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Singular Str des.

Increasing Tribe

Although there are no statistics available on the number of single parents in the UAE, they are an increasing tribe the world over. For example, the US Census Bureau estimated that there were 13.7 million single parents in the US raising 21.8 million children as of November 2009. Of these, 84 per cent were mothers, 45 per cent of whom were either divorced or separated.

Think Positive

Anita Bhatia says the responsibility of a single parent is overwhelming. "In spite of the difficulties or maybe because of them, it is important to embrace the advantages of being a single parent. It's not all bad," she said. Here are some pluses she lists:

1 You get to make all the decisions

2 You bask in a rare freedom

3 You have an excuse when things are perfect

4 You can bond better with

your kids

5 You develop more

confidence in yourself

6 You have more control

in child rearing

7 Your kids have more opportunities to be responsible

8 You and your kids learn

to be resilient

9 Your home may be less stressful without a

sparring spouse

10 You don't have to cater

to a nagging adult

Dubai Like most reunions, this one too began with the customary introductions. Some 35 alumni of the Indian High School in Dubai were meeting after long forgotten years at a Karama restaurant.

As each of them spoke, there seemed to be a pattern to their lines with their names coming first, followed by their "married" status, the number of children they had and, curiously enough, an add-on that they were "happy".

When it was the turn of one of the alumni sitting at the end of the table to speak, she followed suit, but with a slight difference. "Anita Bhatia, divorced, two kids, happy," she said.

There were two others, Priti McKinnon and Hensa Bhatia, sitting at the same table. One divorced and the other on the verge of it. They could relate to what Anita was saying. All eyes were focused on her, but it was an emphatic assertion, signifying the coming of age of a resurgent new woman, the single parent, on the social canvas of Dubai.

Poised, confident and independent, these single parents had braved emotional and financial odds to fend for themselves and their children. And as the children fly the nest, there is tremendous satisfaction with the women living life full throttle again.

In their 40s, the trio said there is no place like Dubai, with its safe environs being the biggest reassurance for single parents like them. "I don't have to worry about my living alone here," said Priti, whose three children are now settled in Toronto, Canada.

Dubai, according to these women, insulates them from nagging relatives and uncomfortable questions they may have faced back home.

beginning anew

It also allows a certain ease when it comes to finding job opportunities, they said. Both Anita and Hensa, who were housewives when they were just married, had to start from scratch to gain skills and find employment when things began to go wrong in their relationships.

"I started working by giving home tuitions and doing promotions in supermarkets which fetched me Dh15 an hour. When I had proved myself, it went up to Dh50 an hour," said Hensa, proud that she has worked her way up from that position in 2000 to being the Organisation Development Manager at a leading local bank today.

"It wasn't easy upgrading my own skills while I raised my two boys," she said, explaining how she had managed to send them to Canada to study. The first has completed his graduation and the second is in second year college, she said.

Anita, who got married in 1988, said she had to take on the responsibility of providing for herself and her children early on as she had differences with her husband. She got a job as the personal assistant to the director of a private firm, she said, adding that it was not until 2004 that her divorce came through. Today, her 20-year-old daughter, in the second year of college, lives with her in Dubai while her son, 16, is in school and stays in a hostel in India.

Priti, married in 1982, said her relationship came under pressure over the years when her husband began to change jobs and they struggled to make ends meet to raise their three children.

The family migrated to Canada in 2002, but Priti decided to come back to Dubai as she had a steady job and could provide for the family. "My husband wanted me to stay in Canada but I wanted him to find a job first," she said.

The distance took its toll and there came a point when the two of them stopped communicating, said Priti, recalling that the divorce came through in 2003.

"I have come a long way," she said, satisfied that she has educated her children and that they are well settled today. While her 24-year-old daughter works with a well-known international audit firm, her son, 22, is with a car dealership company and her third daughter, 20, is in the first year of college, she said.

The journey has had its share of emotional upheavals as divorce is never easy on the children. "I had to take the help of a professional counsellor to talk to my children," said Hensa. Married in 1985, she stuck it out till 2000 when she moved to her parents' place in Dubai. It was only in 2009 that she went in for a divorce. "I was hoping for a miracle to happen for the sake of the children," she said.

braving the odds

For Anita too, the challenge of handling her children has been tough on the emotional front but she believes that she and they have emerged stronger in the process. "We have a lot of respect for each other and can take our own decisions," she said.

The challenges have not left them bitter. In fact, Hensa and Priti said they continue to have a good relationship with their husbands' families. While Priti said she and her husband would never have broken up had it not been for the financial pressures, Hensa said, "I would like to thank God for bringing my husband into my life as I would never have realised what I could achieve otherwise."

They said they are heartened when their children tell them it is time for them to have a good life. They go out together and enjoy a great rapport, they said.

So, are these women ready for a second marriage?

"I do not want to marry again. Being independent, I don't think I can handle another man in my life," said Anita.

She said most divorced women have to fight the unsolicited attention of men who think they are "available". "We don't need their attention just as we don't need people pitying or looking down upon us," she said.

Priti agrees. "It is very difficult to find a man who is serious and is not fooling around. I want a marriage with commitment," she said.

"I am willing to settle down if I find the right man," said Hensa.

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Publication:XPRESS (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Jul 15, 2010
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