Till Life Do Us Part

By Devraj Singh Kalsi

Courtesy: Creative Commons

The Duggals had received their first invitation to attend a grand reception organised to celebrate the divorce of Upasana Malhotra, the only daughter of a reputed steel magnate diversifying into organic agribusiness. Having lived in the same colony before fortune ferried the Malhotras away from the middle-class neighbourhood to a posh locality teeming with industrialists, the Duggals were the only family they shared close ties with decades ago. The same affection remained in place even though their visits happened only on special occasions. So, it was a surprise for the Duggals to be invited again after three years to the same household where they had gone to bless the couple exchanging vows for continuing wedded for life.  

More startling was that the girl possessed the courage to throw a lavish party, inviting distinguished guests who came to her wedding party to re-appear, bless and congratulate her again for her decision to leave the Poddar surname attached in haste. After a breezy romantic courtship that blossomed in a top-notch US university campus, the much-talked-about marriage solemnised three summers ago hurtled to a premature end. The Duggals knew it was one of her crazy ideas to celebrate the mutual separation ostentatiously and showcase the event for public consumption, with attendees looking baffled about how they should behave on her D-day (read Divorce Day). 

As the Duggals were flabbergasted, they sought the help from Google to find out more about such parties. They could not find ample content to clarify their doubts, so they sought help from their tech-savvy son, Shamsher Duggal, who called up an event manager friend to dig up details about divorce parties. She said there were no separate rules to follow, and it was just held the way marriage parties are held, with much scope to innovate for the couple. The guests were expected to maintain the usual decorum and focus on wine, food and music to celebrate the bright future for the divorcees. Shamsher asked his parents to keep the Charh di Kala[1]approach in mind, to calibrate themselves with the equivalent of joie de vivre: stay indulgent, in high spirits to mint fresh memories of fun and enjoyment.  

Mr Duggal kept gazing at the invitation card delivered by courier, running his podgy fingers on the embossed letters. It was fancier than any marriage invitation card. The gold-plated card glittered, perhaps indicating the glittering future after the mutual separation that was to be formalised at an auspicious hour. The names of the couple and their families were mentioned along with the programme schedule, with the Lord’s name emblazoned on it to suggest this separation was being formalised with divine blessings, to thank Him for mercy and saving the couple from a boring life together. 

Freedom at midnight is always good as it heralds a new dawn. The midnight timeline for the divorce echoed in a similar strain. The couple would wake to a new life of freedom after their tryst with matrimony. The big idea behind the invitation was to come and bless the separating couple with tons of happiness in their post-divorce lives. The creative note was penned by a professional copywriter who gave it a spin and hyped it to such an extent that it seemed missing this event would be the biggest blunder for couples who had experienced the beautiful side of getting hitched but not the equally, if not more, wonderful side of getting ditched. When Mrs Duggal picked it up to read, those emotional lines struck a chord with her and filled the gaps in their marriage. She looked at divorce through the prism of optimism.  

Mr Duggal, yet to recover from the initial shock of being invited to attend the divorce party, found it challenging to customise his expressions to suit the occasion, to look happy like he did when Upasana married this guy three years ago. He remembered sharing with relatives and friends the video clip featuring their energetic Bhangra dance to show how charged they were as a doting, retired couple.   

“Do you think we are expected to bless them again? Isn’t it a farce? Grooving and smiling would be tough, isn’t it? Those vivid memories of blessing her would haunt me. What is the need to hold this function? What are they trying to prove? Mocking at the institution of marriage? Don’t you think they are making a grand show of putting up a brave face when misfortune looms large? Check the program list. Leading pop singers from the film world are going to perform live,” Mr Duggal went hammer and tongs.

“They are not going to sing sad songs of separation. Not your favourite dard bhare geet. They wish to celebrate divorce as a happy occasion – the harbinger of good times. A peppy show loaded with dance and masti[2]. Frankly, I am impressed with her plan, no matter what you say. Chalo[3], let’s not waste time. Choose my dress and matching jewellery, so much to do. Stop brooding and decide which suit you want to wear or buy something traditional,” Mrs Duggal showed her positive frame of mind for the special event they were privileged to attend. Finally, she would have something unique to discuss at her kitty party next week.

