Childless. Barren. The words sound awful, evoking images of shriveled-up women who’ve given up on life.
I decided not to have kids. Not because I couldn’t. It just wasn’t for me.
It was a decision I took in my early 30’s. It wasn’t so I that could focus on my career. It was just because…I liked my life just the way it was. Minus kids.
Of course, I might as well have declared that I was an evil child-hating monster or loved Hitler, when it came to other women’s responses to my decision. Strangely, most men I’ve spoken to understand why someone would choose not to be a parent.
Some women say…
I’ve had some quite harsh responses from women who are mothers themselves. Their first reaction is usually pity because they immediately assume I can’t have kids. When I correct that assumption, there is usually horror at the fact that I haven’t used my body for its intended purpose of reproduction. And they assure me that I will change my mind. Here are some conversations I’ve had:
“Oh you’ll meet the man of your dreams & change your mind.” – I did. And I didn’t.
“You’ll regret it when you’re old & have no one to look after you.” – So I should have kids so they will look after me 20 years later. No, that’s not selfish at all…
“Women without kids have higher rates of ovarian cancer.” – Errm, I’m not sure that’s the only cause of ovarian cancer.
It’s almost as if by actively choosing not to have kids, I have somehow denigrated their life choices. That somehow my choice makes theirs seem less important.
You have to be Mother India…
It’s tough enough having to explain my choice here in liberal London. But back in India, where motherhood is the holiest of holy things, explaining my choice is impossible.
Mothers are worshipped in historic tales & folklore. ‘Maa’ is a rallying cry in many Bollywood films with virile heroes battling the world for the love of mum. Even in modern India, women who can’t have kids are cast aside in some marriages.
So in India, I don’t even try to explain…the chasm is too deep.
I must add though, that some of my female friends who are mums are very supportive of how I live my life. And on the other side, I can see the joy that their kids bring to them (and I’m happy for them).
So if I’m happy for those with kids, why can’t the world be happy for my child-free choice?