Doting single fathers who deserve a hug this Mother’s Day.
On this Mother’s day, here are stories of super single father who are raising and guiding their children as a good mother and friend as well.
“They’d warned my wife that her pregnancy would have complications. Still, she ached to be a mom so much that she decided to give it a shot. And on the 25th of Jan 2018, I first held my son in my arms; I burst into tears when the doctor said, ‘Both mom & baby are healthy.’ Priyadarshi, my wife, was so happy that she distributed sweets to all our neighbours! But our happiness was short lived–dheere dheere uski tabiyat kharab hone lagi. The doctors told us that her liver was damaged; I was shocked. Over the next 3 months, Priyadarshi became bedridden. So I took over all the responsibilities; from warming the milk for Rishabh to singing him loris, I did it all. But not even for a second did I suspect that things would go so bad. When Rishabh was 5 months old, her condition deteriorated; before I could rush her to the hospital, she collapsed. In her final moments, she said, ‘I know that when I’m no more, you’ll be both father & mother to our son.’ I was devastated–for about 6 months, I was barely able to get out of bed. My parents moved in with me to take care of Rishabh. In my weakest moments, I’d blame myself for not taking care of Priyadarshi properly–‘Was there anything more I could’ve done?’ This once, I was so lost in my own thoughts that I didn’t even realize Rishabh was crying. My mom rushed in & scolded me, ‘Kuch ho jata Rishu ko toh?’ That incident jolted me–I knew I had to pull myself together for my son. I tried my best to be there for Rishabh–so I opted for work from home permanently. From waking him up, to cooking for him to playing, we spend all day together. I give him piggyback rides & tell him stories about dinosaurs before putting him to sleep; Rishabh just loves animals. Rishabh was 1 year old when he uttered his first word–he said, ‘Mumma’; I cried from within as I hugged him tight. Rishabh has just turned 3, & even now, he sometimes calls me ‘Mumma-Papa’, & then quickly corrects himself & says, ‘Papa’. Although Rishabh & his mom only spent 5 months with each other, I’d never want him to forget how brave she was. So every night, after his bedtime stories, we kiss Mumma’s photo goodnight, & Rishabh always promises to be a good boy… for her.”
“My marriage of 5 years ended with my wife cheating on me multiple times; I caught her red-handed with our neighbour. Then, I saw her chats where she’d been sexting men–this was after she sedated me through my food. Still, she denied it all. But then, I found a red slap mark on our son’s back. ‘Amma hit me when I told her I wanted to meet Thatha-Paatti’, he said. That was it–I filed for divorce; Srivatsan, our son, chose to stay with me. I was devastated; Shrivastan was 4. For the first 2 months, he’d wake up screeching at night, so I’d sing him to sleep. He refused to eat–we discovered later that my ex-wife even sedated him when she brought other men home. He knew something was wrong & started fearing food, so I’d feed him by telling him stories to divert his attention. As time passed, he revealed how his mother used to kick him & even bite him. This once, Srivatsan had woken up to find her with another man. She’d threatened him–‘You’ll never see Appa if you utter a word’; my son was traumatized. So I decided to move in with my parents thinking that he’d heal better with his Thatha-Paatti. There, I’d wake up early to cook for him, bathe him & teach him. My parents looked after him too. They felt terribly guilty–‘We arranged this rishta...it’s our fault,’ my mother would say. But we helped each other get out of it. Soon, I put Srivatsan into a new school–side by side, we both began therapy. Once, I asked him, ‘Do you miss having a mother?’ & he said, ‘No, I don’t want to see Amma ever again.’ Over time, he started calling his Paatti as ‘Amma’. Our life is getting back on track now–Srivatsan & I go to the park every evening & then do our homework. And every weekend, we have movie nights! After the divorce, my ex-wife never tried to reach out to us. It’s been 2.5 years–Srivatsan is aware of what happened & has accepted it. At times, if I’m feeling low, Srivatsan senses it & gives me a hug–he’s so mature. He keeps telling me that he’ll make me proud. Sometimes, he wants to become an engineer, at times a driver–it changes everyday. But this once, out of nowhere, he said, ‘Appa, I want to be a good father like you’& everything seemed okay right about then…”
“I remember the first day I held Sahana. The doctor handed her to me as I looked into her button-like eyes; I wanted to give her all the happiness in the world. But in trying to achieve that goal, my life revolved around work. I’d take monthly work trips & when in the city, I’d get home after Sahana’s bedtime; I was trying to be a good provider. But when Sahana turned 4, her mother ended our marriage & left me with Sahana’s full custody. I spent months trying to come to terms with it; months working 24x7, partying & blocking out everything. I was lucky to have a family that looked after Sahana because I was in shambles. Watching our separation was difficult for Sahana, but I was too wrapped up in my own grief to pay attention to her. 6 months later, Sahana’s principal called & said, ‘Your daughter’s sinking. She isn’t paying attention & snaps at every little thing.’ That day, I cried & apologised for my behaviour. All she said was, ‘It’s okay, Papa. I’m here for you!’ I hugged her & promised, ‘I’ll be the kind of father you deserve.’ I got my act together. I adjusted my schedule around hers. I worked from home thrice a week, hit the gym when she had her swimming classes & cut down my work trips. And she’s been so patient. I used to struggle with her hair & my YouTube search history was full of, ‘Easy ways to braid hair’. It took 5 sittings, but eventually, I got it right. And the best part was Sahana saying, ‘It looks like Maa’s. Good job, Papa!’ Sahana is 10 now. In these 6 years of single parenting, everyday has been an adventure. Each day, I’m met with a new challenge– some days it’s ‘Papa, do these shoes go with my dress?’, on others it’s ‘What are periods?’ People often ask, ‘How do you do it?’ And I just say, we do it together–she’s as much my support as I am hers. We go for hikes, watch movies & travel; she’s my partner-in-crime–the best part of my day is when we talk at night. On special occasions, she makes a card for me & calls me the ‘Best dad ever.’ And that’s what I’m trying to be. I’d promised her, ‘I’ll be the kind of father you deserve.’ I don’t know if I’m there yet, but everyday, I wake up wanting to fulfil that promise.”
