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This baby business

20 Mar

I’ve refrained from ranting about baby business on the blog for so long. I’ve held out for two reasons mainly; I get questioned about my decision to put off babies enough in real life, to not want to bring it up on the blog. My reasons are far too many, and I don’t think anyone would should be interested in them. But today I read this Thought Catalog article (linked up later) about how one shouldn’t really need a reason not to have babies, I knew I had to get this off my chest. This is going to be a potentially long and painful rant, so be warned.

Recently, when this article did the rounds and everybody got their panties in a bunch, I had mixed feelings. Funnily enough, a couple of people sent it to me dead sure that I would identify with it and probably imagined I’d heave a sigh of relief that someone was finally speaking in favour of not making babies, in a country otherwise very, very obsessed with procreating. But my reaction fell short. Almost instantaneously I was pissed off, because increasingly, Op-Ed sections are filled with the kind of writing that is purely meant to shock and awe and garner reactions. Mostly of the negative kind. The sweeping statements and the high-handed tone in her article aimed to do just that, I think.

I have been a reader of several mommy blogs for way too long now. I read them with varying degrees of interest, but at times I think WOW, that takes courage or sometimes shake my head and wondering why anyone would want to put themselves and the little being they’ve brought into the world through whatever ordeal the post narrated. Sometimes I am filled with awe and respect, especially when I read the stories of people I think are model parents. There have been stories that rushed me to tears, as well as those that made me angry enough to hit unfollow right away. This is because I read have mixed stories. Both sides. The good, the bad, the ugly. It is most certainly not a “hippie trip” and I don’t know what blogs the author has been reading, but they’re clearly not the right kind, and they’re not enough evidence on which base her assumptions.

I’m not a mother, so I don’t have personal experience to pit against the author’s views and challenge them, but I am a human being with enough sensibilities to know that surely the stuff in her article cannot be true for everybody, as she makes it out to be.

But I was also amused by the piece, because somewhere in it was a sentence that I think is puts India’s obsession with babies in a neat little capsule. Sadly it was lost in the noise of her shrill opinions.

“At the end of the day, parenting is merely foisting the responsibility of finding your life’s meaning on to someone else.”

People choose to have/not have babies for a gamut of reasons, but this sentence really struck a chord; because in my personal experience, in the lives of family and friends around me, I have seen this to be the reason at the crux of it all. And I have seen it backfire horribly. It was like seeing in print, something I have witnessed around me and wondered about a lot.

Not all of us have the clarity to consider the idea of having a baby, a decision that needs thought. And I don’t just mean figuring out the finances and a home to accommodate a new family member, which is what people start figuring out first. I mean just the most basic thing; “Do I really want a baby?” and “Why?” I know its hard to expect a document with a rationally-thought 10-point bullet list of whys, but surely there has got to be a reason, an inkling, a gut feeling, just anything more compelling than;

Because I cannot deal with the pressure anymore.

Because they think I’m wasting too much time. (And getting old in the bargain.)

Because I have nothing else to do.

Because I will have something to call my own.

Because it will give me something to look forward to for the rest of my life.

And here’s my problem with this. Procreation is by no means a private, intimate and personal affair in the lives of most people in India. Ask any of the married girls in the hugsband’s family and they will tell you that from the moment they were blissfully wed, it becomes everybody’s business how, when and why they must make a baby. Preferably two, in quick succession. I have seen this in subtler forms happen in my own family too, in some friends and extended circles as well.

The reasons above are things I have had thrown at me. They are things people really believe, worry themselves about enough to put lives on pause, and usher in a baby. Some people have even gone so far as to tell me things like the younger I am when I have a child, the longer my child’s life will be.

*groan*

I’ve seen enough women for whom it is just that one all-consuming activity to lose themselves in and emerge victorious with every day that passes, with mastering this motherhood thing a little bit more. It’s just another tick mark in life’s list of to-dos. Chalo, marriage done, five years done, do the next thing on the list or run the risk of forever being called a wayward, unsettled, lost soul.

Once the baby is a reality, it’s hard to go back on it when you realise its not something you are cut out for. There are a fair lot of children I know, that are just growing like weeds, while their parents watch cluelessly not knowing for many years what the eff is going on around them or with their kids. All because they probably rushed into having a child for one of the reasons above. So even though they might have the finances and the roof over their head sorted, the child they have on their hands is giving them a run for their money.

So yes, not all of us have the clarity or freedom to make this choice. Some of us are clear. Some stubborn. Some stupid, even, if you were to listen to the hundreds of opinions flying by. But its a choice we make and stick by. But many women succumb for a variety of reasons, at the root of which is this need to foist the responsibility of finding your life’s meaning onto a little human being. That is really at the centre of this obsession with procreation.

I’m talking about this attitude that runs heavy in the Indian psyche. Is it really that difficult for people to accept that having a baby is not the ultimate goal for every woman out there? That not every woman has a uterus skipping a couple of heartbeats every time youtube throws up a baby video? That when we watch cute babies and smile its usually because we’re glad we can experience the few good moments, from afar, rather than the horrifying bittersweet journey that it can some times be, up close?

I came across this article today about how we shouldn’t need a reason not to have babies. With every sentence I read, I was gobsmacked at how it felt like I could have written it. More than being agitated by our general obsession with baby making, I am usually more annoyed by having to constantly give reasons. What is it about this business of babies that makes us Indians so inquisitive. Nosy to the point of asking the most intrusive questions and believe we are entitled to sharing a view, or worse, get answers?

Fortunately or unfortunately, I have seen both sides of the parenting story up close and personal — the wonderfully satisfying and joyous (even with its fair share of illnesses, issues, worries, insecurities etc) journey some people have made it out to be. God knows they have set such wonderful examples that if I ever go down this path, they will be responsible for it, in some part. As well as the disaster it can be if the parents involved are unclear, not on the same page and not open to figuring it out together. Because heck, nobody ever knows in advance what its going to be like.

