A single parent, as described by the web encyclopedia wikipedia, is a parent who cares for children without the assistance of another person in the house. It goes on to say that the legal definition of the phrase varies depending on the local laws of different regions and countries. However, what one should essentially understand is that a single parent takes care of the child alone. The missing person, going by the definition, need not be the partner of the parent.
These days, we may not come across people who bring up children on their own. The single parent - by choice or destiny - mostly decides to have a partner, and one of the many reasons cited is the care of the child.
Bringing up a child is a mammoth task, as will be acknowledged by all parents. If two find it hard, then imagine the plight of one!
There are many stories of how the child of a single parent faces more stress and is prone to a mental breakdown and confused state. But this cannot be projected as the general case. I can name at least five of my friends and cousins who were brought up by single parents and who went on to do well in their lives. I'm sure everyone can name many more.
Children with single parents may always lack the love, attention and even just the feel of the other parent but may as well find all these just as much in the single parent. The bond between them may be so cemented that they might even share the deepest of secrets, unlike in a family of both parents.
There used to be a time when one only heard of unfortunate instances of people being single parents, where usually, the other person had had an untimely death. However, times have changed. There are more and more people now-a-days who opt for single parenthood, especially adoption.
It's a very tough decision to take, especially if you are single. There are celebrities around the world who have gone this way. In India, the example of Sushmita Sen is oft-quoted. But, have you heard of single males who have taken this bold step. On October 3rd, 2007, a choreographer of repute became one of the rare single males to father an adopted child. Ballroom dance teacher and choreographer Sandip Soparrkar is enjoying life with his adopted son, two-and-half-year-old Arjun.
Q: When and how did you decide to adopt a child?
The thought came to me when I was very young. There were many adopted children in my family. So it was something I had seen while growing up and was used to. I always had decided to adopt a child.
Q: You knew the adoption procedures were going to be tiring. It took you long four years. How did it feel during that time?
Oh, it was quite disappointing at times. I would get irritated too. When something seemed to be working out, another problem would arise. It was irritating but I had decided to stick it out.
Q: Adoption itself is tough, and a single male adopting must have been tougher. Wasn't there a lot of scepticism?
Yes, everybody thought so. But the people at Bal Anand in Chembur [adoption agency], from where I got Arjun, were very helpful. I have to mention Ms Sulochana Karlo and Ms Madhavi. Initially, they were quite hesitant. But later, when they understood I was serious about this, they went out of their way to make my case strong.
Q: How did your parents and friends react to it? What did they think about it?
My parents were absolutely fine with it. My friends were too. They all knew why I was doing it. I was adopting not to be called a daddy but because I wanted to help a child. I wanted to nurture a child in a good way, provide him with all the good things in life, good education, good home, love and care. I wanted to be able to help the child in every way the biological parents would provide for him.
Q: Did you think at the time of adoption that your life could change, say, five years down the lane?
When I went in for adoption, they asked me what my plans were. I told them, I want to adopt a child, and I also want to get married and have biological children. That did not make a difference to my decision of adoption nor would it alter anything in my relationship with Arjun.
Q: Is it as simple as you say it?
Why not? It's all about a decision you make. If I am confident about it, then who should have doubts? I believe that you get close to a child and love him by doing things for him. You don't love a child only if you give birth to him.
Q: You wanted to adopt a girl child. But, it was not granted. How did you feel about this?
Yes, I wanted to adopt a girl child, basically, because the fact is that a girl child is more underprivileged. A girl child has a tough life as an orphan. Do you know that every orphanage asks a child to vacate the institution after the age of 18, irrespective of whether it's a boy or a girl. While many of the boys become courier boys or do some other menial jobs, the girls mostly become servants in households. But, not everybody gets that job and that is when they get into other ways of making money, such as prostitution. I thought girl children truly deserved to be helped more. However, I was told that the law does not allow a single male to adopt a girl child and that's the way it is.
Q: Was it tough to accept the law?
Yes, because it was difficult for me to understand why this question should only be raised in case of a man and a girl child. They cite instances of sexual harassment. I agree that these cases exist. But all men are not the same. You can't put everybody in the same basket.
