We hope that by sharing member stories, how they overcame adversity and challenges, it will give hope and inspiration to those that are at the beginning of their single parent journey.
Sonia: My journey July 2010 - January 2021
For the first time in over 10 years my mum and dad came over to my house today. We celebrated Mothers Day together and probably the first one where we actually talked to each other and it didn't end up in a battle between me and my mum over my ex and so I think its about time I tell people my journey...
I wanted a happier and peaceful life for me and my boys, so given that its Mothers Day today its time to tell all the fight I have endured for over 10 years. My boys are my world and every step, every day, every argument, every tear shed is so that we could be happy! A toxic relationship is not the right environment for children..but if only everyone understood that.
My journey began in 2010, over 10 years ago when I realised my marriage wasn't what I thought it was. Fast forward 2 years, after trying to make it work, it dawned on me that I needed to get out! I am not going to divulge the ins and outs of why, but the marriage was over for a number of reasons.
Being from the Asian community this was always going to be tough but I never actually realised how difficult it was going to be until I started to put the wheels in motion.
To give a bit of background, I had already given up my career to try and meet his expectations and make my marriage work, so I worked part time for my parents and had 2 young children. My ex worked for my parents too and had done for several years.
When I told my family I wanted out from my marriage there was absolute uproar and no support whatsoever for me. My mum and dad couldn't see the truth. They were on his side...they were absolutely blinded as all they could see was that we had to stay together for the sake of our children! He had manipulated them completely and my mental heath was irrelevant. My marriage was broken completely. I had no emotional support and no where to turn too...worked for my family...they just could not understand why I wanted to be free...I felt trapped in prison and could see no way out.
To cut a really long story relatively short, I decided I needed to start over again by building my life back up so I was able to free myself.
I left working for my family, against their wishes and re started my career working part time only, as I still had to fulfil all my wife and mum duties...and as far as he and my family were concerned that was my job, and as he worked for them there was no movement on that!
Slowly as the boys got older I increased my working hours and got my career back on track by 2016.
Fast forward to 2017 there was still very little emotional support from my family with regards to divorcing...but at least I had some kind of life. I loved my job...the boys were doing well..but I was deeply unhappy. Many of you may ask well why didnt you just leave? ?
And the simple answer was that I love my family and I was desperate for their approval "its ok Sonia...We understand your pain and why you want a divorce", but all they saw that he was golden boy and I was the difficult one and I basically needed to put up and shut up, no matter what was going on behind closed doors!
For over 7 years I tried to make my family see the truth but they were wearing rose tinted glasses! I was at constant war with them, we would go over and he was treated like a king...so as the saying goes, give someone an inch, and they will take a mile is exactly what happened! He knew they were not supportive of me wanting to divorce, so he took full advantage and manipulated them against me even more...it wasn't until late 2017 they fell out with him over business, they saw what I had been going on about for years!
Finally I thought I can be free...but no!!
Here came battle number 2! Divorce proceedings! Money!!!! I just wanted out, but he didn't make it easy and decided to drag my whole family through court including my sister and my elderly parents.
2018 divorce proceedings began, still with both of us living under the same roof. However, I now had the support of my family without them I wouldn't not be able to tell my tale.
My family now supported me no end...yes we had our moments...lots of tears...arguments...breakdowns...but finally they could see the need to be free and I don't have the words or the ability to express my gratitude to them for all they have done.
3 years later
5 court dates
2 three day trials I am finally free....I never thought this day would come!
The hardest part of my journey was living under the same roof for over 10 years...I am not going to go into all the details, but it was not a pleasant atmosphere is an understatement....
Just imagine going to court...fighting my corner then coming back to the same house.
I have been tried and tested in ways I thought were unimaginable...the emotional impact that this has had on me and my boys is unreal...I am extremely blessed to have level headed boys who have kept me going.
There never has or ever will be a custody battle... no matter what has happened between me and my ex, he is still their dad and how their relationship grows and develops is down to him and them...
My friends, my family, my work family have listened to me for years, day in day out...the tears... the tantrums...the lows and now the highs...they have been on this journey with me too and I cannot thank them enough for their support... below is just one of my messages from my girls ...I love this...I read this again and again...she pretty much sums it all up in one!