Mr Duggal was not in high spirits, unlike his wife who got another opportunity to look fabulous and interact with the upwardly mobile guests she had met at Upasana’s theme wedding. When he mentioned the name of the sensational singer, Mrs Duggal slipped into dance mode, visualising it to be awesome.  

“Our blessings are mere formality; did not mean much the last time and it is not going to matter this time again,” Mr Duggal tried to get her back on a serious track.

“Oh Sardarji, come on, you know it is all like that. Do not ruin the fun part. They have entertainment. We ate a gourmet dinner last time. Expect the same this time. They are sweetly mocking the institution of marriage so let them do it. Relationships are like that only today. Here, we carry dead relationships on our shoulders and try to revive them instead of ending everything on a bitter-sweet note,” Mrs Duggal offered her worldview without sounding preachy.

“So, you mean our marriage can also go to the rocks one day? Our four decades of marriage can crumble,” Mr Duggal expressed concern, “In case you have such intent, do let me know a year in advance so I can prepare and plan my future, and get check-ups done to avoid cardiac arrest. But if you decide suddenly – just give me a slow disclosure so that the shock does not upset my weak but vital organs,” Mr Duggal pleaded with her in a lighter vein.  

“Now stop worrying about your fate and go and ask if Shamsher would join us,” Mrs Duggal tried to reduce his anxiety.  

“Has he ever been anywhere with us in the last ten years? No point asking and getting the same standard reply,” Mr Duggal furnished his bland refusal.  

“He was not asked to accompany us to Upasana’s wedding. They were friends in childhood. Maybe now you can ask if he…” Mrs Duggal tried to persuade him.

“You remember so much. Anyway, since you insist, I am seeking his presence. Did he complain he was not asked to go last time?” Mr Duggal asked with curiosity.

Mrs Duggal kept mum, waiting for him to understand something without words.

Mr Duggal went and knocked at his son’s frosted glass door and asked if he would like to go.

Instead of refusing, he said he had an important presentation that evening so he would stay home for the project.

“I told your Mummy you are not a party-loving guy, but she insisted I should ask you to join us. When will your mother understand you as I do?”


Mr Duggal rummaged the wardrobe looking for a suitable blazer and trailed a volley of queries after informing her that Shamsher was not joining them.

“Do you have any idea how we are going to behave there? I mean do we look sad or happy? I am bad at faking, you know that. Are you going to give them bouquets separately?” Mr Duggal fired a big one.   

“Not decided. But yes, better if we give one each separately. You give to Upasana, your missed Bahu[4]. And I will give her divorcee hubby. Don’t think so much. They are happy to heal this way, so why should we grudge? We are invited – go and enjoy. Be practical like them. Just chill,” Mrs Duggal gave sound advice to make him comfortable.  

Mr Duggal was not okay with this whole idea. He thought this was intended to make fun of marriage although his wife and son were on the same page in this matter and hailed it as a progressive step.

“I am clear I am not going to bless them again,” Mr Duggal stressed with raised eyebrows, “I know the Malhotras will be upset doing this tamasha[5]but Upasana is forcing them to stage this show.”  

“Whoever has planned it, at least some people got work, some organisers, catering guys, bartenders, and DJs. Money is flowing out of the tycoon’s coffers for a divorce party that is just like a farewell party. Touchwood, I am super excited. I am going to wear a silk Sharara[6], and diamond jewellery for the divorce party,” Mrs Duggal revealed her plans.

Shamsher joined their discussion late and cheered for his mother and persuaded her to buy a flashy suit for his father, maybe a tuxedo.

When Mrs Duggal mentioned this divorce party, none of her friends reacted with excitement as they were not invited. It was a matter of privilege for the Duggal family to be invited. Upasana liked Duggal Uncle when her father was not super-rich. As good family friends, Upasana bonded well with Duggal Uncle who gave her strong lessons to be independent and brave like a boy child. This gender parity thing was a gift from Duggal Uncle who wanted her to be free in her choices.

