I remember I heard someone saying years ago that having children after marriage is a natural trajectory. I was too young to understand the meaning and repercussions of marriage and children. But somehow it got registered. Years later, I overheard a similar conversation in a conference room. A woman probably in her mid 40’s was talking about her fantastic after office life. Another woman of almost the same age asked her how she gets time to do all that and if she had children? The first women confidently said No she doesn’t have children. The second woman said, ‘Oh I am sorry’!The first one said politely and graciously, ‘There is no need for you to feel sorry. I am childless by choice. And I have no medical issues. I have a wonderful partner, and we have a great sex life.
We have been trained to assume that every woman wants to be a mother and if she doesn’t have children within two or three years of marriage, there is something amiss.
We tend to see women as self-absorbed, career-oriented and over-ambitious if they don’t conform to our preconceived notion of the ideal woman who is handling her career and managing to raise two children with equal ease and elan. We adore women who act as ‘superwoman.’ We love women who are sleep deprived, exhausted and tired.
The woman is the symbol of self-sacrifice and martyrdom. She should be eternally married and be responsible for: breakfast, lunch, dinner, laundry, school homework. She should be relentless, continuously and unceasingly occupied with husband, children, and daily household chores. With changing times, a woman has the pressure of working and providing for the family. But we still refuse to take out the extra workload from her shoulders of household chores. She has the additional responsibility of adjusting marriage to her career and career to her wedding. The woman is trapped in the holy matrimony all in the name of happiness and security that she would derive from this sacrosanct cage.
Over time, a woman became the alpha woman -the woman who can do everything.
As a society, we are not yet ready to accept childless due to medical reasons. If the medical science and doctor can’t accomplish the motherhood dream, women have to seek the help of astrology and other such mediums. Voluntary childlessness is a difficult concept to fathom even in these supposedly modern times. Women’s control of their bodies is still ideal and far from reality. It is the society and religion that has control over her body through a man. Transition to womanhood and motherhood and women’s ability to produce children is a much celebrated and a joyous event.
Different cultures have different ways of doing it. Having fancy baby showers and mother’s day creates additional pressure on the woman of multiplying and breeding. The role and understanding of the ‘woman’ are still very narrow and exclusionary.
Women have a hard time to explain why she wants a different kind of life from the rest of the women. There could be many reasons for not wanting children. Apart from the high cost of maintaining and having children, I think there are overinflated and overzealous expectations from motherhood.
There are are many women who are afraid to take such gigantic responsibilities. No right-thinking person would be foolish to enough to make such a massive obligation if she is not prepared to fulfill it. It is better to be no parent rather than a bad parent. Finding the right man to father a baby is also important. After all, a baby will be 50% him and 50% her.
Some women don’t want to procreate as it will add additional pressure on the already fragile environment. Every new child creates more burden on the environment and fast depleting resources.
Blythe Pepino has set up BirthStrike, a voluntary organization to create more awareness on having babies in the when the planet is struggling with climate change.
Then there are anti-natalist who think procreating is morally and ethically wrong as people are inflicting cruelty to their babies by giving them birth. Recently, an Indian man was in the news when he sued his parents of giving him birth without his permission.
There could be a hundred other reasons for remaining childless. Sometimes it’s just that woman doesn’t have a maternal instinct. The reason is not essential here. It’s critical that woman could exercise her choice and can reject the traditional idea of womanhood and motherhood without feeling guilty and without being criticized.