I turn 30 this year and I don’t have baby plans brewing. I am acutely aware of my ticking body clock, and it does not make me want to rush it. I have thought about the possible scenario of waking up at 40 and suddenly wanting babies. I’m aware that there’s a 50% chance I will probably be a miserable mess, if it ever comes to it. But I will deal with it then, if at all. Because not everything in life can be played out with one eye on the future and one looking back, with the present getting butchered in the bargain. And it most certainly can’t be played out that way, with the responsibility of raising a child thrown in.

But there is also a 50% chance things will work out beautifully. That my hunch that I am not a full-time baby person turns out to be true. That I will get my fair share of babies through friends and relatives who will continue to procreate like its going out of style. Maybe I will finally give in and let the husband get us a pair of doggies that we can love, nurture and look after. Or maybe none of this will even matter because beyond a point the family will lose interest, give up on me and my barren uterus that never seems to have any good news to share. At least I will have the peace of mind that comes from knowing I didn’t thoughtlessly have a child because I couldn’t deal with the pressure, or that I was losing time, or because I needed something to fill my days, something to call my own and look forward to for the rest of my life. God knows, I needed to think this one out because nothing, and I mean nothing, about the way our country, the environment, education, health and everything else in this crazy world is headed, gives me any confidence at all to bring yet another life into it.

Hopefully at 40, I will have written a book or two, traveled to at least 10 new countries, lived outside of India and done the things I really wanted to. And hopefully I will remember that having a baby was never one of them.

Edited to add: I remembered this wonderful short piece by Urvashi Bhutalia that talks about life beyond being childless. It’s a part of a collection of stories I love and go back to time and again.

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67 Responses to “This baby business”

  1. urbanindianwoman March 20, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

    Bingo!! I wonder why people who have babies are not asked the reasons for having them. It is more logical than asking people why they don’t want something.

    Last month, a distant relative asked me about my kids. ‘I don’t have kids’, I said. My mother, every watchful for social nuances hurried to clarify, ‘They don’t want kids’. The relative woman was shocked, her chance to pity me for not having the ‘biggest joy for a woman’ shattered by my mother’s statement. ‘But why?’ she persisted, I think not believing that anyone wouldn’t want kids. ‘ We just don’t want kids. We don’t see any reason why we should have one’. I explained patiently. She was tactful enough to shut up and not give hundreds of clinched reasons for pro-creating.

    The baby-obsession is a world-wide phenomenon, not just in India, though it is ubiquitous here and less politely phrased!!

    • hAAthi March 20, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

      Ooh, dodged a bullet there, didnt you? I am now close to immune. I get riled up with certain people who have been asking me the same question for too long now. But with distant rellies and strangers who foolishly ask, I have a patent answer: I have too much of a life going on to spare time for babies. It sounds so smug it shuts them up.

      And about questioning those who HAVE them instead, boy I have a long list of people I want to cross question!

  2. Scritch March 20, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

    good rant. i liked that line too.

    “At the end of the day, parenting is merely foisting the responsibility of finding your life’s meaning on to someone else.”

    it was very apt. thats what it does feel like

    and also i’ve heard these reasons which amazed me

    “what else can you do with a vagina?”

    “we wont have anything more to talk about if we don’t have a baby”

    “if we didn’t have the kids our holidays would be so boring. what would we talk about?”

    “i’m going to keep having babies that miscarry at 6 months because my husband wants a ‘fresh’ one not a second hand ‘used baby, like the ones at adoption centers”

    (she didn’t say this really ^ but i’m paraphrasing based on what actually happened. they then spent thousands and thousands of pounds to fly to the USA to have her cervix sewn up so she could carry a baby to full term. Although to be fair – i suppose adoption is probably so much paperwork that spending all that money up your vagina might actually be easier)

    and all these reasons just make me gawk. Then they see your expression and then try to rationalise these insane statements. Like why their partner of 10 years bores them so much they want to produce a new person out of their vagina to alleviate it.

    Or why they think their vagina has only one use which is biological and it has to be utilised to make you complete.

    I would disagree about the high handed tone. the article writer has a good point. motherhood is always pitched as:

    “The best thing a woman can do”
    but behind that sentence is a hidden one – “The only thing a woman should do.”

    “Motherhood is the best job in the world”
    and then in brackets (“The only job a woman should have.”)

    So I kind of agree with both articles. despite the tone.

    But I believe you should take the offensive stance, which is what I do. Which is attack them on their own grounds. Give them your reasons, but make them offensive, just like their bullshit offends you. Fuck em.

    e.g.
    I tell people when they ask me that I find breeders boring.

    Just that sentence. Don’t call them parents either, use breeders. Trust me. It shuts them up.

    Every single time :D

    there are others. but thats really the best one. because its what they are secretly afraid of.

    • hAAthi March 20, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

      I found her tone high handed because she behaves like shes speaking on behalf of every single mommy out there. I know for a fact not everyone firstly has it that hard, or secondly hate it as much as she seems to. So it seemed like a bit much. I mean who died and made her spokesperson?!

      You know I can rant here till the cows come home. I can type and write the words. But they never really come out this way wen Im speaking. Im getting better in that it affects me less so my reactions are toned down. I do like the idea of getting offensive, though haha, I dont know if I can ever really do it. And if I do, I’m pretty sure I’d piss a lot of people off.. But I’m going to try. I’m going to Bangalore in a few weeks, this tip will come handy!

      • Scritch March 20, 2014 at 6:18 pm #

        i don’t understand the fear of pissing people off. they piss me off with their arrogance, selfish, single perspective assumptions. And the entitlement thing as well. that as parents they are somehow doing some service for the world and can never be offended and that asking you about the status of your uterus is somehow acceptable?

        Go on the offence. A good offence is the best defence. Just do it. It’s very liberating :)
        I should also add that i the offensive drawings i make help too.