I’m so proud of you!!!! You’ve endured things that no woman or mother should have had to go through and you did it consistently with poise and grace and dignity. I always told you that good will prevail evil and yesterday’s ruling proved that. You’re still not over the hard times - and I have to tell you that honestly because I love you. But what you have proved is that whatever life throws at you, you’re tough enough and worthy enough to take it in your stride and come out fighting like the badass bitch you are!! Congratulations Ms Gupta!! You’re my soldier princess - now go straighten your crown and hold your head up high!!! Love you always.
So just as she said here I go!
Saroj shares her journey:
I am a divorced single mum and I was physically and mentally abused by my ex after five days of marriage. I stayed in this abusive relationship for a further seventeen years because of the stigma in the Asian culture. I felt trapped and couldn't get out, my ex was an alcoholic and kept making me feel like I was a failure.
My son aged 16 at the time, had seen enough of what was going on, and felt it was mentally disturbing and causing the family to break down. My children were scared of hearing the abusive shouting by their dad. There came a time I managed to call the police as my ex tried to physically abuse me again. I just had enough. All I could think of was to protect and give a new life to my children, and this meant being a single mum. It was a hard choice I had to make.
I struggled with finances after my separation, bringing up two teenagers on my own and living in a rented property. I was working, but my pay didn't suffice so I started claiming benefits. I had no savings at the end, my children were growing and needed clothing and books, but the bills just kept piling up. At the same time, I kept thinking did I make the right choice leaving my ex. We were struggling, but I kept holding onto the hope that things might change for the better, but instead, the worst happened.
We all went through depression seeking counselling and we sadly lost my son (forever 19) through suicide. My daughter refused contact from her dad, knowing he was the cause.
My daughter was affected so much, she wasn't doing well at school and isolated herself from everyone. I knew her wellbeing was more important than her grades at this point. I had to change her thinking, and become her strength and encouragement. It was very difficult for me losing one child too, but I knew I needed to be her strength. I studied with her as I couldn't afford a tutor, going out enjoying bonding time that was affordable, and slowly I could see changes. I knew she wasn't cut out for A levels. She is enjoying a Btec course in sports at a college and this has built her confidence again and making new friends. Teachers who are supportive are an added bonus. I needed to focus and list what her passions in life are and help her in achieving these. I will keep on believing she will succeed. She now knows she has a future and looking at university for her to progress even further. I also made some changes, giving up my office job in the city and became a Wellbeing Team Lead. I am an inspiration speaker on Mental Health raising community awareness and help run various Mental Health promotional activities. I have started writing mantras for happiness and motivation and started drawing again as it has always been a passion.
I have become my daughter's best friend as she is more open to me and able to talk. I always praise and encourage with opportunity what lies in the future and I believe in her so she can believe.
Sometimes it's not only education, but that special bonding time is required. Its hard being a single mum as financially you can't afford everything, but making new memories is priceless.
We joined Asian Single Parents, made new friends as there is always a fun social gathering on the agenda. In addition, there's always support on the group where we are able to get further advice. We have become a part of a family, and as new members join the bigger our family grows.
A FATHER’S TALE
In the vast majority of divorce cases, the status of primary parent is automatically awarded to the mother. For some women, children become tools by which to batter their ex-husbands into submission. In addition, by having control of the day-to-day lives of the children, she is ideally positioned to coach and influence them in their thinking. Parents who are not allowed to engage with their children, suffer from a phenomenon known as ‘Parental Alienation’ and is more evident amongst single fathers. Co-parenting is great in principle, but its success is wholly dependent on equal cooperation and understanding by both parties. Where this is not forthcoming, fathers can feel alienated and struggle to come to terms with their loss. The mother on the other hand has the children to focus on. The daily school run, the after-school clubs, arranging activities etc. Indeed, the kids can provide a much-needed purpose to her life. I am not saying that the life of a single mother is in any way easy, far from it, it is stressful and difficult. But, for the father, it is a lonely, isolated, and depressing existence. I went from a full-time father to a part-time nobody.
