Singles meet-up groups in cities are now organising brunches and informal dos specifically for single parents. Living in with life partners, youngsters moving out within the same changing. And at the heart of the change is the urban individual.
Playing card games and watching movies are two ways that Sandhya’s teenaged daughter is bonding with her mother’s second husband.
A former naval officer, Sandhya*, 41, married an IT consultant in March, 12 years after she divorced her first husband on grounds of incompatibility.
“It’s nice to be a family again,” she says. “But I won’t rush my daughter. She calls my husband ‘Uncle’, most of the time. Sometimes she slips and calls him dad. To me, that’s a small beginning.”
Across the country, young single parents are seeking new beginnings, creating enlarged nuclear families that consist of multiple parents.
What’s interesting, says Joseph MT, associate professor of sociology at University of Mumbai, is that the level of acceptability towards second marriages is rising, if marginally, in favour of single mothers too. Read: Widowed seniors living in without remarrying
Sandhya’s husband, for instance, is nine years younger than her, and this is his first marriage. “When we first got together, he was 31. His profile was already floating on several matrimonial websites,” Sandhya remembers. “His parents are not thrilled. But his friends, and my friends and family have all been accepting.”
Further proof of the rising acceptability of such unions is the fact that singles’ social groups are now embracing single parents, and organising special events to help them find new partners.
In Mumbai, singles meet-up group Footloose No More organises informal dos regularly, primarily for single parents.
Monica Kumar, 47, mother of an 18-year-old, is one of 25 single parents attending one such brunch today. A freelance voice and accent trainer, Kumar did her hair and bought a dress especially for the occasion. Her biggest strength, she says, is that her son urges her to move on.
After 19 years in what she describes as a love marriage with an absentee husband, Kumar signed her divorce on mutual grounds three months ago.
“My son talks to his father, visits him on weekends or whenever he feels like. In that way, things are very cordial between us,” says Kumar. “But my son and I are both ready to move on.”
The children, in fact, are starting to see a new beginning as just that.
For Delhi-based Kshitij Verma (name changed, 31), his father’s second marriage a few weeks ago felt complicated, but he says he recognises that it was an important moment for his dad.
“My parents separated when I was 10. I wasn't surprised; I had seen how troubled their marriage was,” he says. “Initially it was awkward meeting his new wife and her two children from an earlier marriage, but it was also a rare moment. I see the new people as additions to our family.”
People are innovating with the concept of family, says Janaki Abraham, associate professor of sociology at Delhi University. “I think the middle-class and upper middle-class are far more accepting of parents remarrying,” she says.
Kiran Mewati, a divorcee and 33-year-old Navi Mumbai-based freelance banking consultant, for instance, is eagerly awaiting her second marriage with her live-in partner.
“My six-year-old adopted son loves him,” she says. “They go to the park together, he sits by my boy’s side all night when he’s sick. He dotes on him like any father would.”
(* Surname withheld on request)
— Humaira Ansari & Shalini Singh