11th October 2011 exactly at 09:45 AM, my family welcomed their first grandchild; my mother took him into her arms and gazed at his soft, milky white face and pink lips swaddled in green cloth. We already knew we were going to have a boy, thus the world welcomed Zaraar.
Being a mother is never easy. Whether you are single, married, alone, with help, or without, there are certain journeys that you take alone, and a mother’s emotional journey is something that she travels with every day. Every decision is dependent on the well-being of her child, and in her head, she will always be analyzing the pros and cons of her decision and its impact on her child.
I was a widow approximately two years after my son was born, therefore at 28, a young widow. But I was always independent financially, emotionally, and physically and the death of my husband didn’t break me. Rather, it helped me become stronger and made me realize the power I had in molding my son according to the cast that I seemed fit.
But the standards that I set for myself and on how to raise my son were always frowned upon. For me, the priority was always that I transform him into an empathetic, gentle, and open man who any wife would be proud to partner with. But in Pakistan, raising your child that way is always titled as raising a “pansy”. But I think over the years a single mother just grows thick skin and as much as I worry for him, I think I have learned to draw out the noise that falls into my ears as I continue to raise him the way I want.
I work long hours with a lot of traveling if and when my work demands it. The only reason I am able to do it is that I can trust my mother will be drilling the same values into my son. You see, when you are raised by a single working woman, she not only raises a strong child but also helps lift generations that she lives with, and my mother has done just that.
Being a young widow comes with its own baggage. You see people whispering at family gatherings about how important it is for a woman my age to get married again because a child needs a father. Obviously, I differ; a child needs one healthy parent. A child needs a routine. I believe one person’s idea of a normal family does not mean it’s the definition of another’s. My son’s normal family is his maternal grandmother, his maternal uncle, and his mom (aka dad aka me) and I think I can safely say that my son’s mental health, physical health, and emotional quotient are much stronger than other kids his age who live with both their parents who are unhappy in their marriages and therefore raising kids with unreal expectations.
I am judged every day with questions and eyes each time I leave the city for work. I am asked how my son takes it. I have even heard comments on how I am a careless mother. As a mother and even as a human, I go through extreme guilt trips and pain, but the only question I ask myself each time I am made to feel small is that if a man was in my place he wouldn’t be asked these questions then why am I? Am I not the father to my son? Am I not his provider financially? I feel my normal family structure in this abnormal world is me playing the role of a father and my mother playing the emotional role of my son’s mother and we balance his life out just fine.
My son and I share a very open relationship where he can come and discusses things that make his mind curious at 10. We watch his favourite YouTubers together. There are even times when we discuss how I am feeling emotionally or if something is bothering me. These are real conversations I believe that I need to have with my son, so he realizes that his mother is not a superhero. She has her lows, worries, and pain, and she is pretty vulnerable at times just like everyone else.
You see, raising a boy is not easy and not in a place like Pakistan where patriarchy and machoism are the norm, and respect comes with the strength of the arm or the tongue and not the mind or the level of empathy one carries. If I talk about myself, I have always wanted my son to be careful around his female friends and classmates. I have introduced him to the idea of how women have a monthly cycle and the toll it takes on their bodies and moods. I have found him to be softer to me during my monthlies, and more caring. He is always leaving me the last slab of the chocolate, switching the lights off when he feels I am super low, and at the end of it, I am proud to feel like I am raising a gentleman who will make some woman very happy one day.
We, as single women raising our children on our own, face a lot every single day, because I believe our challenge is always raised to the power of 2: Our finances, our emotions, our strength, our responsibilities… But I think we are also rewarded raised to the power of 2: With undivided love, with undivided attention, with unlimited kisses, hugs, and affection, and finally the achievement of doing this on all our own, parenting done just right!