“You are the one who put those modern ideas in her at that young age,” Mrs Duggal accused her husband of being the real culprit.

There was no denying the fact that Mr Duggal never discriminated against based on gender and encouraged girls to follow their dreams. He had encouraged his sister to join the medical profession. Considering Upasana to be just like his own child, he gave her genuine advice as her father was busy expanding his business empire.


On the day of reception, the Duggals walked in, decked in their best. Upasana spotted them from a distance and walked down the aisle to receive them and hugged them after touching their feet. She had not forgotten the traditions. Mrs Duggal congratulated her for being bold enough to walk out of a loveless marriage based on presumptions. Citing this as the most probable reason, she went ahead with examples of women from her community separating fast. As they reached the dais where the florally decorated, chairs for the split couple were arranged, her ex-hubby greeted them with folded hands and shook hands with Mr Duggal who almost squeezed it in true Punjabi style, and his smile almost dried up under pressure.  

“Nice, you are leaving Upasana, not made for each other type actually,” Mr Duggal said to the former groom, Puneet Poddar while releasing his hand from his firm grip. Mrs Duggal offered him a bouquet of roses and congratulated him on his quick release from the marriage cell with a sardonic smile and an avancular peck on his chubby cheek.   

Trying to appreciate her sense of humour, Puneet Poddar reciprocated with a half-hearted smile and claimed it was his idea to throw a party and seconded by Upasana. “The real purpose behind this party is to meet you, guys. All those who attended our marriage got the invite to this party – from both sides. Our families loved this idea and gave the go-ahead to end it on a happy note,” Puneet explained briefly to the Duggals and guided them to settle in the front row seats on the other stage put up for the gala musical night.   

Mr Duggal wanted to meet the Malhotras first and asked him, “Where are your parents and in-laws?”

Mrs Duggal went to reserve the best seats for the music show while her husband continued the chat with Puneet Poddar who informed their parents that were together, formalising last-minute plans of setting up a new company abroad.

“Son and daughter are separating but the parents are forging a new bond?” Mr Duggal looked stunned.

“That is the beauty of our separation, Uncle. No bitterness. They remain friends and come closer while we call it over. They clicked as business partners, but we did not as partners. Simple as that.”  

“This is something unique, never heard of, dear, business interest supreme,” Mr Duggal admitted, “very practical, beta[7], loving it now.”  

“Honestly Uncle, we all are happy, we are beginning new lives,” Puneet Poddar asserted with a dash of confidence.

“Where did Upasana vanish? Let me find her.”

“Must be busy with her girl gang inside,” Puneet said coldly.

Guests started trooping in with gift hampers and the band of musicians arrived on the stage. Mr Duggal looked around and found the best whiskey.  

Contrary to Mr Duggal’s expectation of tearjerker numbers, sad songs of the Rafi-Lata-Kishore era being played out in a remix version, or some Ghalib ghazals, the band started jamming on peppy songs of freedom and carefree living and travelling the world. Perhaps that was the brief: celebrate freedom and free living. The dance floor rocked, as couples of all age groups began to waltz. The laser beams flash here and there to create colourful images of a happy crowd enjoying every moment of the party, with dozens of cameras zooming and capturing the party from various angles.

The couple that was breaking up could be spotted together on the stage, flanked by their parents for the last photo-op. The press guys went click, click, click.

Mr Malhotra held the mike and spoke with verve, “We are glad to have you all with us on this happy day, to wish the separating pair the best for their future lives as independent people in their solo journeys.”  

He gave it to Puneet to utter a few words, and he trundled out a stirring speech. “It was a wonderful journey of three years, and we realised this is all we had to share. No question of remarrying but remaining focused on living as free souls. Marriage is not fit for our nature and temperament. I am not marriage material. I guess we both have this trait in common. These three years have convinced us. There are many more like us who keep quiet and continue. Not us because we have choices. I was lucky to have Upasana who realised the same, and we gave each other the best gift possible. Freedom. If marriage was wrong, divorce is right.”  

