On being childless and abnormal

In a couple of recent posts, Aadisht has been mocking mommybloggers, which has (understandably) led to some rather angry comments (and posts) from the mommybloggers in question.

One of the responses to the posts has been a sort of knowing “you’ll know when you have kids of your own” thing.:

IBH Says:
January 11th, 2008 at 11:47 am
Aadisht, dont know what actually made you write this post..but heres what it is…wait till you have your first one (if you do not have one already) and let us see how the tables turn

Similar feelings were expressed some months ago when Jai’s post about the new Vodafone ad turned into a debate on childrearing, childlessness, and the like. Examples:

At 11:28 AM IST, Anonymous said…
lets wait and see J.Wock when u have a kid .. i have a kid baby boy Dhruv and he is my life and more

At 12:12 PM IST, Anonymous said…
hey DD parenthood is not abt. propagating genes .. its a wonderful feeling to feel a life develop inside you nad see that life grow into a human being .. it makes you realize whats imp. in life . hope one day u r also blessed to become a parent

At 7:03 AM IST, Anonymous said…
hi j.wock, DD, the other anon and all other people who dont like kids , i feel sorry for u , thankfully u r a minority and most people love kids .. obviously u have too much time on your hands to write such long posts , maybe u need to be gainfully employed having kids …if u’r parents thought the same way u wouldnt be here to blog

Aditya then wrote a post on his blog, suggesting that maybe it was okay for some of us not to want children. One of the anonymice on Jai’s blog then replied with:

At 3:41 AM IST, Anonymous said…
…but aditya B. i did read u’r blog and can only that obviously u r confused and not ready to be responsible for a child..
bv

and

At 3:45 AM IST, Anonymous said…
and AB i am assuming u r unmarried , once u get married u will have kids coz all women naturally wanna become mothers ..thats why god made them a certain way..thats why J.wock and dd and other naysayers all will also have kids
bv

This is all probably very boring, especially for those who have already read the post and the vastly entertaining comments thread that followed it. And obviously these comments are more funny than anything else, and the people who posted them most mockworthy. But there’s an obvious pattern here. Everyone must have children. Normal people have children. Aadisht may make tasteless jokes about children now, or say he doesn’t want any, but just you wait, he will change his mind. As will Aditya, who, in saying he doesn’t want children, has only proved that he is too young for them, not that he is an adult who is capable of making his own choices. As will I, of course. In fact, if one of Jai’s commentors is to be believed, the Force of my Womanhood will create an almost fanatical need in me to reproduce. DD states repeatedly that he doesn’t want children, yet commentors continue to hope that he will be blessed by them. (I am reminded of christian friends who offer benevolently to pray for my atheist self)
I faced this in another context at a family wedding a few months ago. I was a little tired of all the “you’re next” type comments and suggested that I might actually choose not to get married. A cousin (who is my age!) actually tittered,and
told me that everyone goes through this “phase” but changes their mind when they grow up. Obviously, no one is capable of choosing to do anything that doesn’t fit perfectly into a cookie cutter pattern of adulthood, because the fact that they would choose anything else only proves that they’re unfit/too immature to make that choice. There is only one valid choice.In the comments to Adi’s post, Jai complains that he is still being told he’s too immature to choose right, even now he’s over 30.

And I realise that there are a lot of people on the internet talking about their dislike of children (often giving unwanted childrearing advice to the people who actually have kids and presumably know a lot more about what bringing up a child entails), and a number of bloggers have written intelligent and thoughtful posts about whether or not disliking children is just a preference or if right up there with racism and sexism and so on. But as Ritwik points out here, people with children, people who plan to have children; in the real world, they’re in the majority. And (at least here in India) they’re the ones that get to be normal. Those of us who choose not to have children are still going to have our life choices invalidated regularly by a large number of the people we meet.

Also, I don’t know if I’ve ever talked about this on the blog, but I have PCOS, a condition that impacts fertility, among other things. This aspect of it has never really affected me since I don’t plan to have children, but I have met women with PCOS who do want children and have worried that it will be difficult to conceive, and I know it’s been really hard for them. And I can’t imagine that being constantly told that not having children is abnormal makes it any easier for them.