Q: And if that is the case, aren't there cases of women molesting boys. Can't sexual harassment be an issue there too?
In case of adoption, there should be a background check. If a social worker is sent out to do a survey of the person in question, then he should genuinely find out about the character of the person, other members of the family, habits and so on. There needs to be transparency on how the person is and then only should the adoption permission be granted. But, as of now, that's what the law says and it can't be changed. So I decided I'd get married and then adopt a girl child.
Q: So you're thinking of adoption after marriage too?
Absolutely. I want to adopt kids and have my own kids too. It'll be a big family.
Q: Do you think you have set an example with this adoption?
Yes, even if I am not the first single male to have adopted, there have been many more cases after me. I have learnt that there are six cases in consideration in Delhi right now and eight in Mumbai.
Q: So how was Arjun's homecoming like? How did you feel?
Oh, I was very nervous, nervous even to think about anything. There was so much of talking and hearing of the case that when I finally heard that "You have been granted permission for adoption," I didn't have time to react. I had to go, get Arjun and bring him home. It was all very quick. It was four years of struggle coming to an end. So the homecoming was simple. He just came home on October 3rd last year.
Q: Did you prepare yourself? Reading, research or the like?
Actually, no. I decided to understand him and his likes and dislikes. I haven't read anything on the topic. I found that he likes to read. So I get him books. I must have bought him more books than I have ever read in life. I read to him, bedtime stories and all. Also, he likes fruits, which is very unlike me. I can live on chocolates and sweets. He eats everything, there are no problems.
Q: Have you decided when you would want to explain to him about his adoption?
Well, haven't decided as such. Yes, I do expect him to know everything. When he asks me, I'll tell him too. He understands many things now itself. The other day he was telling me that "All mummies are invited" to a function in his playschool. "But I don't have mummy. What do I do?" So I told him, "It's ok beta, you've got Papa, Papa can come with you." He said "But you're Papa". So I asked him, "What does a mummy do?" He said "Mummy gives bath, gives food, reads stories, prays." I said, "So, don't I do all that?" He said, "You do but still you're papa." I told him, "You have a choice, you either take Papa along or you go alone." He thought and said he's go alone and he did. So there are instances where he shows that he understands something.
If there comes a time when I have to explain to him why, what and how, I will not hesitate. I'll tell him everything as it is.
Q: How do you find time to spend with him in your busy schedule?
Well, I try and come home whenever I can, so that I spent maximum time with him. But otherwise, he has his nanny and two others here for help. Also, now, my parents are here. Though they are settled in Pune, they keep coming down whenever they want to, which is most of the time.
Q: How has your son's presence changed you, as an individual and professional?
I think it's made me more responsible. A little bit more. Arjun makes me want to come back home after work.
Q: What is your advice to the individuals or couples who are contemplating adoption?
I would tell people who have decided to adopt to just go ahead and do it. Don't wait for opinions. I know many people who dropped the decision because "Mummy didn't like the idea." Just don't listen to others on this count. Listen to what you want.
Tips to Relax
Life for a single parent can be fun as well as tiring. More so because you are both father and mother to the child. Some tips to relax and enjoy your status as a single parent:
- Stop feeling guilty for all the things you are not able to do.
- Plan your tomorrow before bedtime today.
- Think about the plans you made last night and proritise. This may involve some compromise. Going to school with your child may be more important than doing the laundry today.
- Avoid clutter, be it your room or your desk. Cluttered spaces bring cluttered minds too. Think clearly and make your home also clear.
- Keep all your papers in order. Sort out your bills. File away papers you need for the future so that you know where to find them.
- Write down or record things on a tape recorder as and when you remember them so that you can deal with it later.
- Don't feel ashamed to ask for help from others, especially family. Also let the child help.
- Make sure you set aside a time [half or one hour] for the child daily so that he gets your undivided attention at that time. You may even switch off your mobile phone then.
- Make some time for yourself. Do not let anybody disturb you at that time. Make sure the child is looked after by somebody at the time.
- Don't over-compensate the child for the lack of one parent. Let he/she grow up facing that reality. Otherwise, you may spoil the child.
- Do things together with your child like cleaning up the room together, going on long drives and so on.
- Try and keep work for weekdays and weekends for your family.
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