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Growing Up in a Single-Parent Household

I grew up in a single-parent household but that’s not the end of my horror story. I am Sri Lankan, I grew up in Sri Lanka in an ordinary family of brown people in your ordinary Sri Lankan community. 

Initially, I lied. I said that my father was busy with work and unable to visit us in Sri Lanka. This story was sold to my friends and peers for a few months but it did not last long. This changed when news spread that my father had a new family. Gossip in Sri Lanka spreads like the wind. I suddenly felt like Hester Prynne from Scarlet A. I noticed everybody staring at me, not so much my friends and peers but rather their parents. Mine were suddenly “bad parents” and I was the child who was now  not allowed to mix with their children. Luckily for me, my best friends at the time were not Sri Lankan, and their parents treated me no differently. I am glad I had them to help me through such rough times. 

Today, I am proud to have grown up in a single-parent household. I carry this experience with pride. My boyfriend, having read my previous article on feminism, laughed and suggested that I learn to change a car tire. I said I already know how to. Growing up in a house with no father or brothers meant that my mother had to do everything and she made sure to teach us how. My mother, sister and I did everything together. We attended to the garden, we painted the house, we did the little repair works, changed light bulbs, changed lamp shades and even fixed the ceiling once. My mother made sure we were given the right tools to fend for ourselves. 

I had no option but to be independent. I was 14 when I took the public bus alone for the first time. This may sound like something every 14-year old does in London or America or any other part of the Western world, but not in Sri Lanka. You do not take public transport at 14, you do not take it because you are a girl, but most importantly, you do not take the bus when you go to a private international school. But I did. 

At a recent job interview, I was asked what my best skill was. I usually say teamwork, being hardworking, attention to detail, communication or anything that is related to the career I am pursuing. This time though, the word ‘independence’ finally escaped my lips. 

Following this interview, I was contemplating life like I do sometimes. Have I grown up to be dangerously independent? I never let a guy pay. It took me a few months to allow my boyfriend to pay for me and I made sure to get the cheque the next time. I have never taken advice relating to education or career choice from anyone in my family or friends. I get career advice from my personal tutor at university because I have to. 

My mother was doing a full-time job while raising two children and four extremely naughty dogs. This woman barely had the time to sit down. I do not ever remember sitting down with my mother and just speaking — she never had the time. Growing up, I would always try to figure things out for myself and go to my mother as a last option. I did not want to add to the list of one million things she had to do. This meant that I grew up learning not to ask for help. Today, I realize that I am still unable to ask for help. 

To all the girls out there who grew up in single-parent households, you are amazing. You will do amazing things in life, you got through the hardest, the most dreadful teenage years. 

Here is a little piece of advice that I actually got from a customer I met at work and a dear friend: “Take help when offered”. Another piece of advice from my own experience, people are kinder than you think and sometimes it is okay to ask for help. 

Along the way I have learnt that getting help sometimes gives you a better outcome than if you had done it on your own. As any girl would, I tend to put in time and effort to get all dressed up for a date. I take extra long to do my makeup since I can only use my hand (due to a birth injury) and it takes me about one million attempts to do my winged eyeliner. Once, my boyfriend at the time noticed the stack of books I kept next to my face so I could rest my arm, while bent in two in an uncomfortable position, trying to do my eyeliner. He offered to help. I was not sure how I felt about getting his help at the time, but I’m glad I did. For the period of time we dated, he always did my eyeliner and it was the best winged eyeliner I ever had. 

You can be a feminist and still ask for or accept help when offered. Do not be afraid. You can be strong and independent but we all need help sometimes. I am proud of the woman my mother raised me to be. 

I am a law graduate, currently studying for my Master's in International Public Policy in UK. I am particularly interested in Human rights and feminist political theory. I enjoy writing about controversial topics and information pieces that spread awareness on a range of topics including racism, sexism, sexual violence and cultural issues.
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