23 Comments to “On being childless and abnormal”

  1. Welcome to the club.

    You realize, of course, that all this post proves is that you’re too immature and selfish person who will one day see the error of your ways?

    If I were you I’d enjoy the time when people don’t believe you when you say you don’t want kids. When they start to believe that you really mean it, it gets worse – they then assume you’re some kind of sadistic, frustrated / child-hating deviant. Because, of course, if you choose to not have kids it must be because you ‘dislike’ them, even hate them with a passion. It couldn’t possibly be because you’re indifferent to them or don’t think they’re worth it.

    I sometimes wonder how many people would still have kids if it weren’t the ‘given’ thing to do.

  2. My mom used to mock my uncle (who is twenty years younger than her) about his perpetual refusal to marry. He kept dating, but never really settled down and married a woman until two years ago. And my mom went around joking to everyone, “So Peter Pan finally grew up!”

    Now she’s busy joking about how he and his wife have decided not to have children, because obviously that’s just a phase that they’re going through.

    I’ve told her multiple times that *I* never intend to marry or have children. (Having severe OCD does not lend well toward co-habitation or childrearing.) She still thinks that when I “grow up” and “get over” myself I’ll change my tune.

    I’m so sick of the same old tune – that women who choose not to have children are just being immature, selfish, or are somehow abormal or “broken.” And the message comes from everywhere. Hell, the goddamn U.S. Supreme Court said last year that a woman’s highest calling was being a mother. It makes me want to barf.

    But thank you for this post.

  3. lemme try and rationalize this

    the fundamental concept is that having kids is a sign of manhood. if you are a man and don’t have kids, it’s a sign of impotence. so in order to show off to the world that you’re not impotent you have kids.

    now this concept has been drilled into our people for generations. so if someone chooses to not have kids, he is deemed to be infertile. and his “level” in society goes down. and hence it’s indoctrinated into people that having kids is necessary. and that not having kids is abnormal. rather that you are impotent.

    ok now lemme try figure out how this affects women. one thing i know is that the ancient hindu laws allow a man to marry again if his first wife is infertile. again if you are infertile/don’t want kids you’ll end up with a guy who has another woman. which you don’t want. so it’s in your head that you should bear children. and so it’s abnormal if you don’t want to.

    anyways, has it ever struck you that “conservative” couples tend to have children much quicker than more “liberal” ones? i’d written one post on that last year. check it out.

    http://skthewimp.livejournal.com/99257.html

  4. Hmm, Falstaff’s comment brought another thing to my mind. I sometimes get the “So why do you hate kids?!” reaction, too.

    But I don’t hate kids. I LOVE kids. I’m a TEACHER, for crying out loud.

    Just because I love working with and being around children, however, doesn’t mean that I ever intend to raise my own. In fact, due to my mental illness, I know that I shouldn’t raise my own.

    I also know that I’m not a child-hater, too.

    Sorry for ranting in the comments of this post. ;)

  5. I don’t understand why not wanting children is linked to “disliking them”. You can like various things, but also assert that you don’t particularly want these things. Every year – when I head to India the natter about us having a baby gets worse. Sigh.

    And PCOS? Sister!! :)

  6. Beards over babies!

    -Jabberjee

  7. Falstaff – I’m actually looking forward to the switch. I’d rather be taken seriously as a Deviant and Threat to the Natural Order than seen as a silly child.

    Presumably a large number of people would still have children if it wasn’t a ‘given’ – I know people who really, really want children (and many of them I suspect will be excellent parents) but the number would probably be a lot smaller.

    Nenena – Obviously when you grow up and get over yourself you’ll realise that minor inconveniences like OCD should not be allowed to interfere with your Natural and True Calling.

    Skimpy – Well conservative couples are more likely to have a (heh) conservative idea of what a family Is, and I guess that includes kids for them. Also, I think with such couples the wife’s career may not be seen as such a priority. So it can be put on the backburner, making it immediately possible to fulfil her kid-having function.

    Also, I find the idea that it’s all about preventing the men from accusations of impotence interesting, because somehow in my experience when couples are unable to conceive, it’s normally the woman who is considered to have something wrong with her(part of my dad’s job involves male infertility), just as the woman is often ‘blamed’ for giving birth to girls instead of boys.

