Monday, 11 November 2013

Childfree by Choice-Melanie Lobo


Childfree By Choice

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An increasing number of women in India are opting to be childfree by choice; no, they are not anti-social or child-haters.
By Melanie Lobo
“So, when are we going to hear the pitter patter of feet around your house,” is a question often asked of women who have been married for a few years or even newly married women. In India, it is the norm for women to ‘settle down’ and have babies in order to achieve the ‘happily ever after’. However, nowadays, there are also couples choosing to have a life without children and happy about it as well. There are many reasons why people would choose to have a life without children. Some do not particularly feel the need for a child. Others feel that it is too big a responsibility or that they can have a better lifestyle without a child.
Women with no children are sometimes thought of as rebelling against Nature and face a lot of pressure to act ‘before the biological clock ticks’. The decision by any individual or couple to not have a child is a very personal one and should be respected.

Reasons for being childfree by choice

In our conversations with women who opted not to have children, some of the reasons cited were:
Career derailment: Some feel that having a child interferes with a career for women. Once the baby is born, it is usually the mother who gives up her job (or cuts back) to bring up her child. Uththra Sridharan, 27, is Director of a company in the oil and gas industry. She is quite sure that she does not ever want to have a child. She says that she is very career oriented and does not want the responsibility of a child. “I’m not born to create life”, she adds, “I’m not cut out to be a mother”. Uththra runs her own company and feels that having a child will mean the loss of her own life. She states that she did not start her company to hand it over to her heirs. She would prefer to hand it over to a competent person. Uththra has felt this way about motherhood since she was a teenager and is sure that she will not change her mind. Although single right now, she is emphatic that she will inform her husband to be of this personal choice before they get married.
Health Issues: Some women or men who have illnesses like autoimmune diseases or other conditions that can be passed on genetically choose not to have a child so that the child will not inherit the illness. Priya Premkumar, 38, a homemaker, suffers from epilepsy and has been on medication since she was 15 years old. This medication has a chance of causing fetal abnormality and it was her husband who insisted that they never have a child. He felt that it would not be wise to risk either her health or the child’s. Priya and her husband do not feel that they are missing out on any aspect in their lives.
We are the fancy babysitters – we do not have to stay 24 hours with them, yet we can experience a few fun hours with them…
On the contrary, they are able to do a lot of things that other couples cannot. “We are able to travel when we want, we can indulge other kids of friends and family members. We are the fancy babysitters – we do not have to stay 24 hours with them, yet we can experience a few fun hours with them,” she says. Priya’s family is progressive and has accepted her decision. Her in-laws are orthodox, completely against adoption and are not aware of the situation at all – it was her husband’s decision not to tell them. Priya feels that as a couple they have become very close. They knew right from the beginning what they wanted and it has not marred their personal happiness in any way. They could have adopted but did not want to isolate the child since once set of grandparents did not want any part of it. “The decision was not made abruptly; it was more progressive, it just became part of us, rather than being forced upon us,” is how she sums it up.
Financial instability is another cause for some couples to stay childfree.

Childfree women in India: It’s your choice

What is new perhaps is the “active choice” to have or not have a child as opposed to earlier generations, where children were a given. Geetali Tare, 43, who is employed in the Civil Services, is single now but was once married. Both she and her ex-husband jointly agreed that they did not want to have kids. Geetali did not want the responsibility of a child and does not believe that “women have to have a maternal instinct”. She did not feel that she had the skills to cope with a child. Looking back now she feels it was the best decision that she could have taken. She had a list of things to do in her life and she has accomplished most of them.
She is emphatic when she says that did not want to resent her child for having had to make certain sacrifices. She says, “Parenthood is a lifestyle responsibility and one should not go into it unknowingly. There are many adjustments and it is not fair to blame the child for the decisions you take after motherhood.” Geetali also feels that motherhood is not restricted to the biological production of a child. She (and her ex-husband) looked after their nieces, one from the time she was a baby, another when she was a college going girl. She is not a person who dislikes children. She just does not want them ‘full time’. She would much rather be the ‘fun aunt’.
Parenthood is a lifestyle responsibility and one should not go into it unknowingly. There are many adjustments and it is not fair to blame the child for the decisions you take after motherhood. 
Aditi Mishra, 28, an entrepreneur in Baroda decided not to have a child before she got married. “They’re cute but too much of a responsibility,” she says. Aditi made sure that her husband was aware of her decision before they tied the knot. He was keen to have a family but after five years of being married, respects her decision and does not bring the topic up. He has instead been very supportive of her and took it upon himself to inform his family about the decision. Aditi does not feel that she can be a good parent herself. Her husband also runs his own business and they hardly have time to spend together. This is another reason for the childfree choice she has made. She feels that you can “either bring up your kids or have a career”.
Her in-laws and her own mother, with whom this decision has not gone down well, told her that they would bring up the child. She feels this is not correct and will not change her mind. She has met with opposition from other family members and friends. So much so, that she now claims she has medical problems which prevents her from having a child.
Geetali, Uththra, Aditi and Priya are all women with no children, yet they are not women who dislike children. They just do not want to have a child of their own. If you are in a similar situation, it is important to accept your decision and to move on with your life. Trust your instincts if you find that you keep second guessing yourself.
Do not give into pressure by family or friends – you don’t owe anyone else a child! The worse mistake you could make is to have a child to please other people. Becoming a parent is a life altering decision and one that should be made by a couple who genuinely desire to have a child in their lives.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

An email:The whole world is telling me that my time has come to finally do what all women are supposed to : have babies!!!


