Thursday, 15 January 2015

Why I Won't Be Having Children

I have been meaning to write this post for a while. I have many reasons why I took so long to jot it down; one of them is definitely the fact that I have been keeping fairly busy and a post of this nature takes sitting down peacefully, sorting through a bagful of thoughts and selecting the ones that convey a simple message with maximum clarity. The other reason, is definitely more crucial. I had to know, deep within, that I was absolutely sure of my reasons.

I do not want to have children. Not my own, glorious and respectful as it may be considered by people who believe that motherhood completes women and is our primary function as women. Not adopted, noble though it may be considered to do so by people who talk about countless children who are abandoned or have lost their parents and need a supportive home and a family.

I do not want to have children of any kind. Oddly enough, over the last six years of being married, I have also realised that this extends to all species - I do not want pets any longer, I do not even want plants. I have two plants that are fairly no-nonsense, don't-mess-with-us-and-we'll-grow-just-fine types. And I still find them mildly burdensome. When I travel or when I have to pluck leaves from them (they are basil and curry leaf), it upsets me. I have to arrange to keep them with a friend while I am gone and by now, I have given up plucking leaves from them.

I can only nurture and care for two people on a long term, bordering on all-my-life basis; myself, and my husband, who has never felt burdensome. That's probably because I chose to be with him with complete awareness and choice. And if you know me, you know that I may take forever to make decisions but I do not backtrack on them once they have been made. This decision to not have children took me a long time to make.

I got married fairly early and a lot of my friends who attended my wedding kept saying how it's almost baal-vivaah. It was not. I was 23. The man was 27. And it felt right because we both knew we'd eventually marry each other , no matter how long we had dated. We had been dating for 10 months when we got married.

We had a tumultuous first year of being married. We lived in a horrible house with water supply and electricity issues in a run down neighbourhood in Hyderabad. I was having some troubles with my new role in Hyderabad with an annoying peer and an unsupportive, overbearing boss. We had a pregnancy scare.

My mom in law was living with us for the first two months and while her intention was to be helpful and get us settled, god bless her soul, it turned out to be stressful and annoying to say the least. I was from a different language group, region & the mmum-in-law & I had entirely different worldviews.

We had no bed, no dining table, no washing machine. I hated the food because my in-laws cook rasam everyday and I cannot stand it, to put it mildly. It's food that I have when I am sick or suffering from a bad cold. The tamarind reacts badly with my skin, but that's all my mom-in-law wanted to cook. So I took on the responsibility of cooking everyday after getting home from work and the gym. I was tired everyday and cooking for three. And I had no training whatsoever in cooking, just a widely exposed palette - this and my sense of symmetry kept the rotis round and my cooking balanced. Recipe books were my refuge and they worked most times.

My own mom adjusted very badly to my going away, officially. We were close and she felt abandoned. Eventually, we moved out and rented us a penthouse that we loved, built a simple home that catered to our simple needs and before we knew it, we had been married for a year. That's when it all started. The calls from in-laws, mostly, hinting at when we'd hand deliver the proverbial good news. I felt young, confused and it suddenly dawned on me that marriage also meant family and that included child-rearing, something I had never seriously considered. Our friends and family were popping babies at an alarming rate and the whole "you are next" sword hung over our heads precariously. We panicked and decided we'd revisit this possibility later. We were, after all, young enough.

But as that year passed, I started feeling deeply anxious about this ticking clock. People will tell you all the time that your biological clock is ticking. Guess what else is ticking? Your life clock. You could die any minute. I have lost friends my age and even younger for the most flippant reasons - poisoning by pest control, asthma attack, electrocution and even getting run over by a bike. That clock keeps ticking too. But I digress. The calls continued, going from teasing and light hearted to urgent and disapproving. Anxiety continued to rise like bile inside me. I started keeping an eye out for couple without children, couples who had been married for a while. I was disappointed. Most couples without children were the ones incapable of conceiving because of a variety of medical reasons.

