All single mothers are essentially courageous and resilient, but social conditions make their journey difficult. Instead of getting bogged down by those around them, they should learn to enjoy life to fullest, carry on their parenting duties, and most important, network with others in similar situations.
This was the consensus at a one-day seminar titled ‘The World of Single Mothers’ organised jointly by six Rotary clubs in Pune — Pune Elite, Pune Inspira, Pune Mayur, Pune Pride, Pune Sarasbaug and Pune South, with ASMI — A Single Mother’s Initiative, a support group for single mothers. Single mothers and their family members, counsellors, Rotarians and others attended.
Medha Kulkarni, an MLA from Pune, was the chief guest and DGE Prashant Deshmukh participated. The panel of speakers included Renutai Gavaskar, a veteran social crusader and founder of the Eklavya Nyasa that works for destitute children, Dr Sanjyot Deshpande, a prominent psychologist, Ajit Kulkarni, a senior lawyer in family law, Smita Joshi, senior counsellor, Rtn Sumedha Bhosale and Rtn Prasanna Deshpande.
Renutai implored single women to be happy, saying, “We are alone but not lonely. Being alone is not a thing to despise because it gives us the strength of decision-making. In a way, all of us are alone. One irresponsible comment can create havoc in someone’s life and we are all responsible for this sin, so please do not commit it. Tell yourself, ‘I am proud to be alone.’”
In her address, Dr Sanjyot Deshpande recounted the experiences of single mothers whom she has met and said, “All of them are courageous, strong, they are strugglers, they are resilient. However, these women are nagged by the question, ‘Do I deserve this?’”
Touching on a raw nerve, she said a single woman is often seen as a vulnerable woman. In our society, all women struggle to cope with loneliness. A big problem is the invisible presence of the absent person. Even if that person is not present in their life, they constantly feel his presence. For all such women, trauma healing is most important and must be addressed on a priority basis.
Ajit Kulkarni outlined the legal provisions available for single mothers, and said, “An unwed mother has all rights over her child. Earlier, only the father was considered as the natural guardian of the child. However, the Supreme Court has held that mothers are also the natural guardians of her children.” It has also ruled that the father’s signature was not required on the passport and other documents for the child.
Smita Joshi, with her experience of over 18 years as a family court counsellor, narrated incidents where children were emotionally torn because of the rift between their parents. “Parenting per se is a challenge, and more so for single mothers. Kids need both the parents. Do not try to prohibit custody of the kid. No matter how grown up a kid is, he/she still needs a mother. Hence, children must be provided with emotional support.”
Mrunalini Prabhumirashi, founder of ASMI, said, “A single mother has to play the role of nurturer and provider. She is the ‘total parent.’ There are advantages of single parenting such as a strong bonding between child and parent, and such children invariably developing more respect for women.” While sharing tips on how to succeed as a successful single parent, she said ASMI has a support group which can be accessed by single mothers.
Live happily and that happiness will percolate to the kids.
— Medha Kulkarni
Medha Kulkarni promised all possible government help to single mothers. “I came here to understand the subject because so many families need it. You may consider me your elder sister and come to me any time. Women have the right to enjoy life and spend on themselves. Live happily and that happiness will percolate to the kids.” Urging women to raise their sons appropriately, she said that they should be brought up in such a way that they can take on women’s roles easily.
Rtn Sumedha Bhosale shared tips on occupational and emotional fitness. Rtn Prasanna Deshpande, an investment consultant, provided guidance on money matters and urged women to seek expert advice before making investments.