Single. Unmarried. And now a mother?
What a perfect recipe for some gossip and judgment right? That’s how we have been taking care of our single unmarried mothers for many years now.
The most common perception is that these girls make hasty decisions, which is why they end up getting into these situations in the first place.
A couple of months back, while watching actor Neena Gupta’s interview with film critic Rajeev Masand, I wondered how many of us know about the challenges an unmarried mother faces in our country. Neena shared how after she gave birth to her daughter, she was shunned by her friends, including those in the film industry.
It has been more than 30 years since then, and not much seems to have changed. Fighting these social misconceptions and paving the way is our founder at A Week In Life, 25-year-old Harshala, proud mother of 4-year-old Ira, student, entrepreneur and a girl who has decided to right the wrong our society has been taking part in.
We realized it would be best to hear from the horse’s mouth. So we sat down with Harshala to understand the challenges a woman like her faces in the 21st century.
Being unmarried, how did your family react when you decided to continue with your pregnancy?
Nobody was happy. I was asked to move out and hide my face with a scarf until my daughter was 6 months old. No one should see me with my daughter or the family name will be jeopardized.
My mother was supportive but my father still finds it difficult to adjust to the idea of being seen with us in public. My brother and sister-in-law were upset too and haven’t come around much.
It has been difficult to give voice to my story or share my struggles as whenever I have tried to do so, I have been called an “attention seeker” and someone who’s “hungry for publicity.” Harshala
This is also why I decided to let go of my last name. I am Miss Harshala for my online friends and Harshala/Ira’s mom in real life. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
In what ways did motherhood affect your studies/educational goals?
I was not an ambitious or studious kid ever. To be honest, I hated the state-led education system. Like most Indian kids, it was all about studying for good grades.
But that changed after Ira came into my life. I started to explore the term learning for her sake. She changed the way I looked at things. I was in the middle of my first semester of graduation when I entered the third trimester of my pregnancy.
Ira was just 46 days old when I resumed college. But I had to miss the exams due to low BP. I also missed two more semester exams due to Ira’s health.
But those three years helped me set my goals straight. I was allowed to reappear for all my exams later. And the best part? The kid who was never interested in studying scored 82% in her graduation.
Motherhood took my educational graph up and not otherwise, says Harshala.
As I started exploring homeschooling for Ira, I also started homeschooling myself. Today, I am an active learner and I am not afraid of exams anymore!
I am pursuing my Masters in Psychology and a diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care. So, if I think about it, motherhood took my educational graph up and not otherwise.
How did you manage your finances after you became a mother?
It was and is still difficult. Even doing two jobs doesn’t take care of all the expenses of living in Mumbai with a child.
A child also means being prepared for any kind of emergencies. Initially, I was in a rented house for a year and then decided to move in with my parents after Ira was hospitalized for the first time at 10 months old.
Since then, I am with them. It has also been a year since I last had a regular job. I have been fighting health issues and I am fortunate to have a mother who has supported me financially during these tough times.
I feel this is also her way of spending more time with us as she was a working mother while I was growing up.
Click here for Part 2.
(We will talk about how motherhood changed Harshala’s relationship with men and women around her and what role society can play in helping single unmarried mothers in our country.)
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of aweekinlife.com. Any omissions or errors are the author’s and A Week In Life does not assume any responsibility for them.