Children are a bunch of fascinating tiny human beings. They are indeed fun to hang with, as long as they remain cute. I have my share of fun with my friends’ kids, relatives’ kids, and kids in public. I admire their adorable and innocent nature. Having said that, I have never ever felt ‘maternal’, not even once.
My sister came along in my life when I was 10 years old. I have sort of ‘raised’ her since young. I have seen how much my mum had to change her life, being the sole care-giver while my dad was busy at work, around my sister’s waking and sleeping habits.
Bringing up a baby is no small matter. I firmly believe that a child needs 100% attention of the primary care-giver, be it the mother or the father, for at least the first 7 years of his/her life. This means being a stay-at-home mum or dad. Well, who am I kidding, it is usually the mum right? When you bring a child into this world, you are not just a parent, you are a trustee. God has granted you the trust of taking care of His child. The child is, strictly speaking, not your property. So your responsibility is the proper upbringing of the child, and this demands your full attention.
The decision to have a child, is therefore, a conscious choice. It cannot be seen as an obligation. Usually society expects you to have a child as soon as you have tied the knot, let alone an Indian society, in which expectations are even higher. The idea that all women are ‘maternal’ and all women want to have children is taken so much for granted, that there is no room to reject this notion entirely. If you do, then you are labelled as being a ‘child-hater’, ‘arrogant’ and ‘feminist’.
In Indian societies, motherhood is glorified akin to divinity and romanticised heavily. There is nothing wrong with this. However, the notion that only motherhood ‘completes’ a woman is erroneous. The truth is that some women have really good ‘maternal’ feelings and wishes, while there are some who do not feel the same. Motherhood is an attitude; it is not a status to attain, neither does it have anything to do with a biological relation. There are many mothers in this world who do not necessarily have ‘maternal’ or motherly feelings, and yet they are good care-providers to their kids and their family.
I have very briefly touched on this issue of being childfree back in 2007. I had strong feelings about this issue 10 years back, and I am glad to say that my thoughts have not changed at all. People might think that if not today, one day I will want to have children. My views have not changed for 10 years, and I am sure they will never change again. I would rather spend the time in my life focusing on things I want to achieve and things that I am passionate about. I would rather sponsor the education and upbringing of orphaned kids than have my own. I would rather travel around the world and write books. I would rather start-up a small business that I am passionate about. There are so many things in life that you strive for, and kids are a very small part of it.
The choice of being childfree after marriage also applies to men, because men too have societal expectations of becoming a father. However, it seems unfair that when men declare that they do not want to have kids, they are treated less harshly than women. The burden of the decision to be childfree seems to be falling entirely on women these days.
Ultimately, at the end of the day, we all want to live a happy life, doing what we want to do and what we feel passionate about. People who decide to be childfree by choice, or are childfree by nature or if they decide to have children a little later; all of them deserve to be happy in their life, regardless of the choices they make. It will do a lot of good if we all keep a mirror in our pockets to remind ourselves that we should look in our own mirror first before we point and judge other men and women for the choices they make.