When I was a little girl, I loved to play house. I could spend hours having tea parties with my dolls arranged around me, and I loved ‘cooking’ for my mom using my set of toy utensils. That was until I got a baby doll – you know the ones that look and feel like a real human baby? When I got one of those, I was obsessed. I would cuddle it, sing it songs, change its diaper, feed it milk, put it to sleep.
My mom was thrilled. She thought I had all the makings of a perfect wife and mother.
Fast forward to me in my late teens. I was at Pizza Hut with my then boyfriend (now husband) on what was one of our initial dates. But what should have been a romantic lunch, turned into a horrifying encounter – with two 5-year-old kids. As they ran around the restaurant terrorising the rest of the patrons, their parents sat looking indulgently on. I could feel a headache coming on as those two ran around shouting, throwing cutlery, and being a general nuisance.
“I never want children,” I whispered vehemently that day.
I was 19, he was 29. All I got was an indulgent look and a call for the check.
Fast forward to a recent evening. We were sitting on the sofa, heads bent over a smartphone, looking at photographs and going “Awww... how adorable! Such tiny little things! And they look so cute, sleeping on top of their mommy.” We were looking at photographs of the most adorable Iranian wild cats, which are almost extinct, poor dears!
I’m in my mid-30s, he’s in his late-40s. And no, still no children. But we do have two adorable fur babies, Simba and Loki!
Looking back on our years together, this decision to not have children seems almost organic. The 19-year-old me who didn’t want children because they were such a nuisance grew into this 30-something me who is certain she doesn’t want children for a lot of very valid reasons. And that 29-year-old indulgent boy who thought I was a kid and would grow out of that phase of not wanting children, is now a 40-something man who is thankful that I didn’t.
Over the years, we have had our moments of doubt about our decision to be child-free.
Like when we see really cute children who are well behaved (they exist!). Or all the times when my parents have sat us down and told us how much we will regret our decision to not have children. Or when my friends have told me what an awesome dad my husband would make because he is so good with their children.
At all those times, we revisit this decision. And whenever we talk about whether or not we should have children, the husband always says the same thing: “I will agree to have children only when you are 150% sure that you want them.”
I’ve never been even 20% sure that I want kids. I feel no biological clock ticking and no desire to take on the life-changing responsibility of bringing up a child. And so we happily go about with our lives, following our interests and our careers. It’s given us the mind space and the time that we need to follow the things that interest us – for the husband it’s his love for box making and teaching DIY woodworking, and for me, it’s the time to pursue my love for art, design, writing, and the Tarot.
We have had people tell us we’re being short-sighted, self-absorbed, stupid; that we are bucking the “natural law” and fighting biology and evolution. But at the end of the day, we are the only ones who have to live with this decision – and either way, it is a big, life-altering choice. Yes, a choice.
Bringing an innocent child into this world should not be a default consequence of marriage. And it certainly shouldn’t be something you resort to in an unstable marriage, hoping that a child will bring you closer – heartbreakingly often, it doesn’t.
Having a child should be a thing of unbridled joy. If it isn’t, maybe you should look for your joy elsewhere.
One of our readers asked our Counsellor, Deepak Kashyap, about being pressured to have children and the best way to deal with it. His advice might be helpful to those of you who agree with Shinjini.