Despite court orders, it is still up to the mother to facilitate and encourage contact with the father. If that willingness does not exist, the father is left pleading to see his own children. Taking matters to court is an option, but it is a lengthy process and takes its toll on everyone concerned, including the children. Some single fathers end up suffering huge stress and anxiety, making their work and personal life unbearable. Is it any wonder that many decide to move away, start a new life to escape the frustration, and thereby risk being labelled ‘absent father’. I decided to stay, to see my boys whenever I could no matter how long the interval, to speak to them whenever the phone was answered and to keep my love for them alive. Eight years down the road, my boys are now young adults, making their own decisions about their futures and choosing to include me in their lives. My perseverance seems to have paid off, but I cannot help feeling that this journey did not need to have been so painful.
To those fathers in similar positions, my advice is to stay strong, do whatever is necessary to maintain contact (no matter how brief) and to look after your health. Remember, you are the only father your children have.
Triumph not Despair!
Mourn not for what is lost,
Mourn not for what do ‘you think’ was there.
Move forward instead and let it go In knowing
God is fair.
Agggh, but what of the pain?
What of the anger and the heartache
Feelings that I cannot feign?
16 years on I realise everything was right.....
A beautiful daughter is here,
A life with abundant experiences I’d love to share
The pain gone... disappeared into thin air.
The scars remain... but let them be memories of triumph and not despair!
The fairy tale
I don’t think anyone dreams of becoming a single parent, we dream of a perfect life with your soulmate and raising amazing children with them. I had everything that other people dreamed of. The big 4 bedroom house in Surrey, the flashy cars, trips abroad 4 times a year. We were living the life, so it may seem. However it wasn’t enough, I just wasn’t happy. My relationship was not what it seemed, I was doing it all, working part-time, looking after my 2 babies, I felt powerless, stuck, not good enough and my self-esteem had plummeted, my health was suffering, in essence, I was exhausted. I couldn’t see a way out until I couldn’t take it anymore, I decided I’d had enough and the single parent journey begins.
Coming out with the truth
Leaving was the only decision I felt I had. It was scary, the security, the fear of the unknown, my boys were only 4.5 and 2.5 years old. Where do I go? What do I do? Who do I tell? The shame, the guilt. I was making myself ill. I dreaded telling my parents who lived in India. So many questions and I had no answers. One day I was in a park with my boys, I looked and felt miserable. My SIL said out the blue, “I know you’re not happy, you don’t need to live this way you know”. Suddenly the tears flowed and I broke down. I said “how do you know?” She said, “We’ve known for a while, it’s obvious”. I ended up staying a couple of nights and pouring out my heart and soul. I went home and started to organise my exit plan. It took 6 months, counseling, and countless trips to the Royal Marsden for diagnostics thinking the worst and planning to leave, telling the in-laws and my husband. I just knew that year 2008 was the last Christmas I was going to have with all of them. After Christmas, I plucked up the courage and went to tell them with my A4 clipboard and notes, so I didn’t miss a single thing. They were shocked and said things that I’m embarrassed to repeat. My husband has a lot of issues that they didn’t know about so I can understand their disbelief.
Living with someone for 6 months knowing that I’m leaving was the hardest part of this all. We were civil, he buried his head in the sand. I was relieved there were no more arguments. I had organised a flat for us to live in, the nursery for my youngest and a primary school for my eldest. I can’t til this day believe how easy everything fell into place. It’s like the universe had my back. All the worries and anxiety felt like they had melted away. I was finally leaving the misery behind and living a new life. Still scared, still anxious but I was somehow ok with it all. The day came to pack up and move. Independence day I called it, well it was July the 4th after all. My husband wanted to help so I let him, and we finally moved to our new flat to start our new life.
Today, 12 years on
It felt weird at first, knew everything and happy again. Took time to build myself up again. I got into personal development as I wanted answers and so grateful I did. We stayed in West London for 4.5 half years and made some wonderful friends. I joined some social groups and came across Aruna and ASP (Asian Single Parents Network). I was amazed to see so many women in my shoes and I wasn't alone. I quickly joined and went to quite a few events. It was amazing not only for me but also for my boys. Grateful to have found them. Their dad and I kept in touch and agreed we wanted what’s best for them and made their visits consistent. I did meet someone and we dated for 3 years, it was the best experience. We moved to South London and we are still here. I got a job at a school doing science and now that they’re teenagers, I moved into science management, a job I absolutely love. I also trained to be a breakthrough freedom coach and I help people all over the world with shifting their negative limiting beliefs, emotions, and fears, I love it. My biggest lesson in all this that I realised I needed to take responsibility for my own happiness and have fun with life and I do just that.