Meanwhile, over the course of 3-4 years, we had had several chances of visiting multiple relatives and seeing their families in action; children being born, elders dying, nurturing roles and the idea of responsibility and care playing out in a very tangible way. Until a month ago*, I had not met a single family with children that was essentially happy. I do not mean "not having problems and therefore happy". I mean "having problems but essentially happy at the core". I started noticing parents who had had children because it was the essential next step. Parents had children because of accidental pregnancies. Parents had children because they thought it'd save their marriage and relationship. Parents who had children because their in-laws pressurised them to have children.

And I saw the children. They knew they were not wanted. I am sorry to burst your bubble but children are extremely perceptive, pure beings, not yet tampered with the pessimism that marks our lives. They are, I feel, adults in small bodies with an acute sense of intuition, all bundled together with innocence. I saw children who had grown up to inherit their parents faults and flaws, resenting their parents for it yet dependent on them. It is an insidious circle and it reeks of unhappiness.

It was then that I started turning to answers from philosophy. There is enough ancient wisdom on this planet that we can tap into for guidance and clarity if you allow yourself to draw your own conclusions. I turned to books, art, music, the internet and started actively searching on one simple question: Is it okay to not want children? That was when I stumbled upon the #Childfree movement. It's global and I'd like you you to do your own research and draw your own conclusions. I did not want it to become "my thing" the way people adopt labels like "feminism" or "gay pride", inheriting a collective body of pain and hate mongering. In essence, the idea gets lost and you are left with a bunch of very angry people who refuse to move with the flow of life and time. Btw, I am very supportive of gay rights because it is, essentially, human rights. And I am a very real feminist.

Over the next two years, I came to peace with my thought process. I had never wanted or desired children and I was done allowing people to shame me, guilt me and take control over my desires and needs. I decided to tell people, freely, that I did not want children. I often got responses like " Oh, maybe you want to focus on your career, or maybe you should channel your energy into art, music, come for plays." This was, of course, better than hearing "Oh, you will feel like it soon enough, tick tock!"

But here's the thing. I am not a career focused person. I am a life focused person. I love my husband and I want to spend a good amount of time with him. I want to be able to sit back and watch the clouds drift. I like travelling once in a while, I love to cook for the husband and for friends. I love dressing up, eating good food, meeting my friends and living in a city that leaves you alone because it is impossibly crowded and fast. I love reading and occasionally, I paint.

I do not have to overcompensate by forcing myself to express my creativity just because I refuse to procreate. I have a simple project. I want to outgrow my families' deficiencies. If I am able to overcome oversensitivity to loved ones and a short temper, all products of my childhood, which was, by the way, a good one - I just had fiery parents - I will have succeeded. I will have not passed them on to my children because I won't have any. And I will not have unleashed individuals with issues onto this planet. That will be my kind deed, my stamp on this world.

Some of my friends and folks feel I hate children. They could not be more sorely mistaken. I love children. Enough to not want to destroy them. I hate parenting. I am somebody who likes doing a good job at whatever I take up. That includes making myself into the best possible version of myself. It's what my life is all about and will continue to be so. And yes, I am no longer going to lie to my folks about what my intentions are. They can stop waiting for us to announce their version of a good news and continue to get on with their lives.

PS: If you or anybody you know is struggling with the idea of going #Childfree, ask them to connect with me. I am not a counsellor but I can be a friend and a listening ear.

*I met a family a month ago. They may not be perfect but they both deeply want their child. I could sense it, I could taste it in the room. I knew this child was lucky to have come to a family that would nurture her, let her grow, let her fly and would never clip her wings with a limited world view. They would place their trust first in her and then listen to the world. They would treat her like an adult in a small person body, intelligent, beautiful and packed with potential greatness. Most importantly, they would protect her. It's parents like these that deserve to have children. I hope you are reading this, Reena, Melroy and Tara.


  1. I just want to hug you. You voiced things I haven't had the courage to say. I don't think it's people who spurt out babies who love them a lot. I think it's those who take the time to consider, weigh the responsibilities a new life entails who actually respect and love children. And by choosing not to have a child, I think your choice speaks of more selflessness than the countless numbers that procreate because of the pressures on them or because a baby is the next status symbol.

    I also loved how you described R, M & T. You put into words what I was only able to dimly sense and experience. I'm so lucky to have you in my life, Reema.

  2. And I am lucky to have you. If we had not spoken at length about this, I probably never would have put it out there. And god knows how badly this needs to be put out there.