It is difficult to explain, but the pressures experienced in India, especially by women, are deeper than what’s available to see in the mainstream. Oftentimes, we celebrate women when they are expected to be celebrated, not when they want to be.
Getting a degree, moving out of one’s parents’ house, finding a job that they love and that sustains them – more often than not, these are the stages in life that are skipped over, and things like marriage and having kids is put on a pedestal.
To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the celebration of motherhood. It is a wondrous feeling, and an experience many would be fortunate to live through. At the same time, we must remember that there’s an aspect that is oh-so-important – choice. Many Indian women do not see themselves in the shoes of a mother, but this reality is challenging to accept for traditional India.
Indeed, it is my privilege that allows me to choose, and perhaps even act on it, but it does not discount the thousands of women across the country that do not prioritise motherhood, for whatever reason.
This is when I turned to you. We asked you to help us tweak and complete our narrative of ‘I don’t want kids, and that’s okay...’ because we know many of you, like me, are out there. This is but an attempt to understand the points of view of women that, rightfully, may put other aspects of their life before motherhood, out of personal choice.
A word about our responses:
- The age group of our respondents ranged from 22-39 years old.
- Most of our respondents were from Bengaluru, but we also received a response from London.
- For qualitative purposes, the respondents were not forced to choose from just a selection of options and were allowed to give us insight in their own words.
To Be Or Not To Be?
There is no shortage of magical adjectives used when describing motherhood. Of course, it is perhaps something a person understands only once you experience it. But I wish to explore choice.
Personally, I had never envisioned a life for me that involved kids. In all honesty, I am not even the biggest fan of kids. For the longest time I was told that when I am older, I will realise my true wishes. Well, I am older now, and at 23, my thoughts remain the same. I am well aware that I may go back on my word years from now, but that path of choice must remain open.
It’s not about me experiencing all that comes with motherhood, it’s about what I don’t want to experience. A lifetime worth of change, financial responsibilities, and more in a world that seems undeniably ruthless is not my ideal dream of a ‘family’.
Echoing my thoughts is Nishtha Sharma, a Master’s student currently residing in London. She says, “I’m yet to feel any pressure to get married or have children but as of now I don’t see myself wanting to have children in the future because I do not want to put my body through it. It’s not just a matter of nine months. It puts women through a very long term mental and physical commitment to change. I personally do not like children very much either. However, I would much rather adopt if I want children in the future. I think people around me think I’m joking and believe that I’m young so I’ll change my mind later.”
Surely, post-marriage this conversation undergoes change, and becomes rather intense, I assume. With the ‘obvious’ next step being kids, denying it in Indian society requires courage. To help me with this, 39-year-old Neha Vikram helps me with another perspective – of what you and your spouse collectively place belief (or lack thereof) in. The world is not a kind place, not to everyone.
Neha lets me in on what she thinks bringing a child into this world would feel like for her. She says, “It’s difficult to make people understand that my spouse and I were reluctant to give birth to add one more ordinary life like us to the race! It’s pointless to raise your child with an education system you don’t believe in. Every decision has its pros and cons. If taken with a clear mind you’ll figure out a way to deal with its consequences. We didn’t want a child to fill in as entertainment to our mundane-ness. Maybe we were too rational with our approach! In an obvious reaction, this decision hit my mother-in-law and my parents in a big way. But gradually they realised that having babies doesn’t certify anyone of being happily married. It’s our life, our responsibility, and our decision and we’ll take the final call!”
You go, girl!
What’s India Got To Do With It?
Modern India may be shifting to a more accepting environment, but hurdles remain. The expectation of a woman going through motherhood is omnipresent and reflects in spheres like career, health, society, and relationships among others.
I do think that whether or not one has made up their mind, the pressure is felt. It garners a lot of speculation from Indian society and it is nearly impossible to ignore.
Neha from Nagpur does specify one type of pressure - the legacy factor. She says, “The legacy factor. Your existence is a question mark if you can’t become a mother. Maybe your career is more important than becoming a mother. If you don’t deliver at the right age it will lead to complications.”
23-year-old Nishtha rightly points out that this may be experienced worldwide, not just in India. The idea of motherhood, and its looming expectation is universal.
“Globally, people believe that motherhood is a great joy and have similar notions. But again, I consider myself to be privileged to belong to a family that doesn’t hold many strong notions about marriage and children so I can’t comment. I do think though, that wanting to continue the family makes older generations force younger generations into having children.”
I may never be able to truly explain why I do not wish to have kids. The reasons vary in different situations and times, but the thought remains the same.
There are many like me. So many of us feel we would be happier outside of motherhood, and I wish there was a way to explain to those who do not understand it, that it is okay – you do you, and I’ll do me.
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