Once in a while, oh so infrequently you come across a woman who is a force of nature.
While I made a request for Inspiring Single Moms from India to share their journey with the Times Of Amma , I had never imagined I would be able to showcase the story of someone as inspirational as Sanjanna.
This is Sanjanna, in her own words.
"Born to a conservative Sindhi family, unwanted & reminded continuously of this fact, I grew up ripe for rebellion. Left home at the age of 19, to make my mark in the world, and promptly got conned into a love marriage with an Anglo-Indian. Ethics & values differed significantly, and a religious conversion, umpteen betrayals, many an abuse and 2 kids later, I decided to call it quits. The shit hit the ceiling to put it mildly and loads of dirty and fabricated linen was washed in public. My bitter instigated son was 9 and the little angel 4. Today they are 16 and 12, and I have the fortune of sharing a good mended rapport with my son and a turbulent though love filled relationship with my brat. She makes my world go round, and also drives me crazy with anger and worry.
I started working at 20 in Front Office for a recruitment agency and moving into an Executive Assistant role in various industries including garment export, real estate & IT. Each organization added a little to who I am today - a woman of substance.
Sanjanaa, I am honored that you've chosen to share your journey with the Times Of Amma community.
What is the toughest thing about being a single mother in India?
Dealing with presumptions that are prevalent of a patriarchal society. How can a woman exist, let alone be complete and capable, without a man by her side.
Do you feel that single mothers have it comparatively easier in other countries?
It depends on the culture & heritage of each country, one hat doesn’t fit all. Some have it worse than us, others have it way better.
Society in general has a tendency to glorify motherhood, elevating mothers to the status of goddesses. Do you feel that single Indian mothers are extended the same treatment?
If life is a Hindi movie, then yes, because the mother in question is portrayed as a self-sacrificing lamb and how we all love martyrs.
In reality, single mothers carry a stigma associated with failing to keep up the Indian ethic of “Pati Parmeshwar”. We dare to challenge it and make it work somehow, quite forward and strong, unsettling for the keepers of our heritage.
Could you tell us about your support system as you navigate life as a working mom?
I have found relatives/ family difficult to work with, because they believe you owe them a kidney for helping you out. They also use you as an example of how charitable sympathetic & supportive they are of their underprivileged relative, to the detriment of your peace of mind & self-respect.
Having a spew of live-in maids taught me more bitter lessons in trust, though I made do with that arrangement for a couple of years.
The day care/ crèche system was my biggest support – because of a genuine interest in the child’s welfare. I have made some wonderful friends in this circle. Susheela Shetty of Janani Day Care Centre has been a quasi-mother to my daughter for 2 year wonderful years of her life.
I am also blessed to be working in an organization like ThoughtWorks, that is very supportive & understanding of my constraints and being the only one that runs the home. I have worked from home, rushed off during emergencies, taken unplanned days off, brought my child to work & external meetings, even to other cities when the need arose and I did not have anyone dependable to leave her with.
What sort of societal changes would you look forward to as a single parent?
Empathy & Non-judgmental are primary traits that will help. We need more employers that would appreciate & understand the complexities of single parenting. More house owners willing to rent out their properties to a single earning member. People who are enlightened and accepting: no pitiful looks & unwarranted gossip directed at us single mothers.
What are your thoughts on 'me time'? What do you personally do for your 'me time'?
“Me time” is sacrosanct for a single mother to be sane! A happy heart is a loving and nurturing heart J. It can range from watching a movie without any disturbance to reading a book or going for a walk to clear my head of the stress of the day. On some days, it can mean bunking work, ordering in food and sleeping for a whole day! That is bliss!
Are you ever affected by pangs of 'mommy guilt'? If yes, how do you deal with it?
I’d be abnormal is I didn’t feel guilty about missing out on important milestones of my little girl’s life. I do apologize to her, and explain to her why it’s heartbreaking for me too. How much I would like to be there and cannot because I have to make things work., and sometimes we cry together and acknowledge that we do love each other and sorry we cannot be together in every activity. I feel guilty about an insane number of things, but tell myself that I am doing the best I can, and that’s a good place to be. I would not have been able to do half the things I did, if I had decided to remain in the clutches of a cruel selfish husband.
I’d be cruel in my own eyes for not feeling guilty that I cannot give my son the best upbringing because he chose to be with his father. I feel guilty knowing that my daughter has had much more opportunities to live a better life because I wanted for her to experience everything fun and of interest to her. I see the difference in their attitudes, and it hurts. At such times, I tell myself, to focus on what I can do, and make peace with what I cannot.
What advice would you have for moms who are navigating the kind of journey you are on?
When you look to the sky in stormy weather,
Hold steady to the thought that darkness will part
To a bright beautiful & clear blue sky,
If you fail to keep your eyes keen, and rely only your fearful memory,
That sunshine will come and go, and you would have failed to perceive it’s glory.
Look upward, look forward, and steer your strength to be positive and hopeful,
Nobody says it is easy, but believe me my friend, it’s definitely worth it.
Sanjanna, we thank you again for taking the time out to talk to the Times of Amma family. We are inspired by your words, your determination in turning things around and your honesty. We wish you and your children all the very best.
If you are an Indian single mom or you know an Indian single mom whose journey would inspire others, please get in touch with me on Facebook or on Instagram. Your story might help guide someone charting similar waters.