August 23, 2019
How Being Raised by a Single Mother Has Shaped Me

I believe that fathers may be responsible for what their daughters learn to expect from relationships

by Razita Inayah
Issues // Politics and Society
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Growing up, I never really had a father figure, which I didn’t realize was crucial for a daughter. It’s not that my dad died; my parents got divorced when I was about five.

This was the hardest part of my childhood, as I had to choose who I wanted to live with at the time. Obviously, Dad got to be the “fun parent” and mom the bossy one, so I naturally wanted to live with him. But I knew even as a child that he couldn’t take responsibility for raising me.

My mom always said to me that a woman could handle both parts of parenting, but a man could never take up the role of a mother. As a kid, I never really got what she meant by this, but it has since become clear to me. While this is partly true, I saw the unfairness of this.

Also read: Making Sense of My Mother's Love: Not Always Warm but Ever Evolving

I’ve seen how my mom worked from 9 to 5 every day, while my dad was out God knows where, not even making money. He never talked to me about school or asked about my day. He could never do what “stay-home mom” would do. My mom took care of everything.

I’ve seen some studies that show most girls pick partners who have similar attributes to their father. In my experience this is true. I’ve once dated a guy who was similar to my dad; abusive, unloving, careless and irresponsible. That’s why I believe that fathers may be responsible for what their daughters learn to expect from relationships. In her book Fed Up, Gemma Hartley argues that most woman get into bad relationship because they have a bad role model for a father.

Raising a child is not a one job for mothers only; it should be the responsibility of both parents. My mom was busy at work all day and when she came home, she still needed to take care of her child. I was a selfish kid who wanted my mom’s love and attention; it didn’t occur to me that my mom should deserve better. I was often jealous of my friends whose moms didn’t have to work.

Another important lesson from my mom is that “you need to have your own income.” Whether it’s working a 9-to-5 job, or running a small business from home, she taught me that money should work for us, not the other way around. We may have a  husband who takes care of us, but in the event of a divorce or death, who is going to take care of us? That’s why it is so important for me to not rely a 100 percent on my future husband.

Also read: Can Women Have It All? Working and Mothering in Jakarta

As I get older, I began to imagine how my life would be without a husband, while other friends of mine have started to plan their wedding. It became clearer to me who I wanted to be and I’ve started small steps to achieve my goals. It is the only way I feel like I have value as a person.

Growing up without a good father figure has left both good and bad impacts in me. I know who I don’t want to end up with and it allows me to focus on what type of guy I do want to be with. I become more independent and more focused on myself, instead of looking for a man who will take care of me. I personally believe we have to take care of ourselves and it is also not our job to make our partner feel secure and happy.

In finding a partner I also think it is crucial to find someone who would support our dreams instead of limit us, someone we can trust and feel secure with. In the meantime, we work on ourselves and never forget our ambition. Any man would be lucky to be with an independent and caring woman.

Illustration by Adhitya Pattisahusiwa

Razita Inayah is an undergraduate student in French Literature Program at Universitas Indonesia. She occasionally writes on woman’s lifestyle and loves listening to pop and jazz music.