started ” Soul Proprietorship” after seeing the transition of a close friend from a romantic to a wife, a wife to a parent and then unexpectedly from a parent to a single parent! In fact, Ishwarya proudly declares that this initiative was a dedication to her friend’s journey, which churned her until she found the spirit behind the journey.
We spoke to Ishwarya, about the spirit behind the program, the response it has seen and the wings it is likely to take. Here are some excerpts from the interview.
You started the Soul Proprietorship program exclusively for single parents. What should we watch out for if you are planning another one?
We saw the intellectual and emotional connection between single parents. A source of support renewed energy and a celebration of being a single parent. It is heroic, perfectly complete and absolutely normal in our eyes! We bring together a panel that can provide meaning and support to each other’s journeys.
How does the panel work? What kind of topics are discussed?
The panel is typically a mix of stories (single parents with remarkable stories), psychologists and sometimes authors.
We discuss topics like:
◦Coming to terms with mistakes – no matter whose (Healing, Adjusting)
◦Moving out of denial
◦Dealing with stress
◦Managing multiple dimensions with limited help
◦Creating a support system
◦Your children and your fears
◦Dealing with an overwhelming day
◦Physical / Mental / Financial / Emotional jugglery!
◦Communicating with your Ex
◦Organizing your life
◦Dealing with the extended family
◦Making decisions solo
◦Dealing with emotions when the kids when they are with the other parent
Tell us some interesting stories you heard?
- A single dad who was helped by his sons to walk out of his 23-year old marriage
- A single dad who is the caregiving parent for his child who is in the special spectrum
- A single mother who lost her loving husband and her happy marriage overnight and restarts her life to live happily today with two of her sons
- A single mother who was abandoned with her one-year-old, who now manages everything single-handedly and fuels her life with her child’s happiness
Also Read: Book Review: The 7 Habits of Happy Kids
Many many many more stories, each one is unique, each one is a repository of courage and patience.
Tell us some of your key insights from the program?
#TheNewNormal. Our community practices the fact that there is nothing sad, unhappy or incomplete about single parenting.
What are we missing that we should know about single parenting? How do you think society can prepare for it?
- They deserve to be out of the microscope – there is no need to dissect them in the society
- Breaking myths and stereotypes – we think we are in a forward-thinking era but the real stories still seem far behind time in terms of the stereotypes one faces
- We should prepare for a judgement free zone and that is coming up soon from Upturn Learning
What do you aspire as part of the movement in the future?
I aspire to build a community that is not just online but that stands by each other real-time and supports beyond just transactional queries. An emotionally connected, scalable model that has many physical meetups and a digital footprint globally.