by ASJAD NAZIR.

FORTHCOMING film Helicopter Eela sees Kajol play a devoted mother who makes a lot of sacrifices to bring up her son, but then finds it difficult to let go when he goes to college and becomes more independent.

This is a situation many parents face. Eastern Eye spoke with mothers whose children are venturing out into the world to tell us their stories, including how they feel about having to cut the apron strings…

HALIMAH ABUBACKER

“AT 21, I wanted to go back to university and finish my degree, but discovered
I was expecting a baby and put it on hold. I thought I could try again after my daughter was born, but within a few months found out I was expecting again and my dream of doing that degree vanished.

“Things became more challenging when I became a single parent and my children’s father became absent. As my career and business expanded I had to plan everything around my young children, which did result in me turning down international assignments. All my savings went on giving my children the best quality of life possible.

“My children are teenagers now and their needs have increased. I always put my daughters before myself, but haven’t been completely sacrificial as I learnt from very early on that a happy mother means happy children. So I do take care of myself too when I can. I always say to them: ‘Halimah did not die the day you two were born. I have added a hat of motherhood along with all the other hats I wear’

“My energy, thoughts and days are all worked around the needs of my daughters. I sometimes feel I put my life on hold, but also know my strength and drive in this life
comes from being a mother wanting to be the best role model for her daughters, who today at 15 and 17 are very well rounded, mature girls, wiser than many their age. They are aware of how our lives affect each other and know I care about them and love them deeply.

“My older daughter is going to university next year and is planning on living out. As much as I cry thinking about my future without her living with me, I have told her not to let me hold her back. Yes I will be upset and miss her, but that is okay! I think about my life when
my second daughter goes away too.

“I have made plans to travel the world, but be back enough to be present for my daughters. I am also thinking of where to take my business. They are encouraging me to go to university too after they go away. Both have said in the further future they will not want to live away without me and want me nearby.

“So for me, that is all a mother wants to hear! But at the same time I told them I do not want to hold them back. Am I torn? Absolutely, however I try to live in the moment
and try to create amazing memories.”

AQILA KALEEM

IN MID-1998 I found out I was having a girl; I was overjoyed and could not wait to be a mum. At that point, I already knew that my brief marriage was going to come to an end and prepared myself for the ‘single parent’ journey which lay ahead.

When Izna was born, the love for her was instant and immense. I felt blessed to have a healthy and beautiful daughter. As a child, she was rather clingy, but that did have its benefits as it helped me to get out of cooking duties at family gatherings!

“I am proud to say that she has grown up to be a smart and compassionate individual with a great sense of humour and wit. I recall the day her A-level results were announced last year and the thought of her leaving within weeks was overwhelming.

I needed to go somewhere private and have a good cry, so I did just that as I did not want Izna or my family to see me have a complete meltdown. Soon, it became apparent that Izna was also not ready to be an adult, leave home and start university life. Hence, she decided to take a gap year and I do wonder whether this was something I needed more than she did!

“A year on, we both have had time to adjust to her leaving home and feel almost ready for this step. When the time comes to drop her off, I know it will feel like I am leaving my five-year old to fend for herself. I would hear from my grandparents that: ‘For parents, children regardless of their age will always be children’ and I am now experiencing it for myself. However, I do know that I am not the only parent who will feel emotional and shed a few tears.

“I have thought about what I will do with my spare time post September, and have a few ideas; join a book club (Izna’s suggestion!), see my friends more often, take up a Master’s programme or even subscribe to Netflix. That said, no doubt I will be seeking survival tips from friends whose children have also flown the nest.”

HANAN SAEED AHMED

“I have two daughters; Manal, who is 18-years-old, and Mahitab, 23. I married at 18. Raising my first child was very difficult because I was very young and had only just
finished high school. I stopped living and was unable to complete my studies.

“My life revolved around my children. The days were difficult and there was very little money, but I managed to give my daughters the best life I could, including enrolling them with great difficulty into private school.

“I completed my studies only 10 years ago and became a professional photographer. Today, I happily balance my life between a job I love and bringing up my wonderful kids. I am so proud of how they have turned out. I was and still am l afraid for them. I try to go with them everywhere, but now they are independent with distinct personalities and I have to accept that.

There are moments when I have cried privately thinking about how they will cope in the big wide world without me, because in an Arab society it can be difficult. The relationship between my daughters and I is friendship and trust, which is something that gives me great comfort. I pray to Allah to keep them safe.