Puneet Poddar won a legion of admirers with his speech, and the guests expected Upasana to say a few words to surpass him.  

Upasana picked it up from where he left, “Yeah right, marriages don’t have to be dysfunctional and then end in a split. Even apparently peaceful and stable marriages can end without raising a flutter. When beautiful things unfold in our lives, more beautiful than marriage that impedes and dilutes the experience, marriage should give way to that beautiful future we cannot share. Our lives cannot be beautiful together, not as much as our separate lives can be, and we realised it,” Upasana poured forth, “perhaps we come across as selfish, but if the sole focus of marriage is to make two people happy forever, we felt we were not going to make it as a couple. Better to part ways as friends who tried out marriage but thankfully did not suffer in it.”  

The thunderous applause for her fiery words paled everything else into insignificance and glorified their divorce.  


The priest who had come to perform their marriage rituals had come for the divorce. His presence was needed to bless them again for a new phase. His holy presence would be seen as auspicious for their divorce. After blessing them on stage, he came down and went to have his quota of snacks and drinks.

Mr Duggal bumped into him and held his arm, “Arrey[8], Sharma, where are you running and with what?”

 There was a glass of drink in his hand, and he claimed it was nothing but a cold drink.

“When did I say you are having anything else?” Mr Duggal quipped.

“Sardarji, the couple took the right decision,” the priest confessed, before taking a sip, “Their stars did not match, but I got paid extra to match everything. There is a defect in the birth chart and a big chance of a fatal accident if they remain married for five years. This is the real reason for the split, I am telling you. But anyway, it is a new experience for me. I am enjoying a divorce party for the first time at fifty-five. I have performed hundreds of marriages, and many couples split up in courts, but nobody tried this. Congratulations to their families, and hope this inspires more couples planning to split, to follow suit.”

Mr Duggal was not the superstitious type, and such disclosures did not cut much ice with him. Polishing off the drink, the priest went to relish paneer butter masala[9]and kulchas[10]while Mrs Duggal remained busy in the chaat[11] stalls and savoured scoops of gelato ice cream.  

The parents of the divorcing couple ate together while the pair was busy with their bosom friends. Everybody seemed to enjoy the evening, except for Mr Duggal who felt a tad remorseful as this was not what he was expecting to happen. Since everyone seemed happy, he had no reason to feel sad. Puneet was a nice man and what more do you need than a nice person as a life partner? He could not answer that for himself and realised nobody knew for sure what they wanted in life but knew only what they wanted at a particular stage of life.

The priest disappeared to gorge more kulchas while Mr Duggal set forth to take charge of his wife, who was careless regarding her sugar intake. She seemed to have enjoyed the sweets — all alone. With Mr Duggal reminding her of dietary restrictions, she lost the sense of freedom and almost threatened to leave him, “Stay away, or there will be two divorces today. Let me indulge in what I like.” Mrs Duggal made it resoundingly clear.

Mr Duggal felt scared of divorce at his advanced age and let her have her way. He went to listen to the music band singing some peppy chartbusters from across the world. Soon after, they wanted to leave but the divorcing couple and their parents were nowhere around. They moved out quickly without informing anyone except the priest who trailed behind them to the exit gate. Mr Malhotra was already at the gate when he saw them. He gave a warm hug and apologised for being tied up during the entire evening, “Thanks for coming, yaar[12], our friendship from Model Town days survives despite everything. Upasana was closer to you than me. She still misses Bhabhiji ke Chhole Bhaturey[13].”   

On the way home in their hatchback car, Mr Duggal could not convince himself whether this was all real or fake.

“When people appear madly in love after marriage, it is also far from real,” Mrs Duggal hinted how a façade is always in place, “Forget everything, it was a good freak-out session. I enjoyed the music, golgappas[14], chaat and ice cream flavours like mint and paan[15], just wonderful. I remember that. Nothing else. Perhaps divorce is not a bad thing after this. The lesser burden on our courts. You have to admit they set an example. End it without scars and bruises, without social stigma. The same people who attended the marriage were present at their divorce, so hopefully, they will not badmouth them. I won’t be surprised if this catches up fancy and becomes a trend here like in the West,” Mrs Duggal gave her candid views while Mr Duggal focused on driving safely to negotiate the final bend near their house.   

