#WomensDay: Mothers who are single and slaying it
It’s still uncommon for single women to choose to have children. There’s stigma and an endless barrage of questions. Women who’ve taken this path couldn’t care less, we found. They are preparing for the long game and hard conversations, not so much with society as with their children. Three women tell us their stories.
Supriya Deverkonda, 40s, New Delhi
Had a girl child through adoption in 2013
Kids were my weakness and I always knew my child would be my best friend. I went through the process of looking for a suitable partner, but it didn’t yield results.
Wanting to follow in Sushmita Sen’s steps, I informed my parents of my desire to adopt. They readily agreed. My parents defied convention too; my mom is older than dad. And they supported me every step of the way.
It’s been seven years with my daughter, Maanasvi. She’s active, curious, like any other girl her age. And although she hankered for her father when she was smaller, she accepted my father as a father figure. Now she’s secure and understands I am her mother, father and best friend. So much so that she has strictly warned me not to marry (in case my love gets divided).
Questions arise on who is her father and why she doesn’t have one. When I clarify I am not married, some are shocked and some show a keen interest to know more. It was not easy for anyone in the system to accept she has no “father’s name”. At the passport office, I had to hear in counter after counter, “Baap ka naam kyun nahi” (Why isn’t there a father’s name?).
Adoption today is perceived as a noble deed. I know the intentions of those saying that is good, but for me, it was a path to parenting a child. Fortunately, Maanasvi and I received wide acceptance. An 80 year-old friend of my father’s started applauding us when he saw me walking her; an old economics teacher I bumped into said she was proud of me for having the courage to be a single mother by choice. The fact is, I wanted a child, and now I have one.
Eleena Banik, late 40s, Kolkata
Had a girl child through IVF in 2012
I am a painter and an activist in the fight against the patriarchy. I am also a mother.
I always wanted to have a child, but not with my ex-husband. Ten years after I got divorced, I felt it was time. I chose an old college friend to be the donor.
Amaravati is now seven. Bringing her up hasn’t been easy. I would have never survived the initial months without a nurse and a trained maid. It’s not easy even now. But the good moments — putting my arms around her, watching her sleep — fuel me.
One of my neighbours, an elderly woman, used to say to me, “We know where the child comes from,” rather derogatorily. She was an exception. Others have been nice. I am often asked, “Where is your child’s father?” Even a security guard at the school asked me that. “She is an IVF child,” is all I say. While filling forms too, I write, “IVF child”.
Amaravati knows who her father is. They have met too, but she never talks about him to outsiders. Of course, my decision came as a shock to my family. But my mother has turned out to be my biggest support. She helps me in every possible way.
A*, 36, New Delhi
Had a boy baby through IVF in 2019
I always wanted two children: one I would birth, one I would adopt. I’m half way there; I just never thought I would still be single.
After my engagement didn’t work out two years ago, I thought about having a baby. Even I wasn’t sure whether I could go through with it. But my sister-in-law encouraged me and got the rest of the family in my corner. She told them what matters is my happiness, not what people might say.
My son is a month old and my life has already changed. Friends ask, “How will you take care of your baby after your parents pass away?” or “What will happen once your brother and sister-in-law become busy in their own lives?” I tell them that’s why I had a child. I will still have my family.
I know there’s a lot waiting in store for me, but with the kind of support that I have received, I know I will be unfazed. When I look at my son, my worries do not matter. I also can’t wait for him to grow up a little and play with me.
Motherhood has been wonderful and tiring. Thankfully, I live with my family and help is at hand. In a year, I would like to adopt another child and complete my family.
(*Name withheld on request)