        • hAAthi March 20, 2014 at 6:22 pm #

          The fear is mostly with pissing off family I cannot cut off or ensure I never have to meet again. So I prefer to react in a way that lets them know the questions are not appreciated, and in a way that gets me less riled up because these are people I have to encounter time and again so cannot afford to be worked up every time someone asks about the status of my uterus.

          OH I hate the entitlement as much as I hate the notion that we, even as full grown adults living independent lives, must still need help in this department. It somehow just makes no sense. Then comes the more annoying part, the condescending “oh thats what you’re saying now, you’ll change your mind” kind of statements when you actually indulge them and offer a response about not wanting babies. Worst of all, is pity, when people respond with “oh Im sorry” when told that you have chosen not to have kids.

          I do love your anti breeder art. I was just telling a friend this afternoon how fantastic it is :)

          • Scritch March 20, 2014 at 6:26 pm #

            i think there is a middle ground yeah – you’ll find it. I prefer the offensive. your family gets used to it surprisingly fast i must say.

            • hAAthi March 20, 2014 at 6:32 pm #

              They do. And the reverse happens too — Ive come a long way from letting it get to me every single time to the point of having to walk away or drive off in a huff to cool off elsewhere, to tactfully dealing with it by facing it and not letting it affect me for too long.

  3. DewdropDream March 20, 2014 at 6:42 pm #

    Dude, totally irrelevant but I thought you might enjoy reading ‘Love Bites: Marital Skirmishes in the Kitchen’ by Christopher Hirst.

    P.S: Loved the post.

    • hAAthi March 20, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

      Just looked it up, totally relevant to the kind of books I like :) Must add it to the list. Sounds delicious.
      I was a bit afraid to put this post out there because everyone got so worked up when the Hindu article came out. And I have no energy for trolls anymore. But in the comments, in some chats that Ive had since I published this, and in a few emails I received, Im glad this has struck a chord somewhere, and its heartening to know more people are in the same boat.

      • DewdropDream March 20, 2014 at 7:16 pm #

        It’s a culture of silence thing, people don’t speak up for fear of backlash which then means similar minded people remain quiet too thinking they are alone. It’s good to speak out. Maybe even not show restraint as much.

        It’s not just babies though, it begins with the ‘when are you getting married?’ Bullshit … heck, in my experience it was there even when I was trying to choose a degree that wasn’t the usual thing. You’re expected to conform, be normal and usual and not rock the boat so people can feel comfortable and not have to invest actual energy in getting to know you and care for real. But all this only until your different route pays off, so to speak. And then you’re the heto a hundred times over.

        • hAAthi March 20, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

          Bingo. Im so tired of constantly answering questions about everything. It is positively exhausting. You would think the culture of silence would also rub off on people doing the asking no? Keep the fuck quiet already!

          • DewdropDream March 20, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

            Yeah but then what would they doooooooooo with allllll that time on their hands and nothing to ponder about if they cannot have the inside info on your childless state??!!!

            It absolutely is exhausting. I don’t want to answer or explain, I just want to get on with my life. Information about someone’s life, especially this personal, is a privilege, not a right. You really should be able to make them fill in forms in triplicate and pay up a fee if they’re so desperate to learn any of this, really.

            • hAAthi March 20, 2014 at 7:40 pm #

              Hahaha, now theres an idea.
              I have considered going back to the husbands with one of those life-sized, disturbingly real looking baby dools and pretending like it is a real baby. But I think the sarcasm might be lost on them.
              A form, in triplicate might be better!

              • DewdropDream March 20, 2014 at 7:53 pm #

                Hahaha, well a friend told me of a friend of hers who got fed up of being questioned by the in-laws and one day retorted ‘aap mujhse kyun pooch rahe ho, apne bete ae poocho. Jo bhi karna hai usi ko toh karna hai’

                • hAAthi March 20, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

                  Ek toh I dont get why the questions are always directed at the women, in the first place. Secondly, I have used this tactic in a slightly different manner. I deflected the question by directing attention on the hugsband by saying HE doesnt want them as much as I dont!

                  • DewdropDream March 20, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

                    We need a male perspective here I think. I’ve not really heard about men being questioned as much, even by other men. I have witnessed men being just as conscious of time passing by and wanting to ruish into fatherhood because of that and all their friends having kids.

                    It annoys me too that ‘HE doesn’t want them as much/at all’ is accepted so easily/without question/less doubt than a woman’s word. So as a woman you’re expected to do most of the child-rearing, if not all of it, but the final decision on having them depends on the man’s okay?!

                    • hAAthi March 20, 2014 at 8:34 pm #

                      See I am on board with men and women rationalising it and saying okay, I want to be young and energetic and have kids early because I ant to be able to experience parenting rather than watch it all happen because I was too old to participate. So I respect men and women who go about it that way, eyes open. But random omg I have the ability to legit procreate, so let me do it NAOW, is worrisome.

                      HE doesnt want — was just minor distraction. It was met with much noise, and questions were directed at him. He of course responded by saying he wants puppies, not babies. And then was severely admonished for it.

                      But yes, outside of that he is only sperm donor man. I am the receptacle and the primary caregiver, dont you know?!

  4. arundati March 20, 2014 at 6:51 pm #

    I usually oscillate between being really pissed off and amused with the questions about babies. Sometimes in between. I have never written about the baby matter in my blog because I am chicken and want to avoid the inevitable discussions that will follow. I’ve grown a thick skin and respond with sarcasm or acid depending on my mood for that moment. It has reinforced in me the belief that any decision, to buy another pair of shoes or make use of the uterus is going to be mine and mine alone, with a minor consideration for the wishes of the partner, because I am eventually going to carry and give birth to this child and should be my call. I look around me and see examples of everything, people who should never have been parents, those who make it look like fun and those in between and confused. Just procreating hardly gives anyone the expertise to advocate it. In most cases, they’ve made a mess of the whole thing and left the world to deal with it…. but that is for another day. I enjoyed this post.

