Divorce Podcast

Published by abansal on

I was interviewed recently by Kate Daly of Amicable for their Divorce Podcast. You can listen to the full recording in Episode 9 here: http://www.thedivorcepodcast.com/ 

Alternatively, you can read the blog below:  

Kate: Let’s start hearing a bit about your background and what led you to create the Asian Single Parents Network


I had two 2 arranged marriages but both ended. I was thrown out at the age of 21 with my first marriage after 2 months because of dowry demands, and my second ended after 8 years for a variety of reasons but I’m grateful to have my daughter as a result.

I could have easily hidden away because of the stigmas in the Asian community, and especially as I’m twice divorced but I decided quite early on that I wasn’t going to care what people thought as I hadn’t done anything wrong. I hope my story shows that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how hard things get, it’s only temporary. 

I created Asian Single Parents on the social networking site Meetup in 2011. I wanted to connect with other single parents from the same cultural background who had similar experiences. I found my friends at the time were part of a couple so were busy with their families at the weekends and I just craved company for my daughter and I, especially on holidays, day trips and the weekends, so I created ASP.

Kate: And tell me, you talked a little bit about the stigma. Is there a specific cultural stigma do you think?

I think there is with Asian families. I think the older generation believe you should stick at it no matter what you go through with your partner/husband. It doesn’t matter how bad it gets, they believe you should carry on with it.

Kate: But presumably you think differently? What’s your view, you shouldn’t stick it out? Where there actually comes a point where enough is enough?

I think where it’s affecting the children, enough is enough. I found with mine, we were bickering a lot at the time and it was affecting my daughter. It made me quite ill and it wasn’t a good atmosphere for my daughter to grow up in. So, I decided then that I didn’t want to stick at it because there were too many reasons not to, so that outweighed any benefits.

Kate: It sounds like it was quite a brave decision to go it alone, when you know in addition to the difficulties of being a single parent you’ve got the feeling of being judged by the other people in your friends/family/community?

It is, but you have to decide whether you want to be happy or just make other people happy. I decided it wasn’t making me happy. It was making me very unhappy. It was affecting my daughter. There was a horrible atmosphere in the house. It wasn’t a good environment for her to grow up in.

Kate: That’s a really common thing where parents get to a point and realise that actually the whole notion of staying together for the children is actually doing more harm than good.

That’s right

Kate: It sounds as though what spurred you on to create the network for parents was that you experienced loneliness.

I found it very difficult at the weekends. Our friends were busy with their own families. They were in couples doing their own thing and so it was just my daughter and I. Plus I felt bad for my daughter being an only child because I wanted her to have siblings. So, I wanted company with others, with other single parents and their children for us to mix with and understand what we were going through, and also so she could see other people in single parent households.

Kate: So you wanted to normalize it for her then?

Yes, definitely.

But there’s quite a big difference from feeling that you wanted to do something a bit sociable with your daughter over the weekends to actively setting up something as amazing and wonderful as the network you have now. So what was the catalyst, what made you decide I’m going to do something more than just entertain myself?

I wanted to help other people because when I went through it, I didn’t have many people to talk to. I came across one lady at a toddler group by chance who was a single parent, so I used to talk to her quite a bit, sometimes for a couple of hours each evening. I found that really helped me. I wanted to do that for other people, having been through it twice, I really wanted to help others. I’ve been through two types of marriage, one was 

Kate: Do you think there are specific challenges that you face as a single parent because of your background and culture, or do you think the issues you face are the same for anyone who’s a single parent?

I think it’s harder because people don’t have others to talk to as much because they can’t talk to their family about it/ or relatives. They don’t want people knowing what they’re going through. It’s fairly private. For instance, when people come to me to join Asp, they don’t want their family or relatives knowing about their split. They don’t share it on their social media. So, ASP is a private space where they can talk with others in the same boat about what they’re going through. I don’t think anyone quite understands unless they’ve been through it themselves, especially with our cultural background, the in-laws, the family, the relatives etc. Because people don’t always have that support from the family because they don’t believe in the breakdown of marriage. So, I think it’s even more important having such a network available in our culture. 

So, tell me a little bit about how the network works. It’s a private space is it?

It is, it was on meetup, which is a social networking site, but we’re now on a new website which will be more private. On meetup each person had a profile, but on the website a new member completes a membership form and that information is just between myself and the member. We have local WhatsApp groups so people can connect with others. We do daytime events, evening events and short breaks and holidays.

So, the group essentially can privately link with you through the website and then if people want to they can interact and socialize. But it’s not a prerequisite, it might be 1-2-1 for support with you, is that right?

They can connect as much or as little as they want.

What do you think the biggest wants are when they come to you? What are their primary needs or concerns?

Just chatting to other people in the same boat because they feel very isolated. They don’t know anyone in their family/community who is a single parent. They want to get to know other people in their area, or other parents with children of the same age so they have playdates for them.

And how do you think the whole lockdown/ COViD has affected your group Aruna?

We were very active before. Our WhatsApp groups have been very popular during lockdown. Members initially sharing their concerns about Covid when it first happened, going back to school but also sharing jokes to lift each other’s spirits.

We’ve also had zoom calls, so we did an ASP has Talent that both parents and children could enter.

An ASP Summit where ASP businesses had a session to tell us more about what they do.

A weekly catchup, so parents can get together to talk, share tips and advice and exercise classes.

It sounds like Covid has presented a lot of opportunities for you?

It has, definitely. So for ppl who couldn’t get out b4, who don’t have childcare, it’s easier and because we are all over the UK it makes it easier to meet members from all over the UK.

So do you think it will be a lasting change from this awful time? 

Definitely, you don’t need to arrange childcare, travel anywhere and it’s cheaper. It’s so easy to connect from the comfort of your own home.

Future of the group, what are your plans? Where is it going to go? 

We’re mainly in the SE at the moment, but also started in other areas recently such as the Midlands. I want to reach more people so we can help more people, so it’s a case of going out to other areas such as NW England and spreading the word. Making people in those areas aware of us. 

Also contacting organisations that might benefit our members for discounts or help in any way, e.g. financial/legal advice, babysitting. All those services that would benefit single parents. I would like us to become a one-stop shop for single parents.

I think that will keep me fairly busy!

How do you get a foothold in each area? How do you choose which area?

We have meetup groups in different areas, for example, we recently set one up in the midlands. It’s also by promoting on social media for all areas.

Planning to combine visits to see friends in the North West with promoting ASP in those areas.

Why do you think it’s grown so quickly? What do you think it is about the network that people value.

It’s the only network of its kind serving this niche market, South Asians. There’s a greater need for it as single parents in this community find it hard to talk to others.

Do you have increasingly more dads taking part in parenting?

Now more common having dads coming along. Events are more varied as we have a mix coming to our events.