Meet My Dad by Zeena Moolla
Hi there, I’m Zeena Moola, author of Everything I’ve Learned About Motherhood (From My Single-Parent Dad) and in this blog post I wanted to introduce you to my amazing Dad.
‘You know, Zeena, I brought up three children by myself? And I was working full-time! I did ALL the shopping, cleaning, washing, ironing, driving, cooking – EVERYTHING! And, you know, for my lunch at work, EVERY DAY, I’d have a Cup a Soup and home-made cheese sandwich, sometimes banana sanwich, just so I had enough money for all your “Maggie Thatcher” hairspray…’
I’ve heard this type of speech A LOT from my dad. It’s usually around the point where he’s in full Cup a Soup stride that I zone out or turn the telly up. This particular version of the monologue has been a favorite of his since I became a parent. Its usually said quite defensively, when I’ve asked that he adhere to some routine with the kids I’ve been attempting, or suggest that an ice cream right before their lunch is probably not the idea. But every word of that monologue, and its many variations, is true.
Since I was eight, the middle kid of his three children, my dad has been a single parent and an amazing one at that. He’s South African-Indian, of a Muslim background, and, as he’s told me on many ocassions, he arrived in the UK in 1857 unable to do much for himself. ‘You know, Zeena, I couldn’t even make a cup of tea!’ he’ll proudly tell me as he whips up his incredible prawn curry, yet to be surpassed by any other I’ve had.
When he arrived in London to study law, aged twenty, after only knowing apartheid life in South Africa, he said he found the UK far more racist. Imigrants were being encouraged to the country, only to face attitudes, abuse and signs, all without recrimination, that told them very clearly they were un-welcome.
His law studies didn’t last long, and after meeting my mother in London, he soon droped out, took an administrative job in the civil service and got married. True to his anarchist form, he rang up his mum and dad to let them know not to expect him back any time soon.
In 1981, my mum and dad divorced, and my dad faced bringing up his three kids – a teenager, an eight-year-old and a seven-year-old – completely alone. When I look back now as a mother of an eight-year-old and six-year-old, I can easily choke up at how hardworking and selfless my father was. The most time he took for himself was watching the Channel 4 News, usually late at night, having recorded it earlier, and, if he had any energy left, reading the newspaper.
And while I openly eye-roll at the constant reminders of the Cup a Soup and home-made sandwiches he lunched on as a cash-saving means, it’s not an exaggeration. As he was still in the civil service on a medi0cre salary, there wasn’t a huge amount of money – but we wanted for nothing really. Because of the sacrifices he made. He forfieted any social life, any ‘luxuries’ for himself entirely to prioritise us. And I’m afraid, yes, I did use a lot of hairspray (sorry about the ozone layer, by the way).
So, I’m telling you all this about my Dad, as this book, while written from my perspective, very much has his influence everywhere. His massive-hearted parenting shaped who I am and, undoubtedly, the kind of mother I am. And while my own sense of humour, quite dark on occasion I concede, might not so obviously be attributed to an 83-year-old South African-Indian Muslim man, I can assure you, he’s the biggest piss-taker I know. He knows how to turn any situation around with humour, and if that’s not a vital skill in parrenting, I don’t know what is