    • hAAthi March 20, 2014 at 6:53 pm #

      Agreed and agreed. Amen to that. Given the number of times we have discussed this off the blog, I was counting on you to rush in with your 2bit in agreement, and here it is :)

  5. urbanindianwoman March 20, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

    I can think of at least 8 eloquent hand gestures if someone asks me, ‘what do you do with your vagina’. And also some pretty neat sounds effects.

    About being offensive, I find it tough with people who are usually very nice and don’t mean it as an insult. Ya know? Most people are genuinely baffled by someone’s choice not to pro-create.

    Many but not all. And you know who are the most preachy and nose-in-the-air ones? Modern, affluent mothers ( sometimes fathers). They take your child-free ness as a virtual insult to their choice. With them I usually get provoked and give insulting answers like, ‘Oh but I only like Chinese babies’. Or ‘ Because you can’t return babies when they are not that cute anymore’. I wrote a ranty post about them here:

    http://indianfeminist101.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/amusingly-annoying-born-again-parents/

    • hAAthi March 20, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

      I find it tough to be offensive with people I know mean no harm. It is the folks who have been repeatedly after me since the year I got married, that I find insufferable and I cannot be outright offensive because well you know, what will I do the next time I visit home and have to encounter them in the corridor. Yes Im sheepish like that. Also arguing it out with them is like expecting them to adopt a paradigm shift and believe against all odds that ZOMG there is life beyond babies. Its asking for too much.

      NOse in the air affluent mommy bloggers are the ones I cut off from my reader. At one time I followed more mommy bloggers than food bloggers, believe it or not. Now Im down to 4. Soon will be 3, i can feel it coming.

      *off to read your post, though I feel iv seen it and sighed in agreement once before*

  6. The Bride March 20, 2014 at 7:40 pm #

    I agree with many things you’ve written, and everything in the Thought Catalogue article. Even as someone who’s a convert to the baby thing, I refrain from asking even my closest friends about their own baby-making intentions unless they bring it up. I firmly believe this is private and will be shared if needed. I must say though that in India her solution response of ‘why do you ask?’ will be responded on the lines of ‘i want to hold it/ i loves babies’ or ‘I want to see you happy.” To the former, I have responded to one of V’s aunt: “Then why don’t you have one yourself?” She was shocked and offended and everyone thought I was rude. To the latter you can try: “But it won’t make me happy.”

    Some quibbles with what your piece though:

    “Not all of us have the clarity to consider the idea of having a baby, a decision that needs thought.” But at a personal level, you do have the clarity. You don’t fall into this category.

    ”“At the end of the day, parenting is merely foisting the responsibility of finding your life’s meaning on to someone else.” And what is so intrinsically wrong with this, pray? I know in these modern times we’re all supposed to find meaning in ourselves, but do we really? Mostly we find meaning in doing thing so those things are what we foist meaning onto. So what if the ‘thing’ one foists meaning onto is ‘rearing a child’. Yes, this might cause people to cling obsessively to their children but it’s not necessarily so. I could gain satisfaction from raising a child to adulthood and seeing him/her make her way in the world independent of me while hopefully retaining a friendship.

    By the way, I’m not one of those people whose whole life meaning is in her children. First of all, I don’t expect to find meaning in life in anything. I only hope to find joy. So my reason for having a baby was that I figured it would be joyful and it was. And it is only one of the things that I find joy in, but I must admit it has turned out unexpectedly to be a major thing.

    But were I to arbitrarily decide that life indeed did have meaning and that I would find such meaning in raising another human being, that seems no more or no less worthy than writing a novel or travelling the world. Frankly now that I have one, having a child is like writing a novel and travelling the world. But that’s my experience and other people are free to find their life’s meaning in writing/travelling. I will not accuse them of foisting.

    “’ve seen enough women for whom it is just that one all-consuming activity to lose themselves in and emerge victorious with every day that passes, with mastering this motherhood thing a little bit more.”

    And this is a bad thing because?

    “There are a fair lot of children I know, that are just growing like weeds, while their parents watch cluelessly not knowing for many years what the eff is going on around them or with their kids.” I guess my own views are coloured by the fact that I have come across very few terrible parents. Maybe my standards are low.

    About why the attitude that having a baby is essential for happiness runs deep in the Indian psyche. It’s a combination of:
    1. Children were and still are to a big extent economic security and support in old age.
    2. (and I’d say this is a bigger reason) Children are a source of great joy and they’ve experienced that and they want it for you and they know you won’t get it till you experience it so they’re trying force you into it. Kind of like drug use. Ok bad analogy.

    Neither are reasons to justify them asking you or you having to listen to them, I’m just explaining the rationale.

    Again, not having children is a perfectly valid choice and people should stop asking people why they don’t have babies. But just as people need not have a reason for not having babies, people need not have to justify their reasons or prove to be wonderful parents to our modern yuppie standards in order to not be sneered at.

    • hAAthi March 20, 2014 at 8:00 pm #

      Okay going point by point with the quibbles.
      1) “Not all of us have the clarity to consider the idea of having a baby, a decision that needs thought.” But at a personal level, you do have the clarity. You don’t fall into this category. — I dont, I’m talking about those that I know who haven’t had the clarity and found themselves saddled with kids (because of dealing with constant badgering), totally inept and unable to deal with it. That is horrible, for the child in question more than anybody else.

      2) ”“At the end of the day, parenting is merely foisting the responsibility of finding your life’s meaning on to someone else.” And what is so intrinsically wrong with this, pray? — nothing wrong with the thought in general. Everything wrong with parenthood made to be the ONLY means to find meaning in life. And this is the message that gets put out all the time. On tv shows, in advertising, on social media, in newspapers.. We’re fecking obsessed. Like the rest of us have no joy/meaning/fulfillment in our lives.

      3) MY quibble with this: “I know in these modern times we’re all supposed to find meaning in ourselves, but do we really? Mostly we find meaning in doing thing so those things are what we foist meaning onto.” AGree completely. But also want to add that finding that THING – whether it is a little human, crocheting, hiking, painting, whatever it may be – should be a choice adults are given the space and freedom to make on their own. This whole “our children need our advice” thing is so deeprooted in our culture, that sometimes said “children” never grow up. Even when they are 30+ humans living independent lives. There are enough people who even at the ripe age of 30 are told by their parents it is time to have a baby, and they comply without a thought. My issue is not with choosing to rear a child. MY issue is with choosing what’s right for you.

