Sanjay Sharma with his daughters Aayushi (left) and Shriya, both of whom enjoy skating. Pic/Satej Shinde
"When you get divorced, the people you used to hang out with disappear. Suddenly, you have no friends, and neither does your child," begins Hemant Amrute, 43, who has been raising his 12-year-old son as a single parent since 2010. Similarly, Goregaon resident Sanjay Sharma has had full custody of his daughters since 2013, when his older child was not yet five, and the younger two-and-a-half years old.
Hemant Amrute with his son Aryan before a parasailing trip in Goa last December
Taking on the role of both parents hasn't been easy for either of these single dads, but that hasn't stopped them from providing their little ones with an upbringing that isn't lacking.
Striking a work-life balance
Recently, actor Tusshar Kapoor and director Karan Johar made news when they became single fathers to children born via surrogacy. But while these men, who come from privileged backgrounds, presumably have help, this is not the case with most single dads who have to juggle work and kids.
A normal day in the life of the Sharma family is hectic. "Luckily for me, I run my own business, so I do all my work when the kids are at school. My job is to pick them up and later in the evening, drop them off for skating or swimming lessons. My older daughter has also been learning Kathak for two years, while my younger one takes singing lessons," shares 35-year-old Sharma, adding that his mother helps him out on the home front.
Amrute, meanwhile, is also a busy entrepreneur, but now feels confident enough to leave his son home by himself whenever required, as he's a little older. His challenge, however, lies in the kitchen. "I never learned to cook," laughs the Thane resident, adding, "We've had a string of cooks come and go, because both of us invariably end up not liking the food."
Not to mention that being a single parent still has stigma attached to it, which is multiplied when the single parent in question is the father. "In the beginning, people would say, 'Yeh nahin kar paayega (he won't be able to do it)'. Now, they've seen it for themselves," says Sharma. Echoing the sentiment, Amrute adds that once a couple gets divorced, people tend to look down on them, and your social circle shrinks to prevent the awkwardness.
Creating a lasting bond
Sharma's daughters and Amrute's son love being outdoors. Sharma takes his kids to the beach, park, as well as for kiddie events across the city. "We love going on holidays, too, even if they're to nearby places like Mahabaleshwar or Daman."
Amrute and his son Aryan spend weekends at their farmhouse in Yeoor Hills, and head to the cinema or the mall on other days. "We also spent Christmas in Goa last year, which was a lot of fun. A few years ago, I took him with me on a work trip to the US, and we visited a lot of places when I had some downtime," he shares.
Both men recently discovered and joined iSingleParent, a Facebook community that organises meet-ups and holidays for single mums and dads and their kids.
Amrute says that when not at school, his son would end up spending time playing with a smartphone. "We live in a standalone house, so there aren't any kids around for him to play with. But he loves technology, and scored full marks in Robotics. He also enjoys beatboxing and recently started trying out parkour. And now, thanks to the group, he looks forward to bonding with the other kids who come for the meet-ups," he says.