Unbowed – Finding Happiness Again

By Amna Haq
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‘She’s not a typical child. Her life begins and ends with me. I do feel this is a loss for her and if one of these days she decides to reach out to him, I will never stop her.’

Motherhood, quite frankly is one of the toughest jobs and yet the most beloved. Companionship can help ease the responsibilities of bringing up a child. When two people do it together, life obviously becomes less complicated.

And yet there are women who do it all alone.

They singularly raise their children, armoring them against a cruel world. These mothers, these brave single mothers, save all the heartache and trauma for themselves, and gracefully decide to teach their children only love. To all such incredible women out there, who’ve resolutely built their homes again, you are phoenixes and we’re all proud of you.

Farhat Rabia – ‘a liberated single mother’, as she refers to herself, is one such individual who weathered the storm and is now, in a happier place than when she started out. Here she shares her journey on raising a beautiful young daughter, channeling family support, counselling, and dealing with a misogynist workplace. But most of all, in Farhat’s own words- ‘My life experiences have personally taught me to handle relationships better. During my marriage I had cocooned myself in and given in to all the absurd pressures. I got used to working in small settings. But now I’m a full-time consultant and a confident trainer who travels often.’

At the start, things were tough. Beginning all over again in an estranged home-country came with its set of cultural shocks. But Farhat, with her firm resolve, picked up quickly and landed a well-paying job.

‘I felt a true sense of achievement when I bought my first microwave oven, and then a car on lease’.

The most important thing in Farhat’s life is her daughter. ‘Our bond has strengthened even more now. I’m really proud of the way she conducts herself. She’s the one looking out for me instead of the other way round. We eat out, enjoy, and spend time together.’

Farhat’s family has always been supportive about her decisions. She was the closest to her late father who instilled strong, independent values in her. Farhat’s mother has been an eternal spring of support too, and especially tends to her beloved granddaughter. ‘My mother did so much for my daughter, even the things I could never do’. Being in a close-knit family, Farhat, however admits that, every family can go a little overboard in their attempt to help their loved ones. It is essential to cut out the necessary personal space one needs to figure things independently. And that comes with time.

As a working woman, she did experience misogynistic attitudes, even from her colleagues at a higher level in the work place. ‘My ex-boss told me that the reason I speak up, is because I want to be noticed. So I should shut up’. There’s always a men’s club at the workplace, to which women often have to comply and respond with a ‘yes boss’ for things to run smoothly. ‘But some women don’t want to say that. They want to question and be logical’. And this has been Farhat’s strength. For all the years she’s remained quiet and subservient, Farhat now speaks up confidently. But things have been rough too. One of the toughest times she had to deal with was when her daughter fell acutely ill. This was followed by frequent hospital visits. ‘Everything stops when your child isn’t well. I resigned from my job’. Dealing with it alone without having someone to fall back on was, she admitted, the hardest challenge.

She did explain the clinical facts to her daughter about the divorce. However Farhat, echoing the integral values bred into her, never let her daughter on the emotional facts. ‘I never wanted my daughter to know only one side of the story because I don’t want her to hate her father. I’m sure both of them will later reach out but I’ve grown past the bitter feelings.’

Upon asking her what she would like to teach her child about love and expectations, she said she would rather not. Farhat remains fearless, stating that she will not beware her daughter of anything. ‘I am with her in whatever she wants to do and who she wants to be with. I will, of course, share my wisdom with her when she needs it’. Farhat refuses to reflect her harsh experiences on her daughter and allows her the freedom to explore love afresh.

There is, however, one thing she has implicitly taught her daughter. ‘Never explain yourself or justify your situation to anyone. Don’t be bothered and don’t care about what people will say’. This indeed, is a very important lesson. Often when we hear of so-and-so’s divorce, a certain moral obligation jolts us to probe, question, and get down to the miniscule details, only to pass insensitive verdicts on their lives. And this is precisely what Farhat wanted to stay far from.

She drew special attention to counselling. Separation can be very traumatic, and it is ensued by a deep sense of loss for both the partners. It definitely takes time to heal from it. It is crucial that at least some form of counselling and advice is sought. ‘I had this one friend who always slapped sense into me whenever I needed counselling. She made me realize where I was wrong. Having developed unhealthy defense mechanisms because of all the pressure in my previous environment, I didn’t realize there were a lot of wrong habits I had internalized. But she was always there whenever I needed to vent out.’ Whether it’s a close friend, or a certified therapist, one must always talk to someone. It truly helps, she insisted.

On her final advice to all the single mothers out there, Farhat affirms: ‘It will take time but you will heal. You will come out of it. And in the process, never bottle up your emotions. Talk to someone remote from the environment and seek help or advice’.

And lastly, to the society at large, Farhat has a profound message to give. ‘Please don’t turn into a moral police for everyone. No one needs self-appointed judges. Live and let live.’ Divorce and broken families are seen as a result of some kind of failure, especially on the woman’s part. Farhat strongly believes that marriage is a sacred bond and companionship can really make life beautiful but our customs and culture have so often turned it into a burden. There’s only so much one can endure. Divorce, at times is the only option. But life doesn’t end there. And Farhat’s life is proof of that.

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About Amna Haq

Amna, aiming to earn a Masters in Social Policy finds inspiration in the writings of Arundhati Roy. A feminist at heart, she wishes to cover stories -up-close and personal- of brave, resilient women in South Asia who fight against the odds in every little and mighty way they can. As an intern at FUCHSIA, she aims to grow as a writer and explore her budding love for journalism.