In the first two decades of the new millennium, the family unit/household has experienced more mutations than perhaps in the entire past century. The traditional joint family unit of parents, children and grandparents has all but disintegrated and two-parents and children nuclear family is becoming normative in urban India. However a new millennium phenomenon is the single parent and child household. According to The Progress of the World’s Women 2019-2020: Families in a Changing World, released by the United Nations last June,13 percent of all households worldwide are managed by single parents with 7.5 percent of households in India headed by lone parents, the majority of them single women. In fact, India has registered one of the fastest growth rates in one parent households (OPHs) with the number almost doubling from 4 percent in 2015 to 7.5 percent in 2020.
Yet despite this leap in the number of OPHs countrywide, social attitudes and prejudices against lone parents are stuck in the 19th century. Single – divorced, widowed, unmarried or single by choice (through adoption and surrogacy) – parents, especially women, face social censure, are judged harshly and widely pilloried. In deeply patriarchal India — voted the world’s most dangerous country for women by a Thomas Reuters Poll in 2018 — single moms have a specially tough time justifying failed marriages and have to be on 24/7 guard to ward off unsolicited advances from predatory males who believe their single status makes them fair game for sexual harassment.
In our cover story this month, we beam a searchlight on the rising phenomenon of single parenting and its trials and tribulations. Though attitudes towards OPHs are slowly changing in metropolitan India, single parenting is a hard slog. Juggling work and parenting duties while stressing about societal expectations, single parents suffer considerable emotional stress and anxiety. In this month’s cover story, we highlight the experiences of single parents bravely coping with parenting challenges as well as exclusive child-rearing advice from parenting counselors.
Also in this issue our regular editorial sections apart, we are pleased to introduce Ask Your Counselor by Sue Atkins, an internationally renowned UK-based parenting expert, broadcaster, speaker and author of Parenting Made Easy — How to Raise Happy Children (2012), who will henceforth answer queries across a wide spectrum of parenting issues.