“My eldest daughter is now studying business administration and the younger one is now in a beautiful arts college. They are becoming strong independent girls who will not run away from a problem.

“My eldest daughter is now studying business administration and the younger one is now in a beautiful arts college. They are becoming strong independent girls who will not run away from a problem.

“One blessing has been Mr Amitabh Bachchan, who I have known for a long time and someone who has kindly blessed them since childhood as if they were his own children. He has been a great role model for my kids.

“I do have a bad feeling when I think that one day they will have a home and a husband far away from me. But this is life and I will cherish every moment I have had with them and will always be there as their devoted mother.”

AALIYA FAKIH

“We lived in Hong Kong when my daughter Anaya was born.

“From when she was 10 weeks old, I’ve been working and often wondered if I should give up my career to spend more time with her. Even though I got time on weekends and evenings, I hated the morning when I would leave my baby and go to work.

“At eight months she was already walking and much before that rolling and tumbling. I always knew she would end up pursuing some sort of performing art where she would use this in some way.

“As she turned into a little girl, her flexibility and independence both grew. She would manage her timetable, get dressed for classes and set her own alarm in the mornings from a very young age.

“She pursued gymnastics, ballet and contemporary dance, and realised that for the past three years she found her passion growing for aerial silks and was flying and hanging upside down every free minute.

“This year my daughter turned 14 and announced she is very keen on going to New York to
learn silks and choose a month-long residential programme. Although I dreaded the day she would be apart from me, I wasn’t surprised. As a mum, I wasn’t ready or prepared to let my little angel face the world her own.

“The doubt I faced was: ‘Have I taught her enough? Will she be able to face all the challenges? How would she manage on her own?’ But she surprised me.

“She flew unaccompanied, figured the shuttle to her school and travelled from Manhattan to Brooklyn to meet her cousins regularly. What I realised is that not all mums need to feel crazy guilty if we can’t be there all the time for our children. There are great advantages to teaching them independence at an early age and letting them fly, literally in my daughter’s case.

“I know the day will come where she will become fully independent, but knowing we will remain connected gives me solace.”

 

Your Say – Diary of a single dad

by Dharmesh Patel.

MANY childless couples spend thousands on IVF with no guarantee of their dreams becoming a reality.

South Asians go a step further by praying, fasting and engaging in all sorts of superstitious
rituals. And here’s me, generously blessed with the role of being a mother and father to two beautiful, bright and healthy girls, Krisha, 14, and Misha, 11.

My upbringing made me the father I am today. I don’t have any sisters or experience of
living with girls. Everything has come naturally. Fortunately I am not alone and my parents
have been very supportive in raising my children. It wasn’t until I lost my girls that I realised how much they meant to me. From that point it was all about finding them, bringing them back home, and doing everything in my power to make their lives happy and fulfilling.

I pride myself in being able to work, provide, cook, clean, take care of their health and education, and spend every ounce of energy on them with a smile on my face. But that is the easy bit. What isn’t so straightforward is dealing with their emotions, ensuring they grow up to be good people, and teaching them morals that tie in with your own family and cultural values.

Technology, media and peer pressure make it difficult to instil the right ethics in children.
But it’s a question of priority. My priorities are my girls. My purpose is to provide the best for them and give them a head start in life, and also to make them successful, independent and wise human beings with integrity. All girls are princesses to their dads, but I’ve learned that it is important to give them responsibilities and prepare them for the world outside.

I try to be a friend to my girls as much as being their dad. This has made them comfortable
with approaching me about anything. The discipline is also there, but most of the time we
laugh and joke around. Every moment in their company feels like a holiday, though they know I am also watching over them.

The challenges can be daunting. I make mistakes, which are all part of the journey. The
slightest thing going wrong with either of my girls is more devastating than any personal
health scare or financial loss. That is possibly because I’ve put all my emotional eggs in one
basket when it comes to them. They are always with me and everything is based around them.

Touch wood, they are doing very well but I still have insecurities which prevent me from
being complacent. Likewise, the rewards are just as gratifying and the smallest things give
you the highest state of joy.

Watching their faces enthusiastically light up when you let them choose their dinner, their
guilty smiles when granddad catches them sneaking ice cream into their bedroom, being able to fulfil their wishes, and you being their first choice for everything are privileges that cannot be bought and shouldn’t be taken for granted.

My family set-up may not be conventional, but my children are not disadvantaged at the
slightest. They know what a family is, and we are blessed with being part of a very large and wider family worldwide.

For professional advice on these matters, I recommend www.npcounselling.com which has
been and continues to be very helpful to me.