“Bacche nahin chaiye? Are you mad? Who doesn’t want kids?” My cousin was surrounded by countless female relatives at a family function, as she shared with the entire khaandan that she and her husband were not planning on having children. Tired of being asked when she was going to give them the ‘good news’, she decided that she couldn’t take it any further. And blurted out the truth – they had no intention of becoming parents.
My cousin and her husband decided to go child-free, out of choice. My cousin is an environmentalist who believed that having a child would put unnecessary pressure on the planet, and her husband agreed with her decision. We can always adopt if we change our mind later, he said. When they announced their decision to the family, everyone thought they were lying.
Koi problem hoga, everyone whispered to each other. How can someone not want children? One chachi advised my cousin to fast on Thursdays because it supposedly pleases some God who would grant them a child. One mami nudged her to visit a renowned gynaecologist who had a track record of making sure every woman who visited him gave birth to a healthy child. And a cousin even asked him if they needed any advice on, ahem, their sex life. All because no one believed that they would want to not have a child, consciously. Because every woman wants to become a maa. And wanting one was not the law of the land.
Motherhood, and being maternal is an emotion. Motherhood comes in different forms. And colours. And sizes. And choices. Some women choose to not have children, consciously. Some choose to have pets and plants – as alternative options for displaying maternal emotion. Some choose to look over nieces and nephews. Some choose to be mothers, some don’t. But we taunt, degrade and judge such women. We call them selfish. And always end up assuming that there’s something wrong with either their body that can’t produce children or their mind for not wanting one. And even if they choose to do something about it, we don’t stop there. Women who opt for fertility treatments like IVF and surrogacy are looked down upon, a woman who is infertile is called ‘baanjh’ (which translates to barren land.), secluded from auspicious events as a sign of bad luck. And one who opts for adoption is repeatedly reminded that she’s making a mistake because the child is not ‘apna khoon’.
Only because we are obsessed with motherhood only being a certain way. We have created a stereotypical image of a mother, which has no exceptions. We’ve decided that because women are born with a uterus, they must use them – whether they want to or not. This means women will be pressured into having children even if they don’t want to. And be degraded emotionally and socially if they can’t.
Motherhood implies the feeling of wanting to love, to care and to nourish. This Mother’s Day, let’s honour the emotion, not the method. And let’s raise a toast to all forms of motherhood. To the mother who stays at home, putting her career on hold while she helps her children with their homework and play dates, enjoying every bit of motherhood. To the yummy mummy who hustles between work, kids and the gym like a pro. To the green thumb mom, who sings lullabies to her plants every night. The cat or dog mom, who loves her furry babies to death. Because they are all mothers, even if we think they aren’t. And they deserve to be celebrated, in all their forms.
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