      4) I don’t expect to find meaning in life in anything. I only hope to find joy. — Yes meaning, joy — semantics. I’m all for people choosing to find joy in raising kids, but then I would like to be allowed to stick with my choice of not rearing children and finding peace in books and food and travel, without answering intrusive questions. And also without having to hear other peoples sanctimonious lectures about how one is better than the other. I am okay with people having babies and loving it, why cant people be happy with those of us who choose not to? (and by people I dont mean you :P)

      5) “’ve seen enough women for whom it is just that one all-consuming activity to lose themselves in and emerge victorious with every day that passes, with mastering this motherhood thing a little bit more.”

      And this is a bad thing because? — Its a bad thing because I have seen people rush into a baby as a solution o a crisis in life 1) marriage is in trouble, have a baby 2) career is at a dead end, have a baby 3) sitting at home with nothing to do, have a baby. These are opinions thrust on young impressionable marrieds, the kind who dont have the space and clarity to think about babies first. I didn’t know were real possibilities until I saw them up close. 2 out of 3 cases has turned out to be a disaster. And again I’ll say, in these cases it is the worst for the child in question. Makes me loop back to the fact that we need to reiterate that having kids needs to be thought out at some level. It cannot be treated like a chore to tick off any more.

      6) “There are a fair lot of children I know, that are just growing like weeds, while their parents watch cluelessly not knowing for many years what the eff is going on around them or with their kids.” I guess my own views are coloured by the fact that I have come across very few terrible parents. Maybe my standards are low. — I have high standards and theyre constantly flouted even in my close family. I have first cousins I consider are horribly brought up and I blame parents entirely.

      7) About why the attitude that having a baby is essential for happiness runs deep in the Indian psyche. It’s a combination of:
      1. Children were and still are to a big extent economic security and support in old age.
      2. (and I’d say this is a bigger reason) Children are a source of great joy and they’ve experienced that and they want it for you and they know you won’t get it till you experience it so they’re trying force you into it. Kind of like drug use. Ok bad analogy.

      Neither are reasons to justify them asking you or you having to listen to them, I’m just explaining the rationale. — I get the rationale. But it needs to change. Unfortunately, it isnt going to happen soon.

      • The Bride March 21, 2014 at 7:10 am #

        So, I agree with what you’re saying in this comment about having a child not being thrust down everyone’s throat as the ONLY way to find meaning/joy (I think there’s a difference between the two, but nevermind that), but I don’t agree with the endorsement of the statement from the article: “At the end of the day, parenting is merely foisting the responsibility of finding your life’s meaning on to someone else.”
        That statement, by use the word “merely”, seems to suggest condescendingly that there is something wrong with this mode of finding one’s life meaning, like one is passing the buck. My point is that: 1) everyone is passing the buck in that sense because it is most common to find meaning ‘outside’ of oneself 2) this form of passing the buck (raising children) is as valid as any other, and vice versa, the other forms are as valid as this one.

        I agree that people need to be given the space to make their own choices and not be constantly harangued into following one predetermined path.

        In terms of the reasons that people have children, I’d wager that they are as personal and complicated as the reasons people do not have kids. It might be wise not to rush to judgment of parents one thinks had children for “unsuitable” reasons. For example, if one is at home and has nothing to do, why is it a bad idea to have a child (if one wants to, that is)? If you are willing to take a 50-50 gamble that not having kids will make you happy in the long run, maybe they were willing to do the same with having children.

        I have a lot of say about the fetishisation of parenting and the high standards parents are held up to in the modern world, often by non-parents, but that’s another topic.

        • hAAthi March 21, 2014 at 7:18 am #

          I get many of the things youre saying (and in some ways I think we are saying similar things from different perspectives) but being here in India and see these situations iv pointed out very closely does make me look at the issue very differently. Hence the post – this is what I feel.

          And since i can only write about them in my limited capability, maybe it leaves a lot of room for conjecture. Also no more patience to type/repeat. So we will just have to agree to disagree, maybe.

    • hAAthi March 20, 2014 at 8:23 pm #

      Just want to add that the obsession with babies being the be all and end all of everything is next only to the obsession that marriage is ultimate goal in life.

      The way I see it, we need to stop obsessing. There are loads of options from people to choose, whether it is the lifestyle they want, the careers they choose, the spouse they desire, the children they want (and how) or dont want to have even. We need to start talking about the options rather than foisting baby making as the ultimate tick in a bucket list.

      To go back to the badly written article, the only thing I might have appreciated about her piece was that it challenged (or tried to) this unilateral and singular approach to life (albeit badly). My issue is not to question if parenting is a good choice or not. It is good for some, not so good for others. Joyous for some, exhausting for others. Satisfying for some, thankless for others.

      My issue is with Indians being obsessed with just one point of view on the matter, when clearly several others exist. And quite happily so. My issue is with parenthood being foisted as the ONLY means.

    • DewdropDream March 20, 2014 at 8:27 pm #

      Let’s turn this around a little. Let’s say I really, really enjoy travelling/writing/reading. And I’m surrounded by people who don’t share these interests. At best, they may have a passing interest but nowhere near the passion I feel. Wouldn’t it be a bit silly if I were to keep foisting my experience on them and badgering them with ‘But whyyyy don’t you write/travel/read? It’s so absolutely wonderful!’. Maybe aptitude in the case of having children isn’t as easily discernible as with the three other things I’ve mentioned up there.

      Also, we’re talking of a certain set of people/social factors which focus this discussion a certain way. ‘Bad parenting’ is debatable within these boundaries. What about cases like the one in Stavanger where the parents were subjecting their child to abuse and neglect? What about the sort of people who have multiple kids because they can claim child benefits and not have to work? What about teenage girls who are taking this route? What I’m asking is, what about all the messed up children who then become messed up adults and maybe contribute to the cycle, all because some people made an ill-considered decision?

