Life of a single mom, especially in India, is quite difficult. We recently had the opportunity to talk to Jaibala Rao, a screenplay writer, a storyteller, a social media & content strategist and a Single Mom. Jaibala has been a single mom living in India and facing the highs and lows of being one.
1. Tell us a little about yourself. Who is Jaibala Rao?
Jaibala Rao is just a simple girl, trying to tell the world how complicated life can be, and yet how worthwhile it is. Yeah, I am one full on dramebaaz…I guess that’s where S gets it from. But honestly, I don’t think anyone can answer or know who they truly are until the very end. We are all constantly evolving and that is who I am. I am a woman trying to do better today than what I did yesterday. And that’s it. It’s like this if I had a tombstone, I want it to read here lies Jaibala, she spoke when she could which was often, she
fought when it mattered, and she lived life to the fullest. And that, in short, is who I am.
2. What is Jaibala when she is not a blogger?
What I am when I am not a blogger? Let’s see…I am a writer (it is my full-time profession for now), mother, friend, an amateur singer, amateur crafter, daughter, confidante, listener, advice giver, good citizen. I flit in and out of so many roles on a daily basis, I sometimes confuse myself as to what role I am playing at a particular time.
3. Who is your biggest support system?
My biggest support system is my parents. I wouldn’t be able to do what I am doing today had it not been for them. A load of responsibility feels lighter when shared, and they share it with me. I am indebted to them for a lot. I also have a fantastic set of friends, blogging and otherwise. Most of them are a phone call away and some of them 20 steps away. It helps to know that you are not alone and there are people you can fall back on. Some of these friends have pulled me up out of the worst phases of my life and made my life better.
4. What strengths do you think you possess to enhance your role as a single mom?
My biggest strength is that I am a quick learner. You don’t need to tell me things twice, once is probably enough. And that intuitiveness helps me navigate through motherhood very easily. Because parenting is nothing but daily learning. And learning on the go is something that always helps you be a better parent.
5. What weaknesses do you need to look out for?
There are so many. I am not a multi-tasker. And that is most of the times a huge disadvantage I am always running short on time to do things. Also being organized is not my strongest suit, though I am improving but, yes, another huge disadvantage. Also, I am not a very patient person, and I am generally lazy. So yeah all these are weaknesses or let’s just call then drawback because weakness sounds like something final, but these things can be worked upon.
6. How do you handle stress and pressure and what calms you down?
I don’t and most of the time it gets to me. What calms me down is talking to friends, a swim or music. Music probably will be the one that works best….actually depends on which friend I am talking to. But most of the times I just take a break from everything, spend time with S and read a lot and listen to music a lot. Puts things in perspective.
7. How do you manage your work, blog along with being a single mom?
I don’t manage multiple things – S is my priority everything else comes later. Maybe that is what helps me juggle everything. The thing is when you know what your priorities are then everything else that is frivolous falls out of your life automatically. You spend time doing only what’s important. I guess that is the important part of knowing what you want to do. The rest is managed by my feeble attempts at being organized and having a sense of order in the chaos that is called life.
8. How do you respond to questions regarding your decision of being a single mom, especially, when it comes from your kid?
Hmmm, this is hard because when it comes from S, the answer matters. It makes a difference to his life and his world and his sense of being. Thankfully until now we have managed by being truthful with each other about most things and it has worked. I honestly don’t have a game plan except being as normal as I can when I answer his questions. I don’t get defensive or offensive even for that matter. Neutral is what I keep telling myself. I believe, the more I normalize it the better it is for S especially because of his idea of what a father comes from my dad and some of my friends who are all wonderful fathers. So I don’t want him to grow up having a negative image of what a father is. As for the rest of the world, I have a simple rule, the people who matter, do not question me and the ones that do don’t matter. I have actually grown to care lesser and lesser of what other people think because I am the only one living my life, right!
9. How is the life of a single mom in India with a kid?
Until a few years back you couldn’t even get a passport without the father signing off on a piece of paper. I agree that it has become easier but at the core, the systems are more difficult to get around. The biggest example is any forms even if you leave the father’s name blank, they have to fill it most of the time they put my name under Mother and Father both – too much pressure I tell you haha. I remember going for a sonography as a part of a regular health checkup and being asked for male validation there too…Don’t have a husband, please write your father’s name. Sigh! But yes a lot of things are changing and there is a lot that can be changed. The problem is even if things change we are all very slow to adapt to it and Single Parenting in India is still a very novel concept and people are not ready to accept that one person can raise a happy child.
10. Have you ever felt judged for being a single mom?
All the time and doubly so. Because Mothers are judged for everything that they do and to top it off a single mom so the scrutiny is doubled. You are always disciplining too much or too little, overparenting or under parenting, spend too much time or too little time with your kid. And the reason and/or explanation for all scenarios is She is single na…that’s why. If there was a father in the picture things would be different. Sigh! As if having a father in the picture would change the kind of mother I am. I would still be me, an S would still be S. And we would still be going through everything we are going through now. My going out or not every now and then will not change the fact that he is who he is and our family is the way it is. The problem I think is most people only know to measure competence and happiness out of molds. And when people break old molds and recast their own lives, is what does not make sense to them, and so the judging starts. We need more people to break old molds. Yes, that is the solution to this. Every living person should give up the fear of being a square peg and struggle of fitting into a round hole. Recreate your own square peg holes, or triangle or whatever shape you are. Once the fear of living on your own terms is gone, then the judging will slowly vanish.
11. How were your first few weeks (or first year) of being a single mom?
I honestly don’t remember them. They just passed by in a blur of what the hell is going on, what next and how do I get on? I know a lot of people look at single parents as brave and rebels but most of the time they are hurt and unsure of what life has for them. Because life, as they know, has just collapsed. And in the barrage of questions relating to what happened, and how it all happened we are also just trying to figure it all out. So yeah that is what it was like for me. Unsure, unreal and unforgettable but definitely unregretted.
In a developing country like India, life is already hard for mothers and on top of that, being a single mom becomes even difficult.
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