I thought I’d re-introduce my self and my story as the founder of the Asian Single Parents Network which I’ve run for the last 9 years.
My name is Aruna, and as a young girl I always dreamed of the perfect wedding day. The romance of it all, and the happy ever after, as most girls do. My parents were very busy starting up their own business from the age of 11, and my older siblings had gone to university. I was pretty much left to entertain myself as being brought up in a strict Asian family, we were supposed to concentrate on our studies rather than socialising with friends.
Fast forward to my adult years and I have had 2 arranged marriages and both ended.
At University I dated a Patel, but we weren’t allowed to get married, so I came back home heartbroken. Shortly thereafter I was introduced to my first husband, but was thrown out after 2 months by the in-laws because the dowry wasn’t enough. On honeymoon, my husband said your parents didn’t buy a house or a car. I was only 21. It took me 2 years to get my clothing, personal toiletries etc back because they wouldn’t return them without going through court. My second marriage ended after 8 years as my ex insisted on still seeing his, and even on honeymoon wanted to wear gifts from her.
This photo was taken when I had just split up from my ex when my daughter was 4. I drove to Manchester with her in the back to see friends. I found it liberating as I had never had the courage to drive so far until then. (London being the furthest, as my ex used to drive us everywhere).
After my experiences, and having been through a divorce twice I could have easily hidden away, but didn’t. I decided that people would always talk about something no matter what I did, and whether I was in the wrong or not. I am grateful I have the perfect gift from all of this, my daughter.
I decided to set up Asian Single Parents in 2011, as I found that many of my friends at the time were in couples, so as much as they tried to understand what I was going through, they didn’t fully understand. I don’t think someone truly understands something unless they’ve been through it themselves. In addition, I wanted company for myself and my daughter when going out for day trips rather than it being just us all the time.
I really wanted to help others after what I had been through. It felt like a calling, and it was something I needed to do. There weren’t many people who I could talk to when I went through it, so this network was somewhere where parents could talk openly without being judged. It’s a private space, where members support each other and understand exactly what you’re going through.
I have met many Asian Single Parents over the years, who have found friends for life through the network. They have company that they didn’t have before, not only for themselves but their children too. It’s so important for the children to see that there are others who are in single parent families too, and it isn’t just them.
Separated, widowed, divorced, single by choice, living apart can all fit into the category of a single parent family. No matter how you arrived in your current situation, it’s important for families and children to know they are not alone.
We have members all over the UK, including London and the South East, such as Kent, Sussex, Surrey, in the Midlands and surrounding areas.
For regional areas, we have local groups so members get to know each other better. They share advice and are able to support each other. If someone is at a loose end one evening/day, they often ask others in their local area if they can meet up.
We are active hosting a mixture of fun activities for both parents and kids and experiences that are priceless.
Daytime events for both Parents and their children: These have included activities such as a trip to London Zoo, picnic and play in various parks, bowling, ice skating, trips to the seaside, attending festivals such as the Tall Ships Festival in Greenwich, cultural events such as Holi, Diwali in Trafalgar Square, Vaisaki at Gravesend Gurudwara and Eid related events. These are just some of the many events we have held and are suitable for all ages.
Evening events for parents: these are for the adults only to have a night off! Including things such as a nice meal; drinks or a Bollywood event.
Holidays: We have been away on weekend breaks and holidays, and hope to do a lot more of these in the near future especially overseas! ?
We are looking forward to sharing many more memories with members. Now that lockdown has eased, we are hosting day trips which are socially distanced and have restricted numbers. We are keeping some of our virtual meets at the same time such as our parents meet every Thursday evening at 9pm. This is where parents can ask for advice on anything, and also let off steam and have a laugh.
By sharing my story, I want to give hope to others that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Although it’s devastating at the time when you go through a breakup, things will improve and the bad times are only temporary.
Thank you for reading my story and journey so far. I hope you can join us on our new website www.aspnetwork.org.uk
We have recently been in various media stories on the BBC talking about stigma around single parenting in the Asian community: https://aspnetwork.org.uk/in-the-media
Follow us on our socials: https://linktr.ee/aspnetwork