Our first story comes from a former member, Mina Thompson.
The ‘For Sale’ sign had only just gone up and the family down the street were in there like a flash, wanting to have a look around. They had outgrown their more modest dwelling and needed the upgrade to our slightly larger one. At just 7, he was entirely competent doing the tour, pointing out rooms, giving a little detail, here or there, including, at one point, that his parents were getting divorced, which, he explained, was why the house was being sold. The import of those words falling amidst the awkward silence of the adults in the room…, that will stay with me forever.
We had decided he was too young to know what was going on in the time leading up to the divorce, and so when we told him, there was suddenly little time for him to come to terms with it before we prepared to move. I don’t know if there is a right or a wrong time. Years later he told me he resented us both for telling him so late. We had destroyed his security, de-stabilised his life, and he had no say in any of it.
Ten years on and this is so hard to write. Our shattered dreams are the pain of a million shards. We have survived them, but only just. We have moved on, and grown, and changed, are settled happier, and yet… it all remains – those moments suspended in time – just there – within our reach – joy, love, suffering, anger, blame, tears, lawyers, alcohol, shouting, fighting, deep deep depressions. Gouges in our souls. And the light that we created and loved and wanted - so precious – so so precious - caught up in the storm.
We can’t protect our children. We aren’t meant to. We can’t protect them from our failings. We can’t protect them from Life.
Single mom removed from the familiar, in a foreign land. The support structure was not here. It was miles and miles, and oceans away, in different time zones. Just as well they could not see. Their age and ailments and realities could not be burdened upon. It would not have been right. So sucking it up, with lipstick painted on, boarding trains for stretching hours, you stared out windows and willed yourself to keep the thoughts at bay. Because it would not do to come unravelled – not for the weary fellow commuters who would flounder at the awkwardness. Nor the little arms waiting back at home.
There were other moments too. After the divorce. That first 20 minute walk across the field where the kids played football, past the kids play area that was to be just at our doorstep, and the cosy pub with the real fire place with a real fire. That first walk to collect keys to the first piece of real estate that was to be my own (well.., and the bank’s). And when I showed him where we would both now live, and what would be his room, and he gave me the two thumbs up and my heart soared to the skies…, that moment will stay with me forever.
Half a family is double the stretch at the purse strings. My commute was longer, and the funds would go no further than the basic bills, and his father and I could not agree visiting arrangements without an argument, and the blame and anger were close companions at each pick up. The strain was immense. Long day after long day, journey after journey, 10 years of commute culminated my fatigue. And there was no light ahead. It was all untenable. I was falling. “Untenable” - the word pounded my brains. Alarm bells ringing in my head left me for days in bed – a position we could ill afford.
So, I packed up our bags and moved us again. Too soon. We destabilised again. New schools in quick succession. We moved just far enough of a drive where the accents were different but he could still see his dad. But it felt so different for him that it may as well have been a different language. My salvation, though unconnected, became his fire. He didn’t belong. Didn’t fit. Was bullied. Everything changed for him. He suffered. And the memory of that, for him, lingers on.
Forgiving myself will take time. The options were limited. Right or Wrong – these aren’t signs on the roads we take. There are just different roads.
In Black and White, the images – the judgements – they are stark.
But today… today I looked at the photographs. Six years since our move and I have collected many photographs. The occasions, the holidays, the celebrations, the random. Few reflect back the woefulness I feel in the recounting. I would say we hide it well to pose for the lens, but the eyes in the photographs don’t lie. Today I looked at the photographs and thought ‘he’ll be alright’. I feel, I did alright. I sensed, ‘we are alright’. If I have one thing to say, it is this: ” Take photographs! They add colour to your memories which, in the judgement, are in Black and White”.
Picture Credit: https://bit.ly/36afN8l