Oscar Wilde has been quoted to have said “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.” This quote itself is by a fictional character in a comedy written by Oscar Wilde, who was concerned that a particular young lady’s future character may not be a good one if she became like her mother. But the quote has become popular and taken on its own meaning. It is mostly taken to imply that if men became more like their mothers – caring and loving – the world would be a better place. I am not quite sure if the popular implication is also that women should become less like their mothers and toughen up a bit.
If I had a daughter, I too would probably want her to be tough and strong than how most girls are raised and if I had a son, I would want him to be more sensitive than how most boys are raised. Having said that, how I would raise my son or daughter is a moot point because I am not exactly afraid of becoming like my mother, but unwilling to become a mother at all.
By the time I was fifteen, I knew I did not want to bear children. India is already over-populated! I saw no real benefit to add one or two children of my own when we couldn’t feed millions of hungry children in our country. I thought I should adopt one or two children when I grew up. No one took me seriously then.
Now I am in early 40s, married and childless. I haven’t ever regretted not becoming a mother! I have recently learnt a new word ‘childfree’ to describe people who are voluntarily and happily childless! The word ‘free’ comes from ‘freedom’ and also to indicate there is nothing ‘less’ in our lives just because we have no children.
I have not met many people who are childfree by choice. In India, the ‘default’ way of life is highly valued. You grow up, study, get employed, get married, have kids, help kids settle, arrange their weddings, take care of grand-children. That cycle of life is very rarely broken voluntarily. I have met a few people who chose to remain single, but to date haven’t met a single couple who said they chose not to have children. Not even in big cities in India.
This makes me wonder what is it about life that fascinates so many people enough to produce more new lives? Is it mere biological urge? Is it ‘everyone does that’? Our country is full of problems. Often people feel so hopeless that they have even lost hope on democracy and wish for a dictator to take over India! Yet, they eagerly bring more children into this system! And poorer a couple is and less educated a woman is, more the number of their children!
I also wonder, in a highly-populated society like ours which continues to value reproduction a lot, how are men and women choosing to be child-free in India are coping. Not having children has given me a lot of freedom to do many other things. Now, I have begun a ‘research’ project to identify, get connected with and to interview childfree couples. I would like to give a voice to the minority we represent!