“Perhaps you are right,” Mr Duggal agreed as he stopped the car at the entrance. Shamsher came out to open the gate and asked,” So how was your party, guys?”

“Oh, it was lovely, beta. You should have comewith us. I have something for you,” Mrs Duggal gave him the box of laddoos[16] they were gifted before leaving the party ground.  

While Mr Duggal parked the car in the garage, Shamsher opened the designer box and saw the printed photo of Upasana, with a thank-you note.

“Like Shaadi ka laddoo[17], this is divorce ka laddoo, taste it, beta,” Mrs Duggal teased her son who was unwilling to marry even though he was close to forty.  

When they entered the living room, Shamsher went to the upper floor and stood on the balcony. Mrs Duggal sent his father upstairs to check his emotional state. Mr Duggal came and placed his hand on his son’s shoulder.

“Did you like Upasana?”

Shamsher did not turn around to answer the question. In the meanwhile, Mrs Duggal came upstairs slowly with her arthritic knees, and responded on his behalf, “What will this coward say? He could never say it earlier. Always busy with computers.”

Finding him unusually quiet after this salvo for the first time in years, his parents left him alone to regain emotional composure. However, his silence answered a lot.   

 “You knew all this?” Mr Duggal asked her after reaching their bedroom.

“Of course, I am his mother. I can sense that. I know his feelings better than you do,” Mrs Duggal shot back with confidence.

“But you never said it to me. Maybe I could take it up with her,” Mr Duggal said.

“But I was not sure if she was also having the same feelings for him,” Mrs Duggal explained to justify her silence.

Shamsher recollected the three years he and Upasana studied in the same school together. Then she left the locality and was admitted to a girl’s convent. Later she left for the US to pursue higher studies where she fell in love with Puneet Poddar who was studying on the same campus. Some mutual friends kept offering updates though he never established contact with her.

Shamsher picked up one laddoo from the box without hesitation and put it in his mouth. The saffron flavour was awesome, cooked in desi ghee[18]. His smile of satisfaction grew wider as he stuffed another laddoo – to celebrate their divorce and gave a hearty laugh to release his residual feelings of childhood love.    

[1] High spirited

[2] enjoyment

[3] Come

[4] Bride, daughter-in law

[5] Show or event

[6] A loose trouser

[7] Son

[8] Oh!

[9] A preparation of cottage cheese

[10] A kind of Indian bread

[11] Savoury snacks

[12] friend

[13] Sister-in-law’s chickpea curry with fried flatbread

[14] Savoury snack

[15] Betel quid regarded as a digestive after a heavy meal

[16] Sweets

[17] Wedding sweets

[18] Homemade clarified butter

Devraj Singh Kalsi works as a senior copywriter in Kolkata. His short stories and essays have been published in Deccan Herald, Tehelka, Kitaab, Earthen Lamp Journal, Assam Tribune, and The Statesman. Pal Motors is his first novel.  


The Observant Immigrant

The Changing Face of Family

By Candice Louisa Daquin

A Maori family in European dress (nineteenth century). Courtesy: Creative Commons

The indigenous Maori people of New Zealand, like many other first nation people including the Aboriginal tribes of Australia and Native Americans of North America, have a differing view of family to dominant mainstream Western culture. Maori culture prizes the family over the individual, a person gains the most respect through their commitment to their community, not through their individual accomplishments.

The Maori word: “Kaumatuatanga,” is concerned with keeping families and the Maori community together, and “Whakawhanaungatanga” relates to the Maori belief that family bonds should always precede other matters in life, and benefit the whole, again rather than the individual. A good friend, adopted by Anglo-New Zealanders but biologically Maori, and taught in the Maori ways, explained that; “Maori’s respect the White man’s ways, but have their own, especially where family is concerned. To Maori, family is history and future, the individual must work to strengthen their future collectively and respect their history, or their individuality has no value. In other words, family guides the individual and each individual Maori is made aware, irrespective of adoption or other circumstance of his/her history.”

