Indian Americans Seek Life After Divorce
India Currents, News Feature, Priya Gopalakrishnan, Aug 07, 2006
Jennifer (name changed upon request) is probably like any other South Asian mother in the Silicon Valley. Parent of three childrenâ€”two teenagers and a 20-something, she works full time as well. In the evening after ferrying the teens to multiple activities, such as tutoring or extra classes, she has barely enough time to cook dinner and complete household chores. She goes to bed by 10:30 p.m. and is up again at 6 the next morning. â€œMine is a very long day,â€ she says.
However, there is one important difference. Divorced in 2003, Jennifer is a single parent with primary custody and financial responsibility of her children as well. Though the kids are supposed to spend vacation time with their father, things are complicated by the fact that both parents do not live close to each other. As the children want to plan for extra classes or summer jobs, they choose to stay with her, and Jenniferâ€™s tight routine is therefore all her own. Anyoneâ€™s illness can throw things off schedule and she then has to take time off from work and cope as best as she can.
|Comment : Interesting to note that the woman has managed to keep the kids out of the father’s reach even during holidays !! Ultimately Indian Americans are also becoming a single parenting lot ! god save the kids 😦|
â€œIn the South Asian culture, the concept of family is very central, and any break from the tradition causes stress,â€ says Dr. Alzak Amlani, a clinical psychologist who has been practicing for the past 18 years in Palo Alto and San Francisco, as he talks about the issue of divorce. â€œThe entire extended family will then withdraw its support to even the children, as they are disapproving and want no part of the situation. In a worst-case scenario, the father completely abandons the children and wonâ€™t even visit them unless made mandatory by law. The entire load is then on the single parent.â€
|Comment : This psychologist has the man to blame !! tut ! tut ! poor thing ! So what about the 1000s of Indian women who have gone back to India, filed false 498As against the husband and also drawn their in laws into criminal cases ?? why no comment, shrink ji ??|
Such was the case for Jennifer who separated from her husband in 1999, and has since been the primary custodian of her children. Her family disapproved of the divorce and withdrew their support.
|Comment : It might make sense to find out who this so called Jennifer is ? looks like even her own family did NOT accept the divorce. Now Shrink and company are lamenting on the net about “..social rejection..”|
Though she was a very active member of the Malayali community, she has since been cut off from her former social circle and the loneliness is just one of many challenges she has to face.
|Comment : Not only family – even the friends do NOT seem to accept her moves|
â€œIt is harder for South Asians because we tend to stick to our own,â€ says Amlani about the lack of a supportive environment for Indian divorcees. â€œAnd our own may not want to expose their family to a family of divorce.â€
â€œThere are a lot of problems being a single parent. Being a divorced woman is very hard in our community; it is very challenging,â€ says Jennifer. Though she feels that the decision to divorce was right for her, she is not sure how much her children have accepted it.
|Comment : Madam is NOT even sure as to how the children have accepted it !! Dear oh …..Dear oh …..Dear . However madam is sure that the divorce was right for her….|
â€œWhen I asked for a divorce, my son lost the man in his life, and he blames me for that. Looking back I realize how much my boy, who was only 7 at that time, tried to make things work by talking to both me and his father; a boy needs a father,â€ she says. However, her daughter, who was older at that time and aware of the tension between her parents, was more supportive.
|Comment : So here is a daughter who supports the break up !! potential for the next generation 498A female !! good lord…save us !!|
To ensure that her children retained some stability in their lives, Jennifer decided to continue living in the same neighborhood so that the children would at least have the same friends at school.
|Comment : Most probably she got the house …. oh come on …. be more imaginative|
â€œIt takes a village to raise a child; you need friends, relatives and a community,â€ concurs Amlani. He also adds that a single parent should make use of the resources such as therapy and support groups to lessen their load.