  8. this is a bit of a digression- there was a forward doing the rounds a few months ago about rohypnol or the date rape drug.

    what angered me most was that whoever wrote the text for it seemed to think that the only way to convince the recipients of the gravity of the situation was to explain that the drug would MAKE A WOMAN STERILE AND SHE WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO CONCEIVE (it was capitalised just like this).

    right. that’s the only problem.

  9. And I found this(!) on my university’s community service webpage:

    The “I Love Children” Bus serves as a mobile one-stop resource centre that reaches out to residents island-wide.

    The roving resource centre provides young couples, parents-to-be, parents and extended family with expert advice and useful tips on a variety of parenthood-related matters.

    -Jabberjee

  10. Nenena – I don’t love kids (though I’m not openly hostile to them either), even though I’m planning a career in children’s literature. I’m a)not particularly comfortable around them b)resent the assumption that I should be (because girls love babies! we just know naturally what to do with them!). I get sick of being told that i’m not a proper girl becauuse I’m not fussing over the babies/ being looked at strangely when female friends and relatives are cooing over infants and I’m not, and so on. (See, you can rant in the comments! I do!)

    Neha – I’m beginning to wonder if there’s an actual connection between PCOS and interesting women. A disproportionate number of my friends seem to have it!

    Even Flow – Yeah. “You might get raped!” is somehow less serious than “you might never, ever have BABIES!!11eleventyone!”

    B. Jabberjee – JOY!

  11. Aishwarya – I totally understand. Sorry if my comment came across as “But we all love bayyyyyyybiiiiies!”

    It shouldn’t matter whether any woman (or any individual) is comfortable or uncomfortable around kids. And it shouldn’t matter whether any woman chooses to give birth to or raise her own. But there’s just a whole big icky bundle of assumptions to work against, unfortunately…

  12. oooooooh, I have a lot of to say about this subject but most of it is not wise to mention in public (I have privacy issues, ha).
    I will say this though: I have never regretted getting my tubes tied and on a few occasions it has served me quite well, when being asked if I have children or not. You’d be surprised how embarrassed people get when you tell them: “no, I had my tubes tied.”, in a proud and happy voice. It’s a great conversation killer ;)

  13. SK, forgive me for my ignorance, but I was always lead to believe that the fundamental concept of having kids was procreating and passing on your life, not proving that one doesnt fire blanks/doesnt fire at all.

    I guess you IIM lot know better, with your case study methodology and what not :)

    I think its funny that a lot of well off people think this world’s too scary to raise kids in given that they’re the best equipped to give said kid a good life.

    Personally, I’m not as smart as a lot of you fine people and am simply compelled by my more basic instincts to pass on my stock.

    I also plan to have several illegitimate children in the United Kingdom to burden their welfare state. Serves them right, the cheap bastards(the UK, not the kids).

  14. Bhavya’s comment makes me wish there was a movie. Called, I dunno, ’40 Weeks Later’, about a plague of illegitimate children wreaking havoc on the streets of London…

    Aishwarya, this is probably extremely tangential, but did you read any articles late last year about the phenomenon of outsourced surrogate pregnancies in this country? It was deeply disturbing on a number of levels.

  15. Nenena – Do you blog anywhere?

    Alie – *grin* I can totally imagine you doing that.

    Apparently, getting your tubes tied is really hard in this country. So is getting a vasectomy. I was going to post about this at some point, actually. Further research is needed, but it’s something that infuriates me.

    Bhavya – Agree on the fact that a lot of the people who don’t want to have children are well equipped to give the child a good life, but what can you do? Their bodies, their lives, their choices, etc.

    Smartness (or lack thereof) has nothing to do with my not wanting children. I just don’t.

    Also, as you know, I am strongly supportive of your plan to overwhelm the UK with your offspring.

    FSR – I did read some, and it is exploitative in many ways, but. You know what I’m going to say, don’t you?

