“The Village” Normalises The Idea Of Single Parenting In India
Bringing up kids, imbibing values in them, seeing them grow is truly blissful. But what about those who do the same alone? Is it equally gratifying? Or is it more difficult? How does society react to a single-parent household, especially in India, where marriage and raising kids together is seen as the only acceptable way of leading one’s life? Laila Zafar has some answers to these questions.
The inception of the “The village”
Laila Zafar, a lawyer based in Kochi, also had similar thoughts when she decided to be a single parent. In a dire need to address the issue, she created a support group “The Village” to bring in a more Indian perspective to the online space of Single parenting. She wanted to include everything in that narrative, the good, the bad and the ugly of it.
Why the name? Zafar asserts, “because it is well-established fact that it takes a village to raise your kids. I believe that no mother or father should be isolated simply because they differ from what is a traditionally accepted family model”.
“The dialogue around single parenting changes when more people talk about it. It becomes more acceptable and normalised, and not in a way that is opposed to traditional families, but in a way that both co-exist together and in peace.”
Laila’s brainchild “The Village” is an online as well as an offline group. On online medium, she regularly posts pro-single parenting messages and encourages dialogue. She speaks to every person who messages her privately on her Instagram handle seeking support. With this, she endeavours to create a safe space for different perspectives and narratives to come forward by moderating the commentary positively. The group offers support to its members by providing compassion and understanding within a safe space. It allows them to talk, discuss, cry and contemplate without fear of being misunderstood, judged or ridiculed.
The response, she says, has been incredible with parents in need of emotional support coming out in the open as single parents. Her first meet up was held recently and the second one is on 22nd February.
Challenges faced as a single parent
Laila also talked about how difficult it is for single parents to bring their kids up. “There is mostly a lack of understanding even from the closest of family and friends, a lack of after-school support in terms of creches or activities, lack of opportunities to pursue full-time work without also having to arrange for a nanny or support at home, financial issues are in abundance. Sometimes, there is even outright anger, wherein some parents even refuse to acknowledge you as a parent leading to segregation even among the children. There is also a lack of visibility even in mainstream media, where true and successful single parents are portrayed. This breeds the lack of role models for single parents to emulate and learn from. Then, of course, there is eve-teasing and the common perception that single mothers are fair game… the list is a long one.”
Being a single parent is a Herculean task.”We are not very different in what we want for ourselves or our children, it’s just that we have only two hands while you have two additional ones”, she says.
Society’s perspective demands a shift?
Zafar also spoke about how society needs to be sensitive to single parents and the choices they make. For instance, advising them to stay with their ex-partner for the sake of their child. She says that if given a choice, no parent would want to go through the mess of divorce, courts and custody battles. Secondly, they should never complain to them for not having enough time for their friends anymore.
“The Village” is an aim to bring in a more Indian perspective to the online space for single parenting. It includes everything in that narrative, the good, the bad and the ugly of it.
She also shed some light on why it is difficult to accept women as single parents. “Traditionally women are taught to ‘Be strong’. That, by its definition means to tolerate and live through marriages and relationships that are sometimes visibly toxic. The most burning question we are often asked is ‘if we can do it, why can’t you?’ as though suffering through a toxic marriage is a far better option to breaking from it.”
Internet as a boon for single parents
Laila believes that the internet is a great space for single moms looking for support. In fact, she says she survived through rough times because of the various international single parent support groups that she followed. “The dialogue changes when more people talk about it, it becomes more acceptable and normalised, and not in a way that is opposed to traditional families, but in a way that both co-exist together and in peace”, she signs off.