I was watching One Fine Day for the nth time the other day and kept thinking to myself – Thank God, my life is nothing like that. I mean, I get a lot of credit for being a single parent but on most days I don’t do anything that the average parent doesn’t – dragging a very reluctant five-year-old from bed, forcibly shoving glass of milk into her mouth, getting spat on all over, working out suitable bribes before carrying the offspring into the shower, being rudely asked why I don’t look "sweet like the mamma in the Pears soap ad" while I’m at it and banging head on wall several times during the day – you know, it’s therapeutic – while making mental calculations on how long it will be before she graduates. Like I was saying, regular parenting stuff.
Sometimes, I look at married parents (mothers mostly), who end up doing all the work – and are in fact single parents in their own right but get no credit for it – because the spouse is usually either too busy boarding flights for earth-shattering meetings or breaking young girls’ hearts – and I even sigh in relief that I don’t have to deal with that kind of stress.
Then again, it’s not always that simple. Recently, I was at a birthday party where the moms had all congregated at the balcony – while the brats ran about smearing chocolate cake on each other’s faces. It didn’t matter that we didn’t know each other or had at best, just nodding acquaintance. We all knew what it was like raising kindergarteners and that was enough fodder for conversation. No one would have to feel left out – or so I thought.
The first round of conversation was easy – someone started a story about how she couldn’t keep up with her son’s antics and as tradition would have it, the rest of us one-upped that with our own stories – in turn, of course.
And then, one mom did it – she started a thread on how the husband never does anything around the house – ‘The one day I ask him to pick her up from school!’ she started. A complaining round! How much fun!
Except, what could I possibly add to it? I could spring my marital status on them at this point but it would make them all uncomfortable. I mean, one minute, everyone’s so engrossed complaining about husbands and then it would be my turn and I’d go ‘Uhh, actually, I’m divorced. So haha, I have nothing to complain about’ and suddenly, there’d be this moment. And even if they choose not to tch-tch me, I would completely ruin the flow and the next mom would have to start a whole new thread. It would be like Passing the Parcel and I’d be the girl with the parcel when the music stops. Mortifying. So I pulled the restroom card of course and slipped out of the scene.
That night I decided I should get myself more mommy-friends – that way, they’d know about my single status from the start and there’d be no room for awkward social situations. Also, my world is split in two – I’m single but I’m also a parent. And while I have loads of single friends, I don’t have enough friends who are parents. And I believe all parents need this – it would be like a support group – we’d meet every week, discuss all our parenting-related woes and go back home fully assured in the knowledge that we’re all in this mess together.
On that note, I eagerly took off to the next kindergarten birthday bash – this time, it was a different set of kids and parents. I decided I will go early, make friends and you know, let everyone know about my single status so there’d be no room for uhh-umm moments. But due to a series of annoying delays, I got there late. I was not going to let that get me down of course, so I reached the venue, dumped the offspring with the other brats and joined the ladies with my share of horrifying kindergarten stories – with the confidence that comes from knowing I had already dealt with the most awkward situation yet – when the mommy next to me started a new thread, Planning Baby #2. Uhh, umm.
They don’t call it restroom for nothing.
(The series is concluded)
Judy Balan is the best-selling author of Two Fates —The Story Of My Divorce
From HT Brunch, March 25
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