As I breathe and think and dream

The Choice of Children

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Recently Helen Mirren raised a number of eyebrows when she said she doesn’t have children and doesn’t want any either as she has “no maternal instinct whatsoever”. Most of the world is besotted with babies and such people are definitely scandalized by the notion that a woman might not want children. I can almost hear them say ‘Why on earth would a women not desire children when it is motherhood that defines and completes women?!!!’

Indian culture as hawked by numerous matriarchs specially revolves around this notion of having children right after getting hitched. The mothers, mother-in-laws and aunts heap loads of concern on a girl who is of marriageable age and has not yet tied the knot. They sing ‘hallelujah’ when she finally does get married and then do not wait till the ink as dried on the marriage certificate to confront her to ask ‘So when are you giving us the ‘good news’?’ The particular term ‘good news’ is a specially concocted one and it refers to the announcement that the stork will be visiting shortly. Now I am not sure why this news should always be ‘good’ . In a country where the population is 1.24 billion and rising steadily, the idea of one more addition to the numbers can be a little worrying for some.

If the newly married girl does give the news within the first year or year and half, then all is well and good. However heaven help her, if she does not make the announcement within this stipulated time frame. Tongues start wagging and everyone starts pestering her with ‘well-meaning’ advise that she should really hurry up as the biological clock was ticking away. Note that no one ever asks if the girl wants children or if children would fit into her lifestyle, career and aspirations. Well, as I said earlier, if you are a woman, you have to have children!

I remember that once I had visited the house of a colleague some years ago. I had been married for about three years at that time and had no children. Her mother was there and though I did not really know the lady well, she immediately embarked upon a lecture about how I was leaving it till too late. Then she went into biological details about how a woman’s body accumulates fat as she ages and that makes conception difficult. Throughout I watched her with a kind of fascinated horror. Of course, in India, you do not interrupt an elder with a curt ‘Please mind your own business!’

I am not anti-children. i love kids almost as much as the next person. However I feel that every woman (or man for that matter) should have the right to exercise his or her right to choose what finally is an immensely personal thing. There should be no societal pressure to conform in this matter– unless of course the human species is on the verge of extinction. In that situation I guess women really might need to chip in and have kids for the greater good of the society!!!

Neither do I think that having a child is necessary for a woman to feel ‘complete’. I have a six month old who is as cute as a button and I love her dearly. I love spending time with her and love the feeling of discovering the world all over again with her. However I do not feel that her arrival has completed me. I was very much a finished product before she made an appearance, thank you!

More and more women around the world are deciding to forgo having babies and the number of such women is also on the rise in the Indian society. The reasons for this are many – some people think that a child might hamper their career aspirations, some consider kids to be unruly and disruptive, others like Helen Mirren feel no maternal urge to goo-gaa over a bassinet. Whatever be the reason, whether you decide to have a child or not is ultimately one’s own personal decision and should always remain so.


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