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Can we please stop advising couples to have a baby to solve their marital woes?

baby feet

“Mom, are you free now? As I had told you, I need to discuss something very important with you.”

The nervousness and sense of urgency in Kavita’s voice was evident now. Aradhana Aunty was at the bank when Kavita had called her earlier in the day.

“Yes beta, go on. Am back home now. All OK?”, Aunty asked worried.

“Mom, nothing is OK. I don’t know where to start.”, Kavita paused and then continued.

“My marriage isn’t working out. Vishal and I just don’t get along. I don’t think we are meant to be. “

There was a stoic silence. Kavita started fumbling for words but took a deep breath and gathered her thoughts.

“He is not the kind of person I had perceived him to be. He is dominating and tries to control my life. He is a chauvinist who expects me to take permission from him for smallest of things. I have begun to feel suffocated in this relationship. I have already had multiple discussions with him on this but they only end up in bitter fights. I don’t think I can take all this anymore. I just want to end this Mom.”

Kavita was now feeling choked and her eyes had moistened. I held her hand to console her and could perceive that she was getting impatient for a response from Aunty. In a hushed tone, I quickly urged her to stay calm and give Aunty time to absorb it all. And then, after a minute of accelerated heartbeats and apprehensive glances, finally Aunty spoke.

“Kavita beta, don’t worry. I understand but you see this is why I have been advising you to plan a baby soon. Once there is a baby, all will be fine.”

Kavita was dismayed at her mother’s reply and I also noticed a tinge of annoyance on her face.

“Are you serious Mom? After listening to the whole story, this is ALL you can say? To have a baby? That’s it? How is the baby going to change anything?”

Kavita clearly seemed flustered, and let down. She hung up on her mom and burst out crying. My heart went out to her seeing her weep profusely but at the same time, I wasn’t too surprised at Aunty’s reaction. Isn’t this so common? Often parents advise their kids to procreate without even understanding the magnitude of their marital problems. And if some do understand, they choose to sweep it under the carpet due to societal pressures and stigma. The idea that a child can magically solve all the issues in the life of a couple is propagated not only by their generation but, at times, ours too as per my experience, which is ludicrous and something I find difficult to fathom.

Kavita’s situation immediately reminded me of my cousin, Renu. She was going through a rough phase in her marriage and unfortunately, she believed that a baby will change everything for good as per the advice she received from elders. But, things only got worse after parenthood happened and she feels handcuffed in the relationship now. Separation is out of question for her as she doesn’t want her child to miss the love of a family. On many occasions, I have gently tried to make her realize that a troubled relationship, which is full of pretense instead of love, can also affect the child adversely, and that it is not uncommon today for women to bring up a child single-handedly. But she brushes aside even the minutest thoughts of divorce. I do understand that it’s tough to take a stand once you have a baby and being a single parent requires tremendous strength, resilience and tenacity. Hence, I do not push her though, whenever we meet, it breaks my heart to see the spark missing in an erstwhile free-spirited and vivacious person.

The only reason a couple should plan for a baby is that they want to rear one with all their heart and mind. Not because someone else thinks it’s good for them, not because everyone around is having a baby and definitely not because the baby will change their relationship dynamics. It would be unfair on the baby if one wants to give birth for one’s own selfish reasons. No denying that there would be a few cases wherein positive changes would have occurred after the arrival of a baby, helping the marriage to survive with both spouses being happy about it. But would you want to take a risk with your child? Because the truth is that in most cases nothing changes because of a baby. Consequently, the child has to bear the brunt of being brought up under the umbrella of a toxic relationship if the couple continues to stick to the marriage.

Parenthood is such a tough job, maybe one of the toughest in the world! It transforms your world, your perceptions and the core of your being. People will harp about how a child aids in bringing a couple closer and strengthening the bond. But, no one will tell you that couples can have terrible fights after a baby. The first year especially is so arduous and exhausting that even the strongest of relationships can get strained because of the myriad changes that occur. Sometimes it’s the hormones at play, sometimes it’s a clash of parenting ideologies, sometimes it’s the change in expectations and sometimes it’s the lack of time for the partner. For a couple to sail through such a phase, there has to be maturity, compassion and understanding, along with immense support for each other. And evidently, it is least likely to happen when a couple is already trudging on a rocky terrain. Therefore, how can a baby be the “solution” for marital discord?

Please, let’s stop advising people to have a baby to end their marital woes – it doesn’t work that way!

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