What is home?
Few material things give as much confidence to the shaken as solid ground beneath their feet and a firm roof over their head. Where we wake up every morning and retire to bed at the end of every day gives our kids and us an address of stability, a locus for our state of wellness.
Homes are the superstructures providing grounding, security and ease when the individuals composing it destabilise. As single parents, one of the most important decisions we take pivots on where we will stay.
But what is home?
A hold for your inner world? A safe space where personal growth and picket-fenced happiness happens? A place to run to?
Home is also a place many run away from. Home is a pressure cooker with implosive properties. Remember how work from home became unbearable rather quickly? Home is where the hurt is.
When couples part ways, more often than not, who stays and who leaves becomes moot. The event of the departure itself becomes just cause for legal proceedings against the spouse who ‘moved out’.
As a woman, if one is cruelly asked to leave, there are legal recourses available to reclaim your rightful spot in the matrimonial home. If you are a stay-at-home-mother, your occupation is intrinsically tied to your address. Know that you cannot be ‘fired’, thrown out or asked to get lost. Do study the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, and related acts supporting your right to residence.
I know of divorced couples who continue to live in the same house. Not shocking, this is a question of convenience. Some couples grin and bear it just like a ‘parenting marriage’. Kids don’t have to shuttle between homes, routines and other family members. They don’t face the dilemma of choosing which address to provide for official documents.
However, let’s say you have chosen to leave and don’t have a place of your own yet. You are weighing the places you can go. Your other options are to move back with family or rent a house.
If, as in many cases, you have taken a collaborative decision with supportive family members, a great option is to return to base. Start taking stock and rebuilding your life from your parental home. Grandparents are lovely and it is ideal to fill a child’s heart and mind with healthy relationships when one parent is missing. Aunts, uncles and cousins in case of a joint family are a beautiful bonus. It’s not all upsides though — more on this, later.
So, if you would rather go ‘my house, my rules’, none of the above would satisfy. The craving for a nest of your own would override all other considerations. It is empowering, it is liberating and it is the goal that most single moms strive towards. With a good location and reliable child care you will enjoy independence that many envy us for.
On trend, wealth managers these days promote the idea of renting a house rather than buying one in high-cost metros. In the initial years when a rupee saved is a rupee earned towards little’s future and yours, this is a good way to go. EMI sting makes salaried people behave in risk-averse ways. Salaried single moms tend to put off this decision point for later, preferring to stash their cash where it can be seen. Many are also financially unsavvy in the early years of singledom and too overwhelmed to prioritise home acquisition.
Renting, as opposed to buying, also stops you from growing roots into a dropped pin. It keeps you mobile and on-the-go for irresistible opportunities that you must relocate for. It allows you to experience different kinds of homes and neighbourhoods in a short span of time. Many rentals come furnished, hence you save on starter furniture and appliances too.
So rent then. In Mumbai, a city where renting a home as a single is bad enough, trying for one as a single mom was eye-opening. Despite oversupply, it’s a seller’s market as far as a singles are concerned.
In order to have access to well-known schools (since top Mumbai schools have a radius restriction), you will lean towards the pricier parts of town. You will top up your selection criteria with facilities such as a play area, amenities such as piped gas and 24x7 security. Your accommodation budget will look like the EMI you didn’t want to sign up for.
As a single mom your urgency will beep from a mile off. Most couples house-hunt as a team. In case they are unable to pair up, they keep working their phones, video calling each other to agree — or agree to disagree — on dealmakers and deal-breakers.
Your lone-ness will show. Brokers will play you against your fear of letting slip an almost-deal leaving little wriggle room for pinching prices down. Landlords will interview you about your ‘family’ and the society committee may insist on the name of a male figurehead in your lease agreement. They may ask to see your child’s acceptance letter from a school before taking the discussion forward. And, in a completely unreasonable move, they may ask for the other parent’s government IDs and appointment letter — just because they can. Having jumped through all these hoops, the landlord may still back out of the deal when he finally registers that you are not employed in banking or manufacturing. You may receive a hasty phone call en route to paying the ‘token’ that they are closing an offer from a family — man, woman, child.
So, after all of this, when you do home in on that cute apartment with double front doors and French windows, maybe after 40 to 50 home tours, some failed negotiations, and a couple of botched closures, you feel — good.
Like many passages in your life, including your marriage, this house will not be a forever. It’s a station, not a destination. If you have learned your life lesson well, you will work out flexible exit clauses with your landlord. Eleven-month leases are de rigueur but a longer term will help to control the annual raise on your rent. Maintain a cordial relationship with your landlord so that if you break tenure the notice period or the lock-in does not burn you.
Now dig your heels in, channel your inner hausfrau and set out to be a homemaker. Once again. Make new memories, revive lost hopes, get back to dreaming and redesign your life.
We are living in suffocating times, bound and defined by four walls. Last year, we reframed our mind maps and affirmed we aren’t stuck at home, we are staying safe at home! With phased lockdowns starting to become a pattern, here’s to finding more breathing spaces within than without.
On a different note: Can we take a minute to unpack the words ‘broken home’; as in, ‘so-and-so child is from a broken home’? To me it conjures the devastating image and sounds of a fragile nest trampled by a heavy boot. Leaving cracked egg shells in its wake. It’s a violent figure of speech.
Children whose parents split are sensitive to it. As a sentient human being, do consider kinder terms. You could avoid analogies altogether and be matter of fact in case the parental relationship is in question. Call it a separating household or a family in a crisis. Then again, what is the need to reference any kid with respect to their parents’ marital status?
Srimati Roy is a passionate marketer with a background in media, premium brands and content. Her Twitter handle is @sri1608
Would you want Srimati to address any issues relating to single parenting? Write in to firstname.lastname@example.org
As a woman, if one is cruelly asked to leave, there are legal recourses available to reclaim your rightful spot in the matrimonial home. If you are a stay-at-home-mother, your occupation is intrinsically tied to your address. Know that you cannot be ‘fired’, thrown out or asked to get lost. Do study the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, and related acts supporting your right to residence