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Emerging Stronger : A single mother, fighting all odds

"I had no idea that life had better things in store for me."

-Fathayya Khan

Author: Stuti Ajmera

March 2022

My day begins and ends with my daughter's smile. That one gesture is enough to melt all the worries of work and lift my exhaustion. As a single mother, society's sneers rained down on me like a hail of arrows. It didn't stop wherever I went or in whatever I did, so neither did I.

Due to unforeseeable circumstances, I had to move away from my parents during my childhood and live with relatives, where I faced harassment and struggled to complete my education.

I got married at the age of twenty-three and had to leave my dream job for a month due to financial constraints. But I had to leave again because I was pregnant, and I was out of work for almost three years until my husband initiated the divorce discussion. I divorced my husband when my daughter was two and a half years old. After a three-year dissipation period, we divorced formally when my daughter was six years old.

My husband was unemployed, and I was working and caring for the finances of the house and my daughter, but my in-laws did not approve of this pattern and called my husband to his hometown. I was struggling alone in Delhi because I couldn't leave my job due to my daughter's needs. I knew deep down that the fact that I was the family's primary earner didn't sit well with him. I knew the relationship couldn't last much longer, so I gave up (agreed to separate). I returned to my parents' house, where they supported me and welcomed my daughter with open arms.

Though times were difficult, me restarting back to my career and taking care of my daughter, I am grateful to say that it was only because of my daughter that I was able to make it through this far. My greatest challenge was telling her that she no longer had a father. There is no manual or guidebook to tell you to do these things. As she was mature for her age, she saw that something was wrong and that things were going in a different direction than expected. I didn't have the confidence to tell her at the time because she was so little, but she saw the events unfold when she went to see her father. After the encounter, she was shaking and terrified, and she wouldn't speak about it for days. After that visit, she never asked for her father again.

It was then I decided to make her stronger, and ready to fight society.

I struggled to balance my personal and professional lives while caring for my daughter. But I had no idea that life had better things in store for me. I am fortunate to have a daughter who is both my best friend and a source of support. I restarted my career after a break of three years and had to start from scratch. After the break, I only received project-based positions. So I had to keep looking for work since I couldn't go a single day without one as my daughter and parents relied solely on me.

It gives me great pleasure and happiness to see how my journey has unfolded and to have worked in various national and international organizations. Despite professional and personal challenges, I was able to advance to a managerial position in an international organization.

My daughter is my greatest accomplishment. At the age of ten, she tells me not to worry about her and to focus on my work and dreams.

Being a divorcee drew a barrage of scathing remarks and condemnation from society. I used to suffer from a lot of anxiety and was constantly paranoid. It hampered my mental health significantly, but my friends assisted me in coping and guiding me through the difficult situations I encountered.

Society's attitude toward single parenting must alter. We don't want sympathy; we demand equality. Things don't always go as planned, but the best we can do is accept the situation as it is and extract the best out of it as possible.

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