Sharing an email.
Dear IHM,
I have recently resigned and am planning to take a break from  my hectic and quite high profile job to do things I always wanted. Read, write, travel in trains across India, volunteer, play with my dog, stare at ceiling and ponder about meaning of life!! All those things which I dreamt of and couldn’t really do to satisfaction. I made decent money. My partner had taken a break 8 years ago and now is earning well enough for both of us to have a decent life till I decide to spring back, after which he might take a break again.
The point I am writing to you is, I noticed that the moment I announced my break, everybody I know started speculating about BABY!!!! Was I pregnant, was I planning to be pregnant, why wasn’t I planning to be pregnant now that my career was not a barrier? Did I think my dog was a lifelong substitute for my own baby? Was I not worried that the clock was ticking away and we would be left with a lonely life without kids? My god. I was  aware of these assumptions but they never felt so intrusive till they were made about me. It was as if taking a break to do these things was not good enough use of my time:):)
Anyway, so I started thinking about how in our culture women are always assumed to want to become mothers. We have never wanted children and feel very satisfied in our choices. That’s not to say that we never feel dissatisfied or worried or unhappy. Like everyone else, with kids or not: we also feel the modern urban blues. But never ever have we thought/ felt that children would be the answer for us. We always felt that a child is a tremendous responsibility and unless we really were ready to take it on, we would rather not do something just because our culture dictates that we are incomplete without one.
But increasingly as I approach the mid thirties, I have noticed that people associate baby with everything :) :) I was quite down and out last year : Bang. my mother started telling me how not having baby makes women sad!! We got a dog. Bang : My friend told me how a dog could never be a substitute for a baby. (I didn’t have a heart of telling her, a new mother, that I infinitely preferred dogs over babies. I am crazy about dogs since I was a kid and could finally manage to get one: it never entered my head that I was somehow compensating for a baaabbbbyy). I am taking a break. Bang. The whole world is telling me that my time has come to finally do what all women are supposed to : have babies!!!
And this is quite liberal set of people I am talking about. I just shrug and forget since this is quite an irrelevant topic in our lives.  but this has led me to be interested in this whole phenomenon of child free.  I surf child free forums a lot and its great fun to see how people across cultures feel that having children is seen as a default in society. But they are primarily based out of US/ Europe.
I would be interested to know apna Indian thoughts on why do you think people always assume that women have to have babies to be complete? Or if they don’t there is something medically wrong with them? Or that they are too childish/ selfish/ irresponsible? (I mean people have children because they want to. So how not having children because one wants to be termed selfish)?  Do you think that women are somehow judged if they don’t want to be mothers? Unique Indian take by Unique Indian feminist blogger IHM please :) :)
Happily child free
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Why New Gen India is Going Childfree…(The Free Press Journal)