While Jennifer feels that her children have been scarred by their parentsâ€™ divorce, she hopes that it has made them stronger.
|Comment : That they have been scarred is the TRUTH. Rest you can imagine and conjure|
However, she is aware of the fear at the back of her childrenâ€™s mind. For instance, they saw their father with another woman and are worried about what would happen to them if their mother decided to choose another partner as well. â€œThere is a fear and therefore a need for emotional reassurance that a child requires most at this difficult time,â€ says Amlani.
|Comment : Is this fear at the back of the children’s mind or her own mind ? come on… release the good news.. who’s the next bakra ?|
This responsibility places multiple kinds of pressure on the parent. Apart from the challenges of dealing with the finances and litigation, the single mother or father may also go through anxiety, anger, and depression. This would therefore deplete their emotional resources for parenting.
Even the simplest of tasks can become a challenge as the single parent is faced with new and difficult situations. Amit Rege, who has been separated for 20 months and is now working toward a divorce, has two kidsâ€”a boy and a girl, aged 15 and 9. While he does get to spend time with his children, the meetings are too short and not as frequent as he would like.
|Comment : So who is limiting the time ? is it the custodial mother ???? come one, why not be specific ?|
â€œCooking is a challenge,â€ he admits. â€œI have had to learn cooking from scratch, and I try to cook something that my children like when they come over. They would initially not eat anything I cooked, but I am getting better now,â€ he says. â€œIt is also hard for me to find something that both my kids like to do, as because of the age difference they have varying interests.â€
Though there is some sadness and anger, he feels that his children have adjusted to some extent. The older one has taken it harder, the younger one is happier; and they mostly donâ€™t talk about it. As for himself, he went through some helpful counseling, and researched books from the library to find out how to talk to his children about the issue.
â€œI kind of muddle through, doing the best I can,â€ he says.
He observes that â€œkids take their cues from adults. I have noticed that even if a young child falls down and gets hurt, if the adult looking after the child is calm, the child will settle down too once the pain has subsided. It is therefore important to gain the strength to not show your troubles in front of the kids, to keep things calm.â€
However, says Amlani, the stress of being a single parent can lead to frustration and impatience. Overloaded with responsibilities, the single parent may resent the kids as her own emotional needs are not met. And where there is less parenting available, kids also become more demanding and needy.
Without parental support, children may get angrier; they may feel rejected, and therefore act up; or they could withdraw, preferring to keep to themselves, and eventually get into troubleâ€”such as drugs, drinking, or unsuitable company.
Of course, sometimes the parent is happier, adds Amlani. Freed from the fighting and the tension of the marriage, the parent is at peace and has more energy for the child.
But it is not easy to be strong, as was the case for Maya (name changed upon request). Separated after seven years of marriage, she has two children, now 16 and 15. Throughout her non-amicable divorce, her children were with her and she even went back to school to get a decent-paying job.
|Comment : Non amicable divorce ? is that a new name for a false 498A case in the Indian American community ?|
â€œYou just live, do what needs to be done; life seems to stand still. I was concentrating on the kids, they were my focus, my priority,â€ she says about her initial tough times.
Though she now shares joint custody of the children with her ex-husband, Maya initially went back to India with her kids. There she saw them thrive, surrounded by affectionate family members. She however felt that her children needed both parents, regardless of the relationship between them, and decided to return.
â€œWhen we came back, they quieted down; I could see the change in them. We didnâ€™t know anybody else who had had a divorce, and they felt they were the only ones in this situation,â€ she says, of her children.
Her decision to join Wings, a support group for divorced Indians made a positive change in their lives. She was able to meet other divorced parents and in the midst of this supportive environment she saw her kids become kids again.
â€œI used to feel bad for them; that they donâ€™t deserve to be in this situation,â€ says Maya. â€œInitially, it was hard for them, but at the end of the day they were okay.â€
However, both she and Jennifer warn that both partners should make every attempt to work things out and choose divorce only as a final option, keeping the interest of the children in mind. While Maya feels that it is better to be at peace alone than live together in animosity, Jennifer warns of the financial struggle for both parents and the probable loss of their children for most fathers.
Jennifer feels that she did the best she could for her children, providing for them, caring for them, and making sure that they could always come to her if there was any problem. However, she is uncertain about their future. â€œI worry about their livesâ€”if they decide to get married. I hope this (her divorce) does not affect them and that they have happy and stable lives.â€
Priya Gopalakrishnan is a freelance writer and editor.