      • hAAthi March 20, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

        Yes, yes, and yes!

        Its easy to test waters with most other things. You try it, you fail, you dont like it, you switch lanes. Not so easy with having children. Even more reason why we need to encourage people to THINK about it, rather than procreate like your life would be meaningless without it.

        “What I’m asking is, what about all the messed up children who then become messed up adults and maybe contribute to the cycle, all because some people made an ill-considered decision?” — WORD. This too, I have seen. Chldren with questionable upbringing (possibly due to the child being an ill-considered decision) grow up to then be the same kind of parents to their children. And so on and so forth.

        Gives me the shivers, quite frankly.

      • The Bride March 21, 2014 at 7:15 am #

        @Dewdropdream Let’s make a distinction between the two kinds of foisting: 1) foisting one’s OPINION 2) foisting the responsibility of finding life’s meaning.

        I think we’re all in agreement on 1). That foisting one’s opinion of what constitutes life’s meaning is wrong.

        My point was that the sentence in question seeks to negate ‘finding life’s meaning in raising children’ (to paraphrase) terming this “foisting” as if it’s somehow unusual and all those who have found life’s meaning elsewhere are not engaged in ‘foisting’.

        Agree we are talking about a certain set of people/social factors, and for practical reasons it makes sense to stick with that? The context in the UK is probably the opposite of that in India, where the problem is that people are ostensibly harassed into having kids.

        Regarding the cases you mentioned, which fall outside the section of society we’re talking about, I’m not suggesting there are no extreme cases. Of course there are. But in our social subset, are these the rule or the exception?

        • hAAthi March 21, 2014 at 7:33 am #

          Actually the whole piece was written to make it seem like it is utterly impossible for anybody to find satisfaction or joy or meaning in life by raising children. I think iv made it clear that I am not on board with that. My issue with the sentence (and i say this in keeping with my experiences, personally and what I have seen at close counter) is that in India it DOES amount to foisting the opinion that having children is somehow be ONLY way to find meaning in ones life. Like a life without it is dreary, dull and pretty much pointless.

        • DewdropDream March 21, 2014 at 2:47 pm #

          Yes, we’re in agreement on 1)

          I think we can also agree that the original article’s tone and sweeping generalisation was also wrong and not an opinion everyone agrees with.

          I do think though that we need to look beyond the subset in question here. By all accounts I’ve heard and read, the pressure on non-indian women to marry and reproduce is just as bad, it only differs in the actual approach not being the Indian kind. I see questions like this as yet another part of the system which tries to keep women confined to kitchens and child rearing.

          And while the cases I quoted are in the extreme and aren’t really the norm, there are also lesser cases which cannot be ignored and which happen to be fairly common. Male children who aren’t able to/aren’t allowed to cut off the apron strings and in turn enable another generation of women who have more of a relationship with the child than the husband and again cannot let go? I see it as symptoms of the same malaise. Which is not to say 100% of such cases are the same kind.

          I was told of someone who had severe mental health issues, abandonment issues in particular and had had a few miscarriages. She was desperately trying to get pregnant with the idea that the child would be with her forever. I don’t suppose she considered at all that the child would have an independent life which might involve having to be away ir doing things the mother wouldn’t be able to participate in. The lady was deemed unfit to bear a child eventually.

          I realise it’s another extreme case. I just think it’s high time we stopped making excuses for the rationale behind intrusive questions, started actively considering the bigger picture because this isn’t restricted to just one subset and doesn’t have repercussions of just one kind.

          • hAAthi March 21, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

            Not to take away from what you have said, but sometimes you dont even have to go that far and look at the bigger picture. Iv had a relative who was in a marriage that was falling apart to the point of husband and wife not being able to coexist under one roof, tell me with a straight face “maybe i should just get pregnant. We wont have any choice but to stay together.” In the interest of full disclosure i will also tell you that the parents of said relative strongly opposed “modern things” like marriage counselling, divorce and were intrusive to the point of forcing them to stay together. I know this couple very closely. And i know that even though they are together their marriage is far from ideal (i have had conversations where they have separately told me that theyd have liked to have out when they had the chance) and the child they have has mist definitely borne the brunt of their strained relationship. Even worse he uses what he sees as differences between his parents to his advantage and gets away with murder. Anything his mother tries to do to correct his behaviour is met with severe criticism by the father and any disciplining the father tries is undone by the mother who tells her child that daddy is the bad cop, im on your side.

            I have at least four cases to tell of parents and children in my immediate family.

            One really doesnt need to look far and wide to see these examples. And the frightening thing is that the extremes and rare cases are becoming disturbingly common.

  7. EnKay March 20, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

    Hear ya! For me the only reason to have a baby is because I want one. Because I love to mother. No other reason works. :)

    • hAAthi March 20, 2014 at 8:09 pm #

      Kudos to you. I respect those who give it the thought it deserves, and who get into it with their eyes open, not with these bollywood and K-serial generated visions of marriages being taken to the next level when babies come along and such.

      I think I ought to have put a disclaimer in the post that read: I am not questioning whether parenting is a good thing or not. I think there is no debate on that. What I am questioning is the right to choose what is right for me, when it is right for me.

  8. Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health March 20, 2014 at 7:52 pm #

    im not a parent and I am no where close to it..but i dont see why are people are so into your busines. I am 27 and unmarried so i get more “when is your turn” question all the time…i am so glad to read your post (as always) and the discussions that followed :)

    • hAAthi March 20, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

      The questions about marriage are equally intrusive and unnecessary. God, so much to rant about!

