Becoming a mother has been said to be a matter of greatness and it has been so deeply ingrained in our society, that marriage is normalised as the sanction to reproduce children. I, for one, do not want children, because I do not want my children to grow up in an unequal world. Since childhood, motherhood is not something I have ever felt to pursue as an adult. I have lived my life in an unequal home and society. I have never felt secure in my own house growing up. In India, women are treated as goddesses but in Indian families, they are seen as burdens.
While growing up, I experienced discrimination based on my gender at the hands of my family members. They treated me differently and it was evident. So when I was a little girl, I was convinced that if I ever got married, I would be not having children. The fight against patriarchy and its vices has been going on for years now and I know in my heart that it won’t end in my lifetime. So how was I to welcome a child and see them grow up in an unequal environment?
I saw my mother suffer: not just as a mother but also as a woman. She sacrificed her own life for the sake of others as women in our society are still expected to. The society we have created for ourselves is one in which women will never be seen at par with men and hence, are lesser than men. She will be known by her motherhood, as the wife, the daughter, and in the process, her own identity as a human being with rights will be lost. Further, in every society, a woman continues to carry the burden of motherhood alone while men will still be seen as “helping” their wives and not sharing their rightful part of the parenting responsibilities. In India, women continue to be the primary caretakers of their children, despite also having to go out and work, while men are traditionally not expected to pitch in, in the domestic sphere or parenting, after their day of work. Not just that, the burden of hegemonic masculinity and patriarchy stops men from taking care of their children. The so-called progressive men might help the women but the social structure will not allow men to even do that. I feel these are some of the problems that are stopping me from not having children. To think of how I will never be able to ensure an equal and safe environment, convinces me that staying from that big responsibility is a nice and wise decision.
If I don’t think the world will be livable in the future, how can I bring a child into it? Climate change is another reason why I do not want to be a mother. According to a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report published in September 2019, we are at least one degree Celsius above preindustrial levels and close to what scientists warn would be “an unacceptable risk”. Glaciers and ice sheets in polar and mountain regions are already melting faster than ever, causing sea levels to rise. Global warming impacts everyone’s food and water security. Climate change is a major threat to international peace and security. Yet, we are barely bothered. In the face of the pressure to get married and then reproduce, the depleting conditions of the earth on which we are living is yet another factor as to why bringing a child does not look very wise.
I got married two years back and my husband and I are living happily and peacefully. We had an inter-caste marriage. I belong to the so-called upper caste and he belongs to the lower caste. In India, a child is known by her parent’s caste and religion. I have come to understand better how caste hierarchy forces millions of people to live in a deteriorating, regressive caste structures. It has been centuries of abuse and this further strengthened my decision to never bring a child into a world that continues to discriminate on the basis of caste, class and religion. India’s caste system is perhaps the world’s longest surviving social hierarchy.
Caste encompasses a complex ordering of social groups based on ritual purity. A person is considered a member of the caste into which he or she is born and remains within that caste until death, although the particular ranking of that caste may vary among regions and over time. I chose to not have children because I don’t want to see the newborn baby go through this evil social practice where one is considered pure and the other is considered untouchable. We as Indians, after more than 70 years of independence, continue to revolt against such social evils yet the caste system continues to prevail in Indian society. Caste-based honour killings continue to make headlines every day to the point that it is normalised.
Further, as a writer, I feel the community of Indian Muslims continue to live in ghettos where they are deprived of basic rights. Not to mention the threat of lynching, murder, humiliation by right-wing Hindutva vigilantes if they don’t chant “Jai Shri Ram”(Glory to Lord Rama”). The emergence of a right-wing government scares me enough on the behalf of all children being born in India. The secular structure of the Indian constitution is on the verge of collapse because of the emergence of Hindu Rashtra and the conditions are far from conducive to have children. India has become a theocratic state, where the most important law is majoritarian emotion. I see these as enough reasons to not have a child, in addition to how motherhood has never excited me in ways patriarchal conditioning would expect a woman to. An unequal society is a curse for a newborn baby.
Therefore, I reject being a parent.
Jagisha Arora is a 28 year old working as a freelance writer. She completed her Masters in History and is enthusiastic t write on issues of gender, caste and democracy. She can be found on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Featured Image Source: Shreya Tingal/Feminism In India