My Maori friend, Esther explained that while she was adopted, given up by her birth mother who at sixteen did not feel she could care for her child, she was embraced by the Maori when she sought them out years later, and was taught of her ancestors, whose record of arriving in New Zealand, in minute detail, was recorded in the Maori tradition and passed on from generation to generation. Esther was able to find out the name of her specific tribe, the head of that tribe and the name of the boat her tribe took when they embarked for New Zealand from Polynesia, years prior to any Anglo settlers. Esther explained that; “Having such a rich history, knowing not only where I came from as an individual but as a people, gives me more security than any Anglo child I know, irrespective of my adoption. Even if my birth mother had not embraced me, my people, my extended family, did, and I have always felt accepted and welcomed by my culture. This leaves me feeling less dislocated and unaware of my history than most people and I find it impossible to be insecure with such a rich extended family.”

Contrast this with the story of Susanna from Toronto, a Canadian 33-year-old single-mother. Susanna’s family is of English/French descent. Her mother lives in Vancouver, she has never met her father who left her mother soon after Susanna was born. At 25, Susanna, in a relatively stable relationship at the time, became pregnant and had Emily. Soon after Emily was born, Susanna’s partner got a job offer in the US and chose to leave with another woman whom he had been seeing. Devastated by the loss of her partner both financially and emotionally, Susanna was unable to support herself and sank into depression. She continued to struggle financially and received little assistance from her mother who has remarried and her half-sister from that marriage.

“At times, it feels as if I have no family,” Susanna says, smiling at her daughter who she reports, has lots of friends at school and is doing well. “I fear for Emily’s future because she has no support network, she doesn’t see any of her grandparents, she has no brothers and sisters and if something were to happen to me, I really don’t know who would take care of Emily. I didn’t think in 2007 anyone would be as isolated as I feel, but then I talk to other single moms, and they tell me they’re struggling too. Sometimes I don’t think anyone really considers us, or the impact of our isolation and what effect that has on our kids. I know Emily is getting old enough to notice when I get depressed and be adversely affected by the state our finances. I want to give her so much more, but I never feel I have anyone to turn to for help. My social life died as soon as I had Emily because I couldn’t afford a babysitter. I’m only 33 but I don’t remember the last time I had a night out, sometimes my frustration gets really bad, and I lose my patience with Emily. It’s not her fault but it’s not mine either, I didn’t know I was going to be dumped, I didn’t think my lack of own family would impact me as negatively as it has, I used to have a lot of friends and now I only know other single parents who like me, struggle to make ends meet, we’re a lonely bunch.”

Susanna is only one of the roughly 1 million (Statistics Canada, 2001) single-mothers in Canada today, juggling a full-time job and full-time childcare with radically different support networks. No longer able to rely upon an extended family for baby-sitting; Susanna has had to adapt to the changing face of Canada’s traditional ‘family’.

It may be ironic that developed countries have significantly higher rates of single-parent family households, with the US leading the way at 34%[1] and Canada close behind at 22%. Historical reasons for single-parent families have been replaced with modern-world explanations linked to the evolving social and cultural demographic changes especially in the last 30 years. Despite cultural shifts, many negative connotations remain associated with single-parent families, and “non-traditional” families, despite this “non-traditional” model eclipsing the old normative two-parent, two-gender nuclear family. Today it seems, anyone can be a family, and the word “family” is associated more with an experience of (family) than a tightly fitting model. The question then becomes multifaceted; Have we identified what needs these new family structures have? Are those needs of the individual being met by the new family dynamic? And are the needs of these differing faces of family being met by social institutions?