DIGANTA BISWAS says that increasingly couples are not having children. Here he explains why.
Samrat and Debasree Roy are “happily” married for almost five years and both well established in their respective employed life, but are going childless, better to say childfree, thanks to multiple challenges thrown out by the fast urban life in the national capital region.
“It is very important to be ready mentally, physically as well as financially to have a child. But in today’s fast life, we don’t have enough time to pamper ourselves, and so, it is better not to think  about others,” says Samrat, holding a responsible position with an IT company. “The lifestyle is definitely a major problem that is discouraging us to extend the family,” supports his better-half.
Now, take another working couple, engineer Amitava and Deblina Nandi. They were blessed (or some say, burdened) with their first child, Adhisree, just two months back, more than five years after tying the knot, and are ruling out a second child. “Lack of support system in today’s nuclear family is a major problem not only during pregnancy period but also after having the child. A non-working mother does not help her child much. Giving proper care to the new born especially in the initial months becomes challenging for working mothers like me,” says Deblina, holding managerial post with an IT firm. “A second child is out of question.”
Welcome to the world of DINK (double income no kid) and DISK (double income single kid), a new trend increasingly making its presence felt in Indian metro cities. If some couples are not ready to shoulder the “burden” of child, others are not really thinking beyond one child. But it was not the situation a couple of decades back.
Changes in Indian family system have been under sociological scrutiny for some time, both in terms of its size as well as relationship among members, but as far as this trend is concerned, no defining study or statistics are available. Be it growing financial independence of women or lack of family back-up, greater employment opportunities resulting into higher ambition or fast and expensive lifestyle, it is undeniable that family extension is taking a backseat today faster than ever thought.
The increasing trend, specialists say, has even started “unknowingly” contributing towards population stabilisation in the urban areas in particular and India in general, though in an “undesired” way.
“The scenario is definitely playing a role towards population control. The young and working couples, leading fast and competitive life in metro cities, are unknowingly helping the cause. But it is not a desirable situation where people are curbing their paternal or maternal instinct. In long term, this can hamper the supply of workforce as is the case in Japan or many European countries. Career ambition is a big factor today as both spouses, especially the women, try to curve out good professional career and as a result they keep delaying child birth,” says Delhi-based psychologist and special educator Ripan Sippy.
“However, loneliness is not good as human has inherent social instinct. True, many couples are trying to remain free of responsibilities come with a child, but it has been noticed that when these couples meet their counterparts those are into parenthood, the former fall prey to depression. So they sometimes try to help other children through orphanages or NGOs to fulfil their maternal or paternal instinct,” adds the psychologist with 17 years of experience.
“Spread of educational and employment opportunities are quite effective factors. For women, employment opportunities are growing and many women are holding responsible positions in corporate sector, in some cases they even outnumber their men colleagues. It gives financial independence and the working couples, especially women, opt for a burden-free life and delay the first pregnancy. This is in positive direction as far as population stabilisation is concerned,” says Dr Syed Zainuddin, Associate Professor in Department of Sociology and Social Work, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).
 “The corporate sector jobs demanding limitless working hours from the professionals. It is true for both husband and wife, and so there happens communication gap between the spouses. Availability of various technological birth control measures is encouraging to delay pregnancy. We can see a lot of live-in relationship also,” according to Dr Zainuddin, a life-member of Sociological Society.
Apart from a few scattered initiatives to track down spending habits of DINKs and DISKs, there has been a dearth of organised research in order to ascertain, or at least anticipate, the impacts of this growing trend in Indian urban society in the days to come.
 “We are constraint of making any value judgment. There must be some research and thesis in university level to understand the situation better. More research is required. Only research will help us formulate a suitable policy in future,” thinks Dr Zainuddin, also associated with Jamia Milia Islamia in New Delhi.
A few years ago, one such study by the Associated Chamber of Commerce & Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) on “Changing Consumption Patterns of Delhi” reportedly found DINKs to be high spenders who eat out more than the DIWK (double income with kid) couples and unmarried, that is understandably because they don’t have to shell out money to ensure quality education or healthcare for children.
And here comes another factor, sky-rocketing living expense in metro cities. “Everyone is trying to provide best of the facilities available to their child. Money play important role in ensuring proper upbringing of a child. But if the wife takes break during pregnancy, family income comes down while the expense never does. It creates financial insecurity among the couples,” says a Delhi-based journalist, who has a working spouse and is without child nearly four years after marriage.

However, it is observed, many DINKs fail to withstand Indian society’s judgmental attitude and turn into DISKs with time.

Friday, 8 November 2013

To (Ba)be or Not to (Ba)be by Sucheta Firodia

After Polka arrived, there has been a lot more vocal interest in our family life. 'So what about a baby? 'Now that you take care of Polka, you are equipped to take care of your own' 'Your biological clock is ticking!'whats wrong with you - raising a dog instead of your own kid??' I used to be ready with a canned but honest reply 'I don't feel the need to have a baby.' But this is usually followed by 'Hmm.. Is there a medical problem?'

One of the most common comment I get is 'You will be a wonderful mom!' Now, I agree that makes me feel good. I am affectionate. loving and full of infinite wisdom :) I wish I could retort, 'I also have a good body maybe I should become a stripper?'  (Note to self: Join a gym)

Its hard for most people to fathom that some us don't want/need kids. Most of my family and friends mean well and do believe that a baby is necessary to feel 'complete'. How can one say no to an experience of a life time, unconditional love, the support for old age, mid life crisis, maternal instinct, peer pressure or atleast the need to propagate one's genes?

For me, its hard to fathom that people would want to have kids for these reasons. I believe if you are having kids for any reason other than maybe maternal/paternal instincts you should not be having one. Those genes need to go nowhere. Get a life or better still get a dog!

With a 6 billion and bulging population, more than half the world below the poverty line, life expectancy rates moving upwards, the doom and gloom about climate change - do we really need another small, cute, tiny little baby to occupy space on this planet?

Evidently we do. Because there's a baby born every second or so.. I don't understand this urge to have your own when they are so many out there who need a home. Nature will balance it for sure but it won't be pretty. Like dinosaurs, one day we might be extinct too. The universe is expanding and soon might go up in flames. Why not make it better for everyone today? right now?

Be it pets or kids - why not adopt?