  16. Since you asked -

    I have very self-censored “I know that my parents and grandparents are reading this” blog about life in Japan here:
    http://matcha-parfait.livejournal.com/

    I also have an American/Indian/Japanese pop culture/fandom blog at nenena.livejournal.com, but that mostly consists of me rambling about comic books and posting T&A magazine scans. (And my family does not know about that one.) Right now it’s more heavy on the Japanese side of things, because I live in Japan and that’s the stuff that I have access to.

    Er. I hate plugging myself. But you asked. ;)

  17. Yup, just don’t get it either but good for you to decide one way or the other. Its also really cool that you are planning a career in children’s literature but have no need to be a parent.

    Now, I actually don’t mind being a parent (I could see myself raising an atheist, gender deviant child and think of all those Sundays playing frisbee!) but I’m not sure that I universally adore children. (Needless to say, a/c to popular wisdom, this will all change when I grow up and have kids but of course).

    Oh, and try telling even your friends, they of your generation, that you may have kids but have absolutely no desire to get pregnant. And watch them try and process this information. And give up. And then try hard to convince you of the joys of pregnancy and childbirth and breastfeeding, and know you The Experience of it all, yada, yada, yada.

    n!

    Ummm, how does one know that one has PCOS?

  18. Nenena – *grin* That was far from self-pluggage.

    n! – you know, I’m still more open to the possibility of having children than I am to the possibility of pregnancy.
    As for the PCOS, my gynaecologist diagnosed it when I was eighteen, but she and mum (doctor parents are terribly useful) had thought I might have it for a couple of years before that.

  19. Okay, I realize this is taking us into a whole other post, but why is outsourcing surrogate pregnancy ‘exploitative’? It’s a voluntary exchange that leaves both parties better off, isn’t it? So what’s the problem? Except that it flies in the face of the ridiculous privileging of ‘motherhood’ that we’ve all been conditioned to believe in.

    The only thing I found disturbing about the whole thing was the fact that women in the West weren’t allowed to be surrogate mothers in many countries. Which is unfair to them.

  20. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is not a single aspect of the whole having-children question in all its complexity that’s treated sanely, at least in the culture I live in.

    It drives me bonkers that “I don’t want children” is seen as a legitimate reason to not have them, that women especially have their whole selfhood reduced to the productivity of their wombs.

    The hell is with those people who want to wish children on people who don’t want children? Are they hoping for some magical conversion experience that will make the whole process welcome and not just gratuitously rough on both the parents and the children? (Granted I have boku issues around the concept of “wanted child”, but I just don’t get what’s with the goddamn draft for procreation.)

    Further incoherent ranting is mostly not in complete sentences, so I’ll stop here.

  21. Falstaff – Oh dear. One should not have to explain away throwaway comments on one’s own blog.

    Here’s the thing. My attitude to this is similar to my attitude towards prostitution (and I’m going to get angry comments from someone for saying this). Of course people should have the right to do whatever they wish with their own bodies (and I agree, legally preventing women in some countries from being surrogate mothers is wrong), but i do think, like prostitution, it can often play out in ways that are exploitative. What are the health risks? What legal recourse does the surrogate mother have to fall back upon, how much power does she have within the system as it stands? And then, of course, the economics of it.
    Having said which, I’m certainly not in favour of banning it. If women wish to be surrogate mothers or feel that this is financially a good (or necessary) decision for them, who am I to complain?

    Kiya – My whole blog is a series of incoherent rants. Feel free!

  22. aishwarya: Fair, but that’s precisely why I doubt it’s exploitative. I would assume the health risks are low because unlike with prostitution the client here is keenly interested in the woman’s health. And since it’s legal, I’d think it would be far less exploitative than prostitution. Certainly nothing I’ve read about it leads me to suggest that these women aren’t getting their fair share of payment for the service they’re providing. (In the interests of disclosure – overall I’m for legalizing prostitution as well). And I’m not sure what you mean by the economics of it.

    The one point that the NY Times piece I read on this did make that I agree with is that it’s a shame that people are using surrogate mothers rather than adoption, but that’s a different story.

  23. amen. despite being one of the early marrying, early baby having type. i understand completely.

    @n! – irregular periods, pimples, hair loss – *raises hand* and yet i get knocked up the moment i decide to have one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>