Single Mothers by Choice (SMC) founded in the US is the largest advocate and networker for single mothers in North America. Statistics compiled by SMC show that many single-mothers are electively having babies by themselves, for a variety of reasons including a wish to have children outside of a marriage, by oneself, or in a same-sex coupling. Motherhood is, likewise, no longer restricted to marriage, nor do women have to abide to the old-fashioned concept of having their children in their twenties ‘just to be safe’. Career women in particular, are finding, motherhood later in life, fulfills their maternal instinct and equips them with greater financial resources to meet the needs of single motherhood. Many women are eclipsing their male partner’s earnings and as such, some men are opting to share if not take over the rearing of children, whilst other women find job-sharing roles with their counterparts a more practical way of meeting motherhood responsibilities while remaining in the work force. The 1980 comedy film, Nine-To-Five, exemplified the struggle that began in the 80’s with women entering the work place in increasing numbers due to emancipation, a wish for a career and financial necessity often the result of divorce. In the film, a character is fired because she misses work due to her child’s illness. Later on, she is reinstated by a female boss, and permitted to job-share so that she might work and have time for her children. This trend extended to childcare facilities being available onsite and special incentives for mothers.

Despite progress, women continue to earn less than men, typically being responsible for the children and often receiving little or sporadic financial support. While the French Government, concerned with falling birth rates, recently instituted a programme to incentivise women to have more children, paying them more per child and “rewarding” them for having children, as well as making it easier for them to work, this program and others like it do not cover the issue of a spartan or non-existent family network. Can we really hope to replace the extended family with social institutions?

Out-dated theories of the ‘ideal family’ continue to be quashed by the ever-evolving modern reality of today’s family structures. Kids born in the 1960’s and 70’s may have directly experienced divorce and thus, have different perspectives of what a family structure entails, and how best to form it. Laws in Canada allow same-sex couples to adopt, and prior to that, same-sex couples who had children from previous unions, did so anyway. The law cannot dictate a family, it can only work to support those families that emerge from its society and hope to be effective in meeting those changing needs. Stacy, growing up in the 70’s was reared by her father, at the time a very unusual move. Her mother, a die-hard careerist, had little interest in children and left Stacy in the care of her father. At the age of six, Stacy was questioned by school social workers who were concerned that Stacy might become the victim of sexual abuse, simply on the basis of her living with her father.

Stacy’s father never abused Stacy and she grew up to campaign for the rights of single fathers, who Stacy says, often receive unequal treatment at the hands of biased social institutions who favor a mother’s rights over her children. Adults like Stacy are the parents of 2007, bringing with them a different perspective of what is permissible and acceptable child-rearing. “I never felt like a boy just because I didn’t’ grow up with my mother. My father can still sew better than I can, and he wanted to parent me, my mother wasn’t interested. To me, an interested parent is far more valuable than a disinterested one, irrespective of gender,” says Stacy, now actively involved in the Canadian Equal Parenting Group, with her own family, Stacy decided not to marry because she prefers the; “Goldie and Kurt” model.

When Susanna found herself abandoned by her partner, pregnant and unable to hold down a well-paying job, she turned to online message boards and found that she was not alone. “I felt like such a failure but began to see that we condemn ourselves the worst and if we can believe we’re capable of doing a good job, maybe society will catch up and not condemn us. I wasn’t a 16-year-old ‘welfare mom’ as many young moms are called, but even if I had been, I’d like to think I’d have been given a chance, people are quick to judge but who is judging the fathers who leave? Or the social institutions that fail to provide?” In online communities, Susanna found groups of single mothers who networked to provide childcare and support, as well as a healthy dose of information about how to get through the sometimes-confusing system of healthcare and welfare available for single parents.

Recently Susanna has connected with single-parent camp organisers for Emily. Although most are private and can be expensive, there are reductions based on income and plenty of notice available for planning and saving. Likewise, the organisation Canadian Parents Without Partners (CPWP)[2] offers friendship and support for those parents like Susanna and also those parents who actively chose to become single parents. This said, in an article entitled: Navigating Family Transitions: Evidence from the General Social Survey (Beaupré, Pascale, Cloutier, Elisabeth)[3] points at both positive and negative consequences for changing families in Canada, including resources available to young families with less familial support than ever before and the economic consequences of divorce. In The Divorce Revolution: The Unexpected Social and Economic Consequences for Women and Children in America (1985) by Lenore J. Weitzman[4], studies confirmed societies worst fears, despite the liberising effect of divorce, women were suffering, with 14% of female divorcees seeking Welfare during the first year of divorce and divorced men seeing a 42% increase in their standard of living versus a 73% drop in living standards for the average divorced woman. Over ten years later, the same author wrote in the American Sociological Review an article named ‘The Economic Consequences of Divorce Are Still Unequal’ (1996)[5] and today they remain gender biased. What can Canada’s services do to support those families still falling through the cracks?

