Being Women

The Journey Of A Single Parent : How Rewarding 0r Challenging It Is?

On Father's Day, Kunal Jha shares his journey of being a single parent

Away at sea, but the heart lies at home

I am Kunal Kanti Jha, Chief Engineer on Merchant Gas Ships.

I am a father to an eight-year-old boy, Avyaan Jha. My profession is such that I have to stay away from my only child. Work takes me away for four months. So I am at home for eight months.

The first time I was away from him….he was barely seven months old. I remember holding the little one in my arms and crying all the way to the airport. Well, I still do that every time I leave for the ship. The parting is the hardest. Leaving him standing there and then moving into the airport is the heaviest feeling I have ever had! I wish I never had to sail, but then…!

But the wise boy reminds me…

Every time before I leave, during bedtime, he holds my hand and says, “Papa aap chale jaoge ship pe to main aapko bahut miss karunga” (Papa, when you leave for the ship, I will miss you the most.” And then the little wise boy adds, “I know it’s important to earn.” Saying this, he grips my hand tightly.

Watching these painful emotions flit across his innocent face breaks my heart.

How do we cope?

The initial days on the ship are hectic. But with every passing day, it gains momentum. I make it a point to connect through two video calls every day, If the internet permits, I keep calling him. The broken, intermittent internet video calls are my only solace. I can’t imagine how my little one copes. This is something no one will know until he grows up and starts articulating it better.

I did not go to work for 1.8 years after I became a single parent. I wanted both of us to comprehend the feeling that it’s just the two of us now, and that’s how life will be. It took a while for him to understand that even though there is no mother, Papa has to go away for work leaving him with Grandpa for four months. For a 4-year-old child, I think it was extremely difficult to realise the enormity of the situation. But his maturity and adaptability were commendable.

I was very low in those days. But when I saw him adapting, accepting situations, and trying his best to be happy, I would think, “If a 4-year-old can, then why can’t I?

To make it easier for him, I work for four months and stay back for eight months. It does lead to a slowdown in my career, but there is always enough time to gear up once he enters college and becomes independent. As of now, he needs me the most!

I don’t pray to a God. My Gods are around me!

My father! He left his job in Delhi and came down to Kolkata. He knew that he had to be there. He is 72 and had never handled a 4.5-year-old kid before. To our surprise, he impressed everyone with the way he mentored Avyaan helping me resume my career.

I am overly protective and lenient, fearing that adopting the role of a strict single parent might drive my son away from me. It was Papa who brought discipline into our lives. Together, we found the right balance. While Papa supervised his studies and led a disciplined life, I am more into fun and masti. Isn’t it the best of both worlds? I realised that at whatever age you may be, your parents are your biggest well-wishers and assets.

His nanny! She has been taking care of him since he was two—his daily routine of meals, bathing, and other chores. Without her love and supervision, it wouldn’t have been possible. She is the only woman around. And that has helped him well.

Some of my friends have extended their motherly love to him and held him tight when he needed it the most. They have taken him to the doctor, tended to him when he was sick, played with him, and sang lullabies while he slept.

While people visit temples in search of God, I don’t need to. With such selfless women around me, how can I say I haven’t seen a God?

Single parenting advice

  • Give them time and attention. If we give them time, even materialistic things don’t count. Talking for hours, playing with him, watching movies, going for morning and evening walks, taking short drives at night for ice cream—these are all spontaneous activities that have deepened our bond. I realised that life isn’t a fairytale, but these day-to-day activities definitely helped us heal. 
  • Providing emotional support and well-being is the biggest part. Basic needs can be fulfilled with money, and money does play a very important role in single parenting. But what money can’t give is the emotional support, the touch, the feel, the warmth, and the attention your child needs, especially if one of the parents is missing. You also have to be strong yourself.
  • As a parent, I try to stay neutral. I never shout at him unless it’s a disciplinary issue. Also, I believe in sleep counselling. If he commits any blunder, I usually don’t correct him then and there, and more precisely, not in front of anyone. I wait until it’s time to go to bed. It is then that we talk about different issues. I casually bring up the topic that needs to be discussed and talk about the mistake he made, why it’s wrong, and how he can correct or improve it. This has helped him grasp the lessons of life better and improve.
  • When you are a couple, you unknowingly divide your roles and get accustomed to it. Like mom cuddles and hugs. Dad plays the sport. Dad takes him out on trips while Mom cooks the best food. When you are a single parent, you learn how to mould yourself into all the above roles. You become a COMPLETE PARENT. You understand the difficulties as well as the rewards of playing both roles. Trust me it’s a blessing in disguise.

A word of caution

We all love our kids. Being a single parent sometimes makes us more vulnerable and over-cautious. We are always scared we won’t be able to fill up the void left by the other parent.

Remember, mother and father are just figures. If you can give him or her the love, care, cuddle, touch, hug, smiles, and above all, undivided real attention, they will be as happy as they would have been with two parents. And remember, kids adapt to situations faster than we do.

As a single parent

Lately, society has been very liberal towards single parents. The concept is well accepted, and people, rather than criticising, give a helping hand and emotional support to you or your child. This is from my personal experience. I found that society these days is playing a fairly positive role in terms of accepting single parents.

I must have been judged, if not in front of me, then behind me. “Kuch to log kahenge, logon ka kaam hai kehna.”

(To listen to him, click on the link


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