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A glance at Instagram or Facebook accounts of any of us will show you how important travelling is in our lives. Going for holidays, picnics, road trips, camping or beach bumming form some of the most important memories of our lives. These are experiences that we recollect fondly for years to come. The life lessons, skills and incidents we come across during our travels have a huge impact on us and help us grow. Every parent, especially, knows how crucial it is for their children to travel and experience new places, things and people in order to enrich their childhood.
Richa Sharma, 37, is one such parent who had always wanted her now 10 year old daughter, to enjoy such activities. But as a single divorcee mother, even a seemingly simple and fun-filled activity like travelling became distressing. When I made plans with any of our friends or other travel groups, most of these comprised couples, families or teenagers. There were rarely any single parents with kids. The conversations would be completely different from what my daughter and I had in our lives. For instance, they would discuss what their spouses did or how they were planning to visit their in laws. None of this applied to us. Both my daughter and I would feel like the odd ones out in that kind of a situation, Richa explains. That was not all. As a single parent, there would always be stigma and judgment about the relationships status.
To overcome these and several other issues single parents and their kids face while travelling, Richa set up the first of its kind single parents travel group called i Single Parent. Just 4 months old, i Single Parent has managed to attract 350 single parents on their Facebook group from across India. We spoke to Richa Sharma about her unique movement.
What kind of activities does i Single Parent do?
We plan meet ups for single parents and their kids every month in different cities. 21 of us from the group went on our first long trip to Goa for 2 nights and 3 days. We plan to do three long trips every year. We want to also do a lot of activities like camping, trekking, photography, dance, craft, brunches and other activities. We always do budget trips considering that there s only one earning member. Our trips focus on kids learning different life skills, like travelling by train, ordering food within a budget, eating together etc. These are things that will help them grow.
What made you set up such a group of your own?
One of the problems of being a single parent is that, parents often tend to ignore certain things related to their kids. Making the child do normal childhood activities like travelling, celebrating festivals, playing with other kids is important. Parents forget that. They usually get caught in that spiral of what happened in their lives, the legal cases that are on and other issues. Very often, these kids are cut off from their cousins and relatives. They have very limited social outlets. As a result, many children of such parents are not very social. The children are under a lot of stress too. We set up i Single Parent to ensure that such parents and their kids have the opportunity to have fun, indulge in playful, happy activities so that they don t feel different. When they are in the presence of other single parents and their kids, they know that this is normal and perfectly fine. I set up the group on Facebook, @iSingleParentIn with my partner, Anushree, who is a daughter of a single parent, in January 2017. We also have a website of the same name. (Read 8 confessions of a single mom).
How difficult was it for you to get other single parents to join you in this?
I networked with a lot of people. The single parent community in India is a very closed group. Even on FB, most often these parents are part of secret groups. Ours is the only group that s out in the open asking more single parents to join. I put my own pictures with my daughter on our group initially to convince them that it s okay to be single parents and that there are many like them around. Now we have 350 single parents from across India and it s only growing bigger.
What has been your experience in the last four months of setting up i Single Parent?
Thankfully, we have bonded with each other like family. Since many of us are cut off from relatives, we get together and celebrate festivals, birthdays and other events just like a family would. Even though we are not really counselors or lawyers, we understand the stigma, challenges and fears of each other as single parents. It s really heart rending to see an 18-year-old son of a single mom tell a 13-year-old of another single mom how he coped with difficulties in his life. We have a single mother who told me that whenever she wanted to travel, she would need to take her parents and her sister along as well because she was afraid of travelling alone with her kid. It would obviously turn out to be expensive. But now with this group, she only needs to pay for her daughter and herself. We have many such inspiring stories that are making a huge difference in people's lives. (Read 3 books every single parent should read with their child)
What do you plan for the future?
We are in the process of registering our group as a trust. We believe that becoming a registered trust will make it easier for us to do many more activities, give us more authenticity that will in turn make more single parents join us.
Image courtesy: @isingleparentin on Facebook
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