KARACHI: Being a single mother in Pakistan is a relatively newly accepted check box in the traditional desi family structure. When speaking to the older generation you typically hear a narrative in which women suffered in silence and remained married because they wanted primary custody of their children.
In a nutshell, being a divorced mother was as common as kale back in the day. With greater financial liberation, childcare options, and safer living arrangements, many women are now able to leave unhappy marriages and redefine “family” in terms that include their personal happiness. It’s no longer surprising to be introduced to the single mom in the school classroom, or meet one in the board room. For those still unsure, single parenting means a woman is emotionally, financially and physically responsible for her children.
Here’s what single parents in Pakistan need you to know:
1. No one wants a dead beat
No one embarks on this journey on a whim. The marriage must have been pretty horrific if someone packs her bags and kids and says enough is enough. Just because generations of women before us stayed silent, doesn’t mean it’s still the right action to take. Most women can take a bad husband, but no mother can watch their children with a bad father.
We don’t need another rishta (right away). I know all the aunties have the best intention, but most of us aren’t looking to jump from the frying pan into the fire. Post divorce, our kids are the priority and we’re just looking to be the best parent we can. At this stage we need to learn to be strong for ourselves and learn to redefine our new family.
2. No one is trying to steal your husband
That’s right, you know who you are. If we had wanted a flabby, sweaty, kunjoos husband with a roving eye, we would have stuck to ours.
3. Happiness is relative
We may not be invited to every dinner plan, left out of couples committees, hear the odd “bichari” whispers but we are also pretty damn happy. Everything right now is harder, exhausting and the kids are driving us crazy, but it is on our terms. We are even at our worst single mom moment happier than what we felt pre divorce.
4. We get to complain
Just because we made hard choices doesn’t mean we have to be gratitude central. We got a divorce, not a lobotomy, and we haven’t used our lifetime allotment of whining. If you get to complain about your maids, we get to complain about attending every school event sans another half.
5. No one does this alone
There is an army of humans who helped us along the way, from grandparents to supportive friends and even the driving instructor who got us over the fear of tankers. No one can do this alone but if it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a special tribe to help a single mom.
6. Love Rebooted
Once you’ve been in a bad marriage, you redefine what love is. We aren’t looking for the dark and handsome type, we want reliable and emotionally stable. Throw in a steady job and ambition and we’re ready to embark on an epic Whatsapp romance. Seriously, we’re too tired at night to doll up like Huda and dance like J-Lo. If you’re wondering why we’re still single it’s because we’d rather sleep.
7. Don’t tell us we need “self care”
We know our nails resemble talons and we haven’t waxed since the Y2K scare, but right now going to the salon isn’t going to fix our emotional problems. An hour with a solid therapist will do more for self-esteem and guilt issues than attending a yoga class. Frankly the only people seeing us naked are our kids because which mom gets to shower in peace anyways.
8. Your workaholic husband doesn’t make you a single mom
Girl, no. It is not the same thing at all and making this claim is insensitive. If your husband is home during the weekend then they are sharing the physical and emotional workload. If they are away working then their salaries are contributing to taking care of yourself and your kids.
9. The kids are ok
What children really need are stable parents who love them. Our kids know they are loved, taken care of and will get a chapair if they break curfew or fail a subject. Families come in all shapes and sizes now, the single, unifying factor are healthy, happy kids. After all it takes a badass mom to be a dad too.