Mother’s Day is always a huge affair, specially on social media. You see videos, posters, open letters and various other things floating about on social media. Mothers are thanked, tears are shed, posts are shared and generally every woman is thanked for either being a mother or having the ability to be one. If you are not already being wished on Mother’s Day, it’s out there that one day you will be. Well, what if a woman does not want to be? What if a woman chooses to stay away from the daily fight and struggle that is motherhood? What if a woman just chooses non-motherhood as a lifestyle?
The concept of motherhood is so high up on a pedestal that I don’t think we can even see it anymore. Its entity is so enmeshed with womanhood that every woman is automatically seen as a future mother. Motherhood is perceived as an inevitability and not a choice. So every girl grows up listening to how they are going to be mothers someday. Every woman is asked when they are going to have a baby. Every woman is believed to have a maternal instinct that is possibly brought upon by the presence of a womb. So in this hyperbole of a society, when a woman says she does not want to have children, everyone loses their shit. It shocks people to know that not all women harbour maternal ambitions or instincts. In order to not have to accept this radical notion, they simply deny a woman their autonomy to thoughts and their own body.
When I googled ‘women who don’t want kids’ , I found multiple articles where people cite reasons for women not wanting kids. Let me rephrase that. I found articles that justify a decision made by a woman, i.e. she does not want to have children, because the society demands a reason. It is important to make people understand why a woman would think of such a thing. Because ‘I don’t want to’ just doesn’t cut it. The world might be overpopulated, underfed and filled with bulging orphanages, but women still should want to procreate. The idea is so ingrained that most women who are vocal about their choice of not being a mother face abuse, judgement and in most cases are told that they are all Jon Snows as they know nothing.
When I asked women about the kind of judgement/abuse/advice they were subjected to, I found myself groaning at the sheer undermining of a woman’s agency in the society. From being called selfish to being asked if their husband’s penis works, women have heard it all. I am amazed at the intrusiveness of such comments. At what point is it okay to pass judgement on someone else’s choices? Then again Indians have never really been very good at respecting personal spaces.
So what kind of things do women hear when they suggest that they are not to be seen as mere incubator of fetuses? They are subtly told that they are incubators of fetuses. Women said that they were told they were selfish, that they don’t really know what they are talking about, that a woman is incomplete without kids, that they are just being a rebel, or they are not having kids to spite their mother-in-law.
“How will you prove his masculinity?” one woman was asked. “Are you infertile?” another was asked in public. “Does your husband’s penis not work?”, “Is this some new feminist stance?”, “Who will take care of you when you are older?”, “What kind of woman are you that you do not want kids?” “Don’t you care that your parents want grand-kids?”. These are just some of the things that women have listened to. They have also been called abnormal, told they will regret their decision later in life and also told that evolution demands that women have children. One woman said that her family sent her to a therapist because she said she did not want children and would rather have pets.
In India, where even the country is a mother figure, it is difficult for people to grasp the concept of a woman without pegging her as a mother, a sister, a wife, a daughter or something else that relates them to all other humans, especially men. A woman as just a human being like any other person, with her own sets of ideas and values is mostly an alien concept. So of course there has to be something wrong with a woman if she does not want children. Let’s not do this any more. Let’s stop pretending that motherhood is an inevitability. Motherhood is a choice, that all women are free to choose or not to.
Women shouldn’t have to defend their personal choices. They shouldn’t have to endure abuse because of their choices. When we bring in justifications like, she is not economically stable, or she has had past trauma, or she has illnesses she can’t reconcile with, we are saying that not wanting children is just not okay. Motherhood is wonderful for those who choose it and no one is saying otherwise. However, some women just don’t have an aching womb, they don’t feel the need to fill their life with the pitter patter of little feet, and that’s okay. Just like having multiple kids is okay, adopting a kid is okay and having pets as children is okay. It is not for us to judge another human being for a choice that does not affect us.