In the article, ‘Social Support and Education Groups for Single Mothers’[6], authors Lipman and Boyle report that one in eight Canadian children live in a family headed by a single mother, “vastly overrepresented by families living below the poverty line.” The studies exiting research showed an increased need for societal support and social assistance to improve the educational and mental-health outcomes of single-parent households. Further, it pointed to the vast improvement in status for those individuals who did receive adequate social support and education. This link between education, social support and family success for those headed by single women, only reiterates a pressing need for more resources and greater attention given to the needs of these family units. Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC) claims responsibility for Canadian citizens from the cradle to the grave and aims to improve the quality of life and skill set of every Canadian. This aim must continue to adapt with the changing face of family today, to ensure no Canadian is left behind, neglected by the slow turning wheels of a bureaucracy.

Few Canadian women today will believe their future will be that of housewife, not in the work force, unskilled for that work force, with children, while her husband supports them through a job. Many families today require a dual income, women want to work, husband’s might not, husband’s may not exist, couples may not marry, marriage does not guarantee safety! These and other considerations have factored into the evolution of the face of Canadian families today, we may have temporarily lost ourselves in this metamorphosis, as often happens when change is not matched with response to change, but as with any evolution, we will recreate the face of family in Canada and find new and continually evolving ways to meet the needs those new families present through programmes like JumpStart, a Canadian community-based charitable programme that helps kids in financial need participate in organized sport and recreation. The Government and its social bodies must be swift to anticipate the trends and directions Canadian families take, and in lea of such agency support, women make their own connections, online, in groups and through networks of like-minded women, doing what they do best, surviving and building.

Look around you. Women are doing it for themselves. Fathers are rearing children and joining together to have an informed parental voice, same-sex and transgender couples flourish as the rainbow families of diversity, mixed-race families continue to educate their children about discrimination and the pride of being multicultural. Studies indicate no harm to children brought up with the absence of one gender, or in mixed-race households. Much of what has historically held us back and limited acceptance is our own unwillingness to embrace change or try to understand it. Scores of children have lost parents for a variety of reasons, and will continue to, with the ravages of war, divorce, abandonment. Change is ever-increasing. We can never impede change. It is part of our biological destiny.

Children will continue to bear witness to ever-new forming families, with step-siblings, step-parents, different cultures, traditions and genders, complex extended families that cannot be measured in neat categories but are perhaps the building blocks of any social structure, the purpose being, for people to come together and support one another. The key is to find extension if not in our immediate family but those we make, and to avoid isolation, the real cause of depression and loss. Children can grow as long as they are loved and cared for. If we find ourselves lost it is our role to build a ship and invite others aboard. As Esther, my Maori friend, said: “My family is all around me, and my adopted family remains in my heart also. I can share my family with everyone because they share my pride in my heritage and where I came from. Everyone should have some pride about where they came from so that they may dream and have somewhere to place that dream so that it continues safe.”

[1] Reported in 1998, source:

[2] Parents Without Partners

[3]Evidence from the General Social Survey, Beaupré, Pascale, Cloutier, Elisabeth,

[4] Free Press (1985) New York.

[5] The Economic Consequences of Divorce Are Still Unequal, Lenore J. Weitzman, American Sociological Review, Vol. 61, No. 3 (Jun., 1996), pp. 537-538

[6] A Randomized and Controlled Trial of a Community-Based Program, Ellen L. Lipman, Michael H. Boyle, published at November 17, 2005

Candice Louisa Daquin is a Psychotherapist and Editor, having worked in Europe, Canada and the USA. Daquins own work is also published widely, she has written five books of poetry, the last published by Finishing Line Press called Pinch the Lock. Her website is www