Known across Bradford for his work in social and dementia care that even landed him an official recognition from the queen in the form of MBE in 2016, Mohammed A Rauf is yet to be recognised for the work he does within his home.
For the past decade, Mr Rauf has tirelessly juggled being a single parent to three children with academia, a career, and unpaid work in the voluntary sector. He has two daughters, Atheeqa, 23. Ruqayyah, 19, and a soon-to-be 16-year-old son Haroon, who is in his final year of secondary school.
Mr Rauf has been raising his children on his own, with a little help from his mum and sister, for the past ten years after divorcing his ex-wife. Mr Rauf’s ex-partner developed post-partum depression after giving birth to their youngest child, which then developed into acute psychosis.
Services in Bradford, failed the couple, focusing solely on the mental health of Mr Rauf’s ex, not looking at the wider situation. “We went to anyone who would listen, even to the GP but they weren’t interested. She would say things that weren’t true, due to the psychosis, but because of stereotypes like ‘Asian men don’t give their wives any space’, nobody believed me.
“I said to them, ‘I’m here to get her help, for you to listen to my side of the story. I am involved in tackling inequality, in the social care sector myself, so why won’t you listen to what I have to say?
“It came down to me choosing either to be with her or the kids. There was no question that I would choose to raise my children. Despite the service providers helping to break my marriage, as I like to say, we split amicably and the children get to see their mum whenever they want, so it worked out well in the end.”
A lack of provisions for men in Bradford but across the whole of the UK, means that a lot of men aren’t receiving the help and support that they need.
This is changing, at least in Bradford, with the country’s first domestic abuse service specifically for South Asian men called
Men Reaching Out has been officially launched by BEAP Community Partnership in Manningham.
In Britain, there are certain stigmas attached to lone parenting. Women who raise children by themselves are often stigmatised for not having a partner to help with the load, and this is heightened within the South Asian community. Paradoxically, there is also a stigma of men raising children on their own within the community, as it is often seen as “women’s work” or that “men can’t raise daughters”, but Mr Rauf proves that this is not true, that men are not only more than capable of being a lone parent, but also can raise strong, fiercely independent, and bright children.
Mr Rauf is proud to be a single dad, revelling in the fact that he is breaking down stereotypes. “I had to learn how to cook when I became a single father. People often say ‘men can’t parent their daughters’ but that is not true. I received a text on Mother’s Day from a friend saying that I am a dad, but a mother as well, and I like to think that is true, as I play both roles.”
He is also keen to instil a good work ethic into his children, often bringing them along to his day job, putting them in the corner with a book or some activities to do whilst he works to pay the mortgage. Discussing this, he said: “I grew up in a household where you work for your bread, which is why I am always so busy with both paid and voluntary sector work.
“It is important to me that I keep to my values, and I pass them down to my children too. Bringing them along to my job was beneficial to them in a way as from an early age they got to see the world of work.”
This approach paid off, with his eldest daughter, Atheeqa, following in similar footsteps to her father working in the women’s mental health, and his middle child, Ruqayyah, is in her second year of university studying medicine to become a doctor. Haroon, the youngest in the family, had his eyes set on dentistry at university but may go into psychology, his future not yet fully decided.
Mr Rauf, who is “married to his work” as his kids often joke, could have chosen to remarry, to relieve some of the pressure on him, but decided not to. He said: “There is that trope of the ‘wicked stepmother’ who comes in and is hostile or even abuse to her stepchildren, and I didn’t want that to happen as you just don’t know who you could marry, so I chose to always put my children first.
“Now that they are all grown up, I am open to the possibility of one day remarrying, but at the minute my job and PhD which I am almost finished take up most of my time”, Mr Rauf said.
Mr Rauf founded Meri Yaadain (meaning my memories in Hindi) in 2006, which became a community interest company (CiC) in 2019. The CiC helps raise awareness surrounding dementia within the Black, South Asian, and Minority Ethnic community, another topic that is often not talked about.
For Mr Rauf, the best part of his life as a single dad is that he gets to make all the parental decisions. He said: “Couples who parent together might have arguments on how to raise their children, for me, since my youngest was very young, I get to make all the decisions.
“For example, I’ve raised my daughters to know that they can do whatever boys can do and that my son is free to express himself in any way he chooses. For example, my second daughter is training to become a doctor. She is from the inner-city of Bradford, so the odds are stacked against her, but the passion and drive to work has been instilled in her from a young age which is why she has gotten where she is today.”