“In 2017, mom died of an unexpected brain stroke. I fell unconscious after dad told us–it happened while I was at work and my sister, Tania, was in college. I’d never seen dad so miserable–he couldn’t stop crying. Within a year, everything changed. I moved back home with dad after completing my internship, while Tania finished college. Initially, we closed ourselves off to everyone. Dad barely ate, and stopped eating sweets–He lost 10 Kgs that year. We were all in pain, but dad put a stone on his heart, and took over. For the time Tania and I were away, he’d visit us every weekend, and call us 3-4 times a day to check up on us. He hated going out, still when he visited us, he’d take us out for dinners and movies. I made him try his first pasta at my favourite restaurant. Now, we’re all finally living together. Some days, he tries his hand at breakfast. It usually doesn’t work out well and he still can’t make a proper cup of tea, but Tania and I drink it anyway. Once during an exam he gave me a cup of Bournvita mixed with cashews. He claimed it would help me stay up! But his speciality is masala Chaas– our friends love coming over to drink it and gossip with him! But the most ‘mom’ thing he’s done so far is to keep track of my period. He tells me not to exercise too hard then and gives me back massages when I have cramps. Also, if I’m texting, he pops up from behind and asks questions he’d never ask before- ‘Do you like someone?’ ‘Can I meet him?’ We tell him everything– he’s super chill about it. Recently, I failed my CA thrice–I was miserable. Every time, he said to me, ‘we’ll do it together next time.’ Now, he’s made a study schedule for me the way mom would and nags me until I follow it. But honestly, I still haven’t processed that mom’s gone; I don’t think any of us have. We have our weak days, where we break down and can’t take it. But dad has left us short of nothing– in these 3 years he’s given us his all. I know his heart cries every day, but he tries to hide it from us. Tania and I will help him heal and he will because he’s strong; It takes the strongest dad to be a mother too.”
“Last month, on my birthday, my wife said–‘Take me out on a date one last time.’ We had idlis at her favourite restaurant–she was on a glucose drip; her cancer was in the final stage. While eating, she said, ‘Promise me you’ll remarry–I want our Zoey to have a mother.’ I retorted, ‘I can’t even think of replacing you.’ But she went on, ‘And no matter how busy you get, Zoey should be your first priority.’ 2 weeks later, she succumbed. But she gave me a motive to carry on–our Zoey. So, 1 hour after her cremation, I was at the park with Zoey. There, Zoey hugged me tightly– it was all I needed to pull me out of despair. The last time Zoey had met her mom was a month ago, before I sent her to her Dadi’s place–she’d cried so much that day. But now, she’d gotten used to not seeing her mom around. The very next day, I took on all of Zoey’s responsibilities–be it braiding her hair or feeding her lunch. Zoey was only used to her mom washing her hair, so for a month, she’d refused to take a hair bath. So, I sang her songs & distracted her with her favorite toys until she agreed. At night, I’d tell her bedtime stories to put her to sleep. If Zoey woke up at night & I wasn’t around, she’d start crying. I do a lot of my work at night, but if she ever woke up, I’d pause my client call & run to her. Once, while we were at the park, Zoey saw a cat & said, ‘Look Papa, that cat lost his mother.’ Until then, I’d thought that Zoey had forgotten her Mom; I was wrong. Then on, she’d ask me, ‘Have you seen Mumma?’ & I’d say, ‘I haven't, darling.’ Then, she’d say, ‘I think Mumma is hiding!’ I know she misses her mom but I don’t know how to break the news to her–Zoey is barely 4. So I diverted her attention–we played doctor-doctor; even taught her how to fly a kite. Gradually, she stopped looking for her mom. But 2 days ago, she told her friend, ‘Mumma has gone shopping.’ I cried myself to sleep that night. I know I have to tell Zoey the truth but I can’t break her heart; she’s too young. When she gets a little older, I’ll tell Zoey about her mom–I’ll tell her how she was a fighter, how she loved her beyond words… & that every time she smiles, she looks just like her Mumma.”