  9. Titaxy March 20, 2014 at 8:22 pm #

    Ok this post is awesome. It has echoed my thoughts – thoughts I would never be able to write down so well.
    I get riled up whenever someone pops the ‘good news’ question/concern to me, subtly or not-so subtly. I fight everyday with my own mother because she can’t help but bring it up. With my father, it’s a different story. He stays behind the scene and lets my mother take the stage for all that he has in mind. In any case, with them I can lash out and ask them to leave me alone. But with others I am finding it difficult to even keep a straight face. I want to talk back, tell them it’s none of their business, but it never happens. K says he can’t understand why I should even be bothered, that I could just smile a smile and forget about it. But for some reason I can’t do that. So all I try to do now is escape from the situation somehow – if it’s the ILs questioning my choices, I slide over and let K handle it; if it’s friends (yes, people of my age seem to think it very appropriate to nudge me to have kids because my biological clock is ticking), then I subtly try to tell them it’s my choice and I don’t welcome anyone else influence it, and if they want to still go on, I stop communications. But with strangers and those nosy distant relatives, I am at loss. I can’t just smile and let things be, yet I can’t stand up and ask them to shut it either. Oh well.
    Sorry about the long rant, this post spoke to me, really.

    • hAAthi March 20, 2014 at 9:45 pm #

      Oh dont be sorry. My post is basicslly a big rant because im sick of being asked. Sick of giving reasons. And sick of being made to feel that my choices are inferior. being u affected is its easier said than done so You are not alone.

  10. simple girl March 20, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

    great post as usual.. for me whats irksome is I am not married and the advice is – get married soon so you will have a healthy baby, less complications.. such advice comes from gynaecologists, grandma, ma ..

    • hAAthi March 20, 2014 at 9:57 pm #

      Neighbour, veggie vendor, rickshaw wallah. Yes thats how we roll.

  11. ash March 21, 2014 at 7:46 am #

    I wanted to love someone adorable ,who would smile at me full of love .
    Who would be so good looking that I could kiss her all day ,I wanted a daughter .
    Someone whom I could carry in my arms and make feel secure and feel warm myself , my friend ,my everything .
    Mostly it was the cute factor ,I cannot resist a cute kids smile .
    Also I have never liked dolls never played with them ,more outdoorsy kind of person but I wanted a girl to deck her up like a xmas tree .
    When I had her, I spent a fortune on plastic accessories even when she had no hair, very short neck :-)
    When I would look at her I would feel content , that I did something good.Not that I stopped helping others ,I do it at every chance I get ,that makes me happy too.She is . mine . I feel proud when I make her laugh ,when I teach her a new skill.
    But when a kid hugs you , wipes your tears when your grandma has passed away (she was 2) …that love you feel will engulf and fill you with so much warmth

    All this and more when she grows up to be hopefully self sufficient is going to make me super duper proud , knowing that I did it , all .
    Not her dad he is too busy ;)

  12. urbanindianwoman March 21, 2014 at 9:25 am #

    @ Bride
    It is possible that people find meaning of life in raising kids. The issue most people have is not the possibility but the way it is presented as ‘the only, the biggest, the most profound experience’ one ( i.e. woman) have EVER.

    When majority of people trump one choice as the most meaningful they have ever made, it makes them a cultural, social force. And stereotypes and biases creep in against ones who do not belong there. Believe me, like we are rarely conscious of many privileges we are entitled to, parents are rarely , if at all, conscious of how aggrandising they come across. And it is not the sensitive child free talking, but someone with a decade long experience in market research about mothers, kids, families.

    I find it particularly offensive that child-rearing is almost always seen as a ‘woman’s’ choice/ duty/ destiny bleh bleh, even in this day and age. Needless to say, women who don’t want this, are marginalised. And they tend to challenge, sometime in absolute terms like the article quoted, to get back to this absolute truth about womanhood- motherhood trumps all other identities.

    And finally, just because childfree are loud on internet, doesn’t mean that they are in majority in ANY part of the world. So judgement on parents for getting great joy from kids, when seen in the vast child-centric culture almost all nations have, is a minuscule blip.

    • hAAthi March 21, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

      Well put, urbanindianwoman. This is really the crux of what I am trying to say — that when entire generations of people thrust, endorse and trump that one choice, it does become like dealing with a force thats hard to contend with. There are enough of us who can stand up and say no, this is not for me and live with that choice. But there are also a lot who go with the flow because it is some kind of rites de passage of being an acceptable adult. Some of them end up having a wonderful experience. SOme dont — and those are the cases I am talking about it. I realise that it comes across like im citing hypothetical examples, but these are very real things that have happened to people close to me. And in most of those cases the kids get the rawest deal. That is my biggest issue. And that is where I have a problem with “foisting the responsibility of finding your life’s meaning on to someone else rather than something else. There is far too much more at stake when it is a life you are gambling with.

      As for your point about “It is possible that people find meaning of life in raising kids.” — I don’t for a moment question that. I know for a fact that raising kids can be an amazing experience — both for the adults as human beings, for the children in questions and for people around them. I have seen enough instances of this. I have even stated it in the post, but I think we’re all jumping to the other bits and losing the plot a bit :) The point of this post was never to question if parenting is a good thing or to judge what are right, wrong, best reasons for being a parent. It was merely to speak from the other side — as someone who has possibly found joy in other things and doesn’t want to necessarily create another life. So yes, parenting can be a wonderful thing, for some, but maybe it just isn’t IT for all of us??

      It continues to baffle me why these observations by non-parents are almost always met with offended reactions from parents. Its not just in this post, or in the comments in the Hindu article. I encounter this in real life all the time. Its almost impossible to have a real adult conversation about my choice not to have them just yet without being told that 1) I don’t know what I’m talking about 2) I can’t decide something is not for me without trying it out 3) I will make a very good mother.

      Could it be that maybe actually having babies changes something? I will not know unless I get there and burn that bridge, so I’m just choosing to agree to disagree right now.

