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Verve People
July 21, 2018

Mum’s The Word: Priyanka Sehgal On The Challenges Of Being A Single Parent

Text by Meghna Pant. Illustration By Dhruv Tyagi

As a society, we need to understand that doing things differently doesn’t make a mother bad

Doing It Alone

Priyanka Sehgal, 42, Vice President, Content and Strategy, Network 18

“I never tried hard to be accepted. I just lived my life as I had a child to take care of. We were both dealing with so much that had transpired, we were struggling to accept that our lives had fallen apart. There was no time to delve into negativities, I just had to pick myself up and move on. I had to be responsible. You can’t decide you want a child and yet not be emotionally strong or financially independent, even if you are a woman.”

This is how the tenacious Priyanka describes becoming a single mother.

“After my husband and I uncoupled, I was visibly torn apart. My son Aryan saw I was losing weight, and I was constantly trying to fulfil my duties as a mother, daughter, friend, employee and sister. I was on auto mode. We were on an island called Bohol in the Philippines during his summer vacation. On the white sand beach we were building sandcastles and splashing water at each other when he casually remarked, ‘Mum, we need to find our happy place: you and I.’ He also told me I needed to move on, start dating, and accept that my heart will not be broken again. That was a beautiful and unforgettable moment in my life.”

Today we have all kinds of mothers — lesbian mothers, surrogate mothers, geriatric mothers — yet we need to understand that doing things differently doesn’t make a mother bad. The racking guilt and fear was something that also took Priyanka time to allay.

“The one thing that scared me was when someone shared research about how children whose parents have uncoupled are unable to form proper relationships. That fear was totally unfounded. Aryan has been on all sides: from living in a joint family, to living with just one parent, and then living in a community in boarding school. I know he has the maturity and wisdom to learn and apply good values in his life.”

In India, there’s a strong need for mothers to change the way they’re raising their sons. So what values are sons imbibing from mothers who are primary caregivers?

“Aryan knows I did not take a single penny from his father, neither alimony nor child support. For him, a woman is strong and independent; she can be a professional and a homemaker at the same time. She deserves respect and love. Today, he respects girls his age and he opens doors for everyone. A few months ago we had a conversation about how a no means no! He didn’t need me to tell him that. He knew. While we let our girls cry and tell them to stand up for themselves, we do not do the same to our boys. I tell my son it’s okay to cry, and if you need help then ask. Statements like ‘Boys don’t cry’ need to be junked. We need to help our children express themselves. The way we parent our children impacts their future.”

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Next: Tejal Bajla

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