I am 39 years old. I married at 24, met my husband through the traditional arranged marriage system, date arranged by parents. Presently I am a home maker, after having quit my 15 years long and financially enriching ‘career’ entirely, early last year. And I am childless. By choice.
There has been some noise about the topic of choosing to be child free. And I have been navigating through this noise for the last many years and I can tell you, its overwhelming. In today’s world, where opinions are everywhere. Where they are voiced more strongly and more forcefully and more judgementally than ever before. After all its the age of the internet.
There are many women out there asking questions about why a couple, especially a woman is not allowed to go childless by choice. At least not allowed to go childless without a justification of some sort. Not that the justification matters, for nothing can obviously justify the choice? Then like every debate about any thing goes, people swing from one extreme emotion to the other. Women with children attack women without, women without children attack women with. Everyone attacks anyone who tries to bring peace.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying its always the case. For every 10 discussion, debate or chat about this topic that goes awry there is at least one that is open and balanced. But there is a long way to go in us being able to have this discussion more objectively. I have friends who are mothers but are supportive of my decision and are balanced in their
I wanted to pen my opinions in this post, hopefully without getting too judgemental about the people who are so to speak on the opposite end of this stick.
First justification you are going to get is – the experience of being a parent is not like anything you ever do. Hell, I don’t doubt or deny. Thats often true for many life changing experiences. This then leads to an exasperated, You will understand it only if you become a mother/parent to experience it. Right. Very logical.. One might as well say, ‘Kuch Kuch Hota hai…Tum nahi Samjoghe’.
No I am not denying that it is a special experience. Yes, kids are fun. They are great. Their pure, innocence gives you hope, makes you chuckle. You relive some of the best memories of your childhood. You become a better person. Learning to care for someone so completely and fully as a parent does for his/her child, especially her child gives you a high. I get it. But why does it have to be a child borne by you to feel all this? And shouldn’t this then be an experience one should be allowed to choose or not, without any judgements or pressure?
The second and probably the final justification you are going to get is – ‘its nature.’ As in, its a natural biological instinct programmed into every being. Yes, it maybe so. Yes, every organism, single celled or multi cellular, are programmed for procreation. We all know that. But have you seen how many of us there are? Human or homo sapiens differ from other organisms in the fundamental way – consciousness. Our primal brains are programmed to think that if we didn’t procreate we might become extinct. But as a species haven’t we evolved? Haven’t we used our intelligence to conquer nature in so many ways. Then why can’t more of us use our consciousness and our intelligence to really understand and get over/overcome this primal biological need?
Why should we, you ask? With the way resources and the earth we live in being abused and the rate at which we are procreating, homo sapiens is doing a great deal to destroy the earth already. Do we really need to procreate at the rate at which we are doing? Don’t we have a responsibility towards nature? Why must we add to the ‘burden’ that sapiens have already bestowed on nature?
Do I sound confrontational or crude? Maybe I sound idiotic or naive? A self righteous idealist speaking from her high horse perhaps? Maybe I am all of it? I would like to believe that my points above don’t come from any of the above.
I went through phases trying to find answers to the above questions. I found myself going through various levels of frustration and insecurities. There was a phase when I thought I wanted to be free and enjoy life. Then my primordial need kicked as the clock starting ticking. Well technically I am still in that stage, even if closer to the end of the hour! There was a phase when I felt I was missing out. I felt incomplete.
And that formed the basis of the answers I sought on why its not an easy need to transcend.
The societal pressure is the obvious one. Not just the overt ones, where the well meaning friends, aunts, not to mention your own parents. They are convinced that this the path we are all meant to take. There are no two ways about it. One needs someone to love, take care, ask after you during your old age to the experiences things. The pressure can be so relentless that it can, even if for a brief moment, question your own conviction.
But its the not so overt pressure that wrecks more havoc making it a lot harder for a lot more women and men to tread this journey. Its the ubiquitous message you see everywhere in the world.
Motherhood is touted as and the belief firmly instilled that being a mother completes a woman. Yes now many women may start to recognise that this is not necessarily true but its still a widely held notion. This is probably the only notion that is as unanimous in its acceptance world wide aside from ‘Money’. Now I am not going to delve into the realms of how this notion is the result of generations and generations of patriarchal society.
Naturally, the female species of many organisms have the role of bearing or protecting their unborn child. And through eons of evolution and lot of other biology the role naturally and unquestioningly fell to the female species whilst the male species took to providing. It was a way to divide and survive and procreate. But this eventually led to the formation of a systematic patriarchal society where women’s worth and role were limited and tied to her child bearing capabilities. And this has gone on for so long that aside from the primal need, this concept of motherhood as the most complete or distinct sign of a woman’s success, has become an intrinsic and deep part of our collective conscience. Overcoming this in our own feminine conscience and the large collective conscience is a really really hard.
We live in a world where having a baby or two or three to build a family is the goal we are all meant to be aiming for. We can be as successful in our careers. We could be everything but it will be meaningless if we didn’t have a family to share it with. That’s the message to a successful man, be it a senior executive, a mid manager, a celebrity, a business tycoon, a sports man. To a successful woman again whatever else she may or may not be doing, not only is it a meaningful part of your life, it is what ultimately marks you as a success itself.
How else could we explain the ever growing in-vitro and other infertility industry businesses? Women are putting their bodies through so many unnatural forms of torture to live their nature? What could make a woman put herself through this? The only answer that springs to my mind is this message of self worth that has been drilled into our psyche.
How else could we explain the celebrities flaunting their baby bumps at every given occasion? Am I reading too much into it when I read a slight hint of here’s my sign of ultimate success as a woman, when I see them cradle their baby bumps lovingly. Or talk obsessively about how they are successful women who have had it all?
Am I allowed a little cynicism when many of these women could so easily afford to and have access to change the world view. After all many of them are self confessed feminists who are flaunting their baby bumps and their pregnancies to prove that they are successful feminists who have it all. Am I being too harsh, too idealistic when I expect some of these women to understand that in this very spectacle they seem to be putting on is just reemphasising this message more strongly.
Is too much to ask for a little thought, little consideration towards the world we live in?
Is it too much to ask that we question our actions and our motives?
Is it too much to ask to be more balanced, more rational about our views on motherhood? Is it too much to ask for us to consider other experiences to live our lives fully or encourage different ways of fulfilling similar experiences (adoption, fostering, volunteering, why even helping your friends baby sit their kids so she can go and kill that meeting without having to worry about child care or let out some steam).
Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.