Childlessness — The Social Outcasts

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Childlessness — The Social Outcasts

Why do people who choose not to have kids become social outcasts? Day 21 of “One Day, One Blog” — a challenge I set for myself for the month of January 2019.

The scene is set in the office of a bank manager of a public sector bank. I am his client and we are sitting in his cabin discussing some official matters. There is a break in the conversation as we wait for his clerk to bring us some files to sign.

To fill the uncomfortable silence, the old man ( he is at least two decades my senior) inquires about my family. The usual questions of “where are you from?”, “what does your husband do?”,and then the 3rd or 4th question as expected is

“How many children do you have?”

Me: “ No kids, Sir”

Bank Manager: “Oh.. why?”

Now what the “EFFF” do I tell him?

I smile, cursing inwardly the upbringing which restricts me from being rude to elders.

Without so much as a “Hmmm” from me as input, the gentleman carries on — about the choices people make these days, the hurry to conquer life….and concludes with this gem of a comment.

“You are not from my religion, are you? Else I could have taken you to my priest for counselling”.

Sounds too bizarre to be true? As the cliché goes, truth is stranger than fiction.

Couples who do not have children (for whatever reason) are a segment that can be called “MOST HARASSED” by our society. There are so many of us who are continuously hurt by “well wishers” that perhaps it is time to constitute some law akin to “POSH”.

We are conditioned as a society to conform to the “One husband/Wife, Two children” norm. If you deviate from that you are isolated and pointed fingers at. You are made to look and feel like a loser.

Under the guise of “concern” people around us have mastered the art of driving the knife deep into heart of the childless couple.

For the longest time, I cried and fought against these well-wishers. I made myself clinically depressed thanks to these people. I put on a show of being a tough nut because I hated sympathy. Of course, people offered me sympathy without knowing if being childless was my choice ( or not — I am not answering that question here.)

Now that the well-wishers have given up on me, I see them moving to younger prey. In the last couple of years, I have come across so many young girls who are harassed in a similar fashion. Why? Because the aunt/cousin/friend all thinks they know better.

Reasons why you do NOT want children — according to the all-knowing society

* Clearly, you have forgotten and it is “their” duty to remind you

No, I am not kidding. Why else do they take it upon themselves at every social event to remind you of this?

Them: “ While you are in a hurry running behind your career, don’t forget to have children, ok?”

Me: “ Oops sorry… I forgot. I will get to it right away”.

I mean seriously…. Do you think this “child” is a bloody email I forgot to send?

If I have not had a child it is (a) either because I cannot have a child — in which case can you imagine the pain you are inflicting on me

(b) OR, I have chosen not to — and it is NONE of your bloody business.

Clarification — To a certain extent I can appreciate the concern of your immediate family or the closest friends in this regard . I am not talking about them. Like the Bank manager in the introduction, it is literally every Tom, Dick and Harry ( & their better halves) who do this.

* Because the “Wife” has a medical problem

Since it is mostly my educated friends who would be reading this you may not really get it. But it’s really funny.

For the longest time I would smile noncommittally when people conducted Spanish inquisition on me about our childless status. Back then I never had the guts to say that we may chose not to have kids.

This automatically led to them assuming that I have a medical condition. Every nosy female on either side of our families have asked me what my “condition” is and what medicines I am taking.

They jump to the conclusion that the woman has medical problems but never the husband. This truly baffles me. Any explanation or statistics to explain this thinking? I would genuinely like to know

* The “Ambitious” Wife

I used to think that I was the only one with weird relatives who thought this thought, but apparently my case is not so unique after all. A few women I have met who have decided not to have children are accused of this heinous crime.

“She is refusing to have kids because she is so ambitious. This is what happens when you encourage girls to pursue their career.”

Sounds like a “Saas-Bahu” serial? Nopes. Comes from the state with highest literacy. I have heard this one from so many people and so many of my friends have heard variations of this.

What shocks me is that they come up with these allegation with no basis whatsoever.

* Even the pets are not left alone

A couple I know have pets they love dearly. After a few years of marriage they decided not to have kids. They informed their highly curious family of the same.

I will leave the hysteria that broke out to your imagination. After my friends left the hyper excited relatives to deal with this news, one of the aunts comes up with this analysis.

“It is because of those damn pets that they do not want children. Next time we visit, we should just poison them”.

Now this does sound like a forced script of a B-rated movie… again, cliché but true

* It is not your decision

This is yet another gem when a young couple informed their family that they do not plan to have kids. They were curtly informed by the patriarch that it is not their decision to make.

I am still laughing at the absurdity of the comment — so can’t write more on this one.

* You are Selfish

I can appreciate when grandparents ( or wannabe, in this case) accuses the son/daughter of selfishness.

But what about a friend who meets you once in a decade or a distant relative accusing you of being selfish? How does it even make sense? Are you sure you are not just jealous that I took a decision you were not comfortable taking and hence did not have a child at 21?

I have another list to share with you. This is a list of all the reasons why one should have a child — as told by “experts” of course.

Why should we have kids?

  • (If you do not have children)Then what will you do with all the money you are earning? [ Ha… between me and Chandu we can blow up our earnings and our neighbors earnings also…]
  • This one is a personal favourite “What will you do with all the gold your mom gifted you for the wedding?” [ Really?? I should have a child BECAUSE I have jewelry??]
  • Someone to take care of you in your old age [I have seen how badly the lady who is saying this treats her in-laws. I actually said Thank God I don’t have kids at that moment]
  • Keeping our family lineage alive [You do know that you are not some extinct Madagascan lemur, right? Trust me, there is NOTHING so great in your lineage that it needs to be kept “alive”]
  • It is a feeling like nothing else? [ yeah… I can’t even visit your house because you are constantly harassing your kid or getting harassed by your kid..I don’t want that feeling. Thank you very much]

I am someone who adores my nieces and nephews. So it is not that I am a sociopath who hates the little devils. And neither are my friends in this category. But if we can respect your choice to have kids, you must respect our choice NOT to have children!

I will leave with a word of advice to all the well-wishers out there — If you are so concerned about your sibling or friend having or NOT having a child, why don’t you extend that concern to an actual human being who has taken life already?

There are 153 million children globally who need caretakers. Adopt a child. Or at least sponsor one.

But get off our backside. We may have kids, we may not have kids. Not your bloody problem.

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Ruby Peethambaran

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