My ammi is a proud representation of single mothers and I’m so proud of her
Last year, I remember coming across an article about our beloved Mahira Khan which was titled, “Married at 23, Divorced at 31, Mahira Khan Is Single Mother of 3-Year-Old Baby Boy.” Although the article itself was complimentary of Mahira’s achievements, the labels “married,” “divorced,” and “single mother” were the only narratives presented about her in the headline. They acted as a reminder of the social stigma attached to being a divorced single mother in our society. Further, it reiterated the backward binaries that still exist to put Pakistani women in comfortable categories created by men.
Single mothers rarely get appreciated. As a daughter of a Pakistani single mother, I have always felt it imperative to create a dialogue about this.
You see, my mum was married off at the age of at 25 to a man that lived in London. Shortly after her arrival to London, it became apparent that the dominant toxic, patriarchal culture across large parts of Pakistan that deems women and girls as subhuman, had followed her in the form of her husband.
My mother was already a qualified psychologist before she arrived in London. She still describes how excited she was to further her education and training.
However, she was not “allowed” to continue her career or keep in touch with her friends and colleagues from Pakistan. So, after 5 years of being trapped in a hellish marriage, my mother fought for and finally managed to file for divorce. And so began the start of her new life – raising my older brother and me, alone, in a foreign country.
Her decision was not taken lightly by her family and there was, of course, the classic rhetoric of “log kya kaheinge?”
My mum didn’t give a flying fuck. She disallowed our culture’s expectations to imprison her in a loveless and abusive marriage that reduced her identity to a sacrificial bahu, and pursued a successful career in counseling and psychotherapy. Her journey was not easy, though.
Being a Pakistani woman living in Britain had its own challenges. In the West, South Asian women are often seen as quiet, invisible and submissive. However, my mum persevered, overcame such biases and became a qualified family therapist.
All this was done whilst also making sure my brother and I were fed, clothed and ready for school every morning.
As a child, I never really understood the daily sacrifices my mum made to fulfill the role of both mother and father. She worked hard. Vehemently hard. She was (and still is) an endless support system and my biggest champion.
She silently stuck to her guns, gracefully proved everyone wrong and made her parents super proud.
In the aforementioned article, Mahira describes how she is “an anomaly in [her] country.” In the frequent trips to Pakistan during my lifetime, it’s been clear that this is definitely the case for my mum too. Unfortunately, anything that goes against the norm of a nuclear family in Pakistan feels foreign to the majority and thus, often prompts unwanted commentary. That said, I’ve always been of the mind that such commentary only highlights the disturbance that a strong woman causes in the minds of men.
Basically, it completely throws them off, highlighting the irrational fear of a woman having more knowledge or economic power than men in Pakistan.
In a country where the independence and tenacity of women are often frowned upon, the consistent ability of my mum – and many other Pakistani women across the country – to subvert mindless judgments attached to their circumstances is something I will forever be in awe of.
These women are not just “married,” “divorced,” and “single mother of two,” they are, brave, bold and pioneering. They are emotionally intelligent, moral and loyal.
They are mothers, fathers, and professionals and they will forever be appreciated and loved. Do you think there needs to be a shift in the way we perceive single mothers in our society? Let us know in the comments below.
Reham Khan Just Spoke Up About Her Own Divorce After Someone Shamed Divorced Women With An Aurat March Poster
This Single Mom Picked Herself Up After Getting Divorced Very Young And Rebuilt Her Life As A Successful Educationist
Cover image via shutterstock.com