  13. adultfullofteenangst March 21, 2014 at 9:39 am #

    I know a number of friends and cousins who popped out a baby within a year of marriage. And most of them say they had a baby because it was the next step after getting married (some of them even at the cost of a career and not being particularly excited about having the baby and dying to get back to work). I get asked all the time when I am planning to have a baby, I too turn 30 this year. One person even asked my mother if I was having trouble conceiving. Nothing upsets and outrages me more than the ‘When are you having a baby?’ question. Isn’t it mine and my husband’s decision. We have given all sorts of excuses from it is too expensive at the moment, to we want to travel and do our own thing together for awhile. I have nothing against babies, and I admire the great parents I know and see. My problem is with people assuming I am missing out on life’s greatest joy by not producing a child. Maybe the greatest joy of my life lies in another direction.

    • hAAthi March 21, 2014 at 11:32 am #

      Yes, totally get what you’re saying. But what I think a lot of people are missing in my post, and maybe it is because I haven’t written it well enough, is that I know an equal number of people (relatives and friends) who have had babies (thought-out as well as by accident) and thoroughly enjoyed it. SOme do it so well, it convinces me that some people are just meant to be parents. I think there IS a lot of joy to be found in parenting, all I am saying is that the freedom to explore if that means to finding joy/meaning in life needs to exist. As much for those of us who are unsure about being parents, as for those who are unsure of being parents but go into it anyway — because there is so much more at stake.

      • adultfullofteenangst March 21, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

        I agree with you. I got that you weren’t making a judgement or generalizing in your post:) And like you I know people who find such joy in being parents and I am happy for them and respect them. Similarly, I think people should respect the choice if one chooses not to have babies.

  14. SA March 21, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    30 years old..
    Planning on running marathons when I should be planning babies. Thinking of getting a cuddly Labrador.. Sounds pretty much like me..

    Well I don’t know if I want babies or not.. For now, I am happy! I am content! I am not looking out for any meaning..

    This post resonates my situation..Pretty much..!

    I hate these societal frameworks.. and having babies because your parents/relatives/friends are expecting that out of you that is the worse thing to do( To the kid as well..)

    Well I guess the society is not very kind.. The problem is that they make my business their own and I have a problem with that..

    The best way is to not to react and it works for me. Well mostly.

  15. Summer Rain March 21, 2014 at 2:23 pm #

    How I connect to this post! You know, three years ago, a cab driver was chatting with me.. and he asked me if we had any kids. I said no. He had the gall to ask me when I got married. And then he goes, “Aythalla… maduve aagi 3 years! innu yaake makkalilla?” I am shamed to say I did not snap back at him. :(

    • hAAthi March 21, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

      It is that last duty to tick off. Without that job done you are wastig your life away!

      • Summer Rain March 21, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

        Exactly! Recentlly , I was given a baby Ganesha by a friend of my MIL. I have to put him on a shelf and say, “I am not bringing you down till you give me a baby.” Talk of threatening God! I badly want to be a mother (not necessarily give birth) and I do believe in a higher power ; yet, the baby ganesha is still sitting my wardrobe, not removed from the box or anything. Our folks sure know to kill any genuine feelings!

  16. Summer Rain March 21, 2014 at 4:14 pm #

    Even though this is a tad too senti and too dramatic, I keep going back to this song whenever others’ comments on my lifestyle/ideas bog me down…

  17. MK March 21, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

    For all the logical explanation for not wanting a baby given here, it seems illogical to have 100% faith in contraceptives! They don’t work all the time :/ Else most of us must skive off spontaneous sex!

  18. aninsightfulnut March 21, 2014 at 9:19 pm #

    I could not agree with you more, everyone is forever asking me to get married, and then if and when I do it will be baby madness !!

    • hAAthi March 22, 2014 at 11:01 am #

      And it never ends.. Once you get married, it will be about babies. WHen you have one, it will be about the next. If god forbid you have girls, it will be about trying until you have a boy. Theres just no pleasing anyone!

  19. Santulan March 24, 2014 at 11:48 am #

    A friend of mine once made a comment that after she had heard a first hand experience with what pregnancy entails from her friend, she was not sure if she wanted to have a kid. She might adopt, yes but wasn’t too keen on having one of her own. People threw a fit.

    I think that people have become so indoctrinated and used to the idea of marry by 25, and pop out kid(s) by 30 that they are not willing to even think that not having kids could be a sane choice. Not that anyone having kids is their business in the first place.

    One of the lectures I get to hear about is how before 30 is the right time, and after that there are ‘complications’

    • hAAthi March 24, 2014 at 1:33 pm #

      Oh the stigma attached to adoption are a whole different ball game!

  20. Maryann April 15, 2014 at 10:12 am #

    This post could easily have been written by me! I have been married almost five years and turn thirty this year and have no plans to have children (yet). I fail to understand why having a baby is considered to be the ultimate goal in a woman’s life. I want to enjoy my life and do things which make me happy. I want to read, write a book and travel without being made to feel guilty about it.

    I fail to understand how people (my cook and cleaner included, apart from the in laws of course) start asking me about my plans to start a family. Sadly, the fact that I may not want children doesn’t occur to people. What makes it wrong to not want children? I can go and on, but I think I’ll stop here. Thanks for writing this.

    • hAAthi April 16, 2014 at 10:07 am #

      Yeah, welcome to the club. I always thought I was one of the few people who felt this way, and it is an incredibly lonely place to be in a society that thinks the world of baby bearers. Its nice to know there are so many of us.

  21. Summ June 5, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    dearest haathi…

    I just wanted to share a piece of good news with you! Our adoption has come through.. We are bringing home our angel on June 10! Just wanted to thank you for all the solace and the affirmation that I am doing the right thing that I have received from this blog.

    With warmest regards,

    • Summer Rain June 5, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

      Sorry, that was Summer Rain

      • hAAthi June 5, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

        No problem. I figured :)

    • hAAthi June 5, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

      WOW! Now THIS is some seriously good news! SO happy to hear this. Hope it only goes onwards and upwards from here. This is so inspiring!

      • Summer Rain June 5, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

        Thank you so much! Do drop me an e-mail and I’ll send over some pictures. Take good care,

        :)

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