Saying No

19 May
Saying No

Is it really that terrible not to want kids?

The earliest I remember someone saying as much to me was when my then BFF told me her cousin, who was the same age as us (maybe 11 at the time?), didn’t want kids because she wasn’t looking forward to experiencing labor.

“Have you ever heard anything more selfish?” she seethed with the intense outrage of someone yet to get her period. “What a shallow reason not to want kids. Because she doesn’t want the pain!”

I maintained a discreet silence. I hadn’t really considered the issue before but my friend seemed to have such a strong opinion on the matter, I felt I might have been derelict in my duties as a ponderous 11-year-old not to have given serious thought to the idea of procreation before this unhappy day. Worse, as I listened to her rail, I began to feel the stirrings of sympathy for the cousin – a long stretch of intense medical upheaval lay just a couple of years behind me and as I remembered all those hours of getting needles stuck in me and blood sucked out of me… I thought maybe she had a point.

I had started menstruating very early, a side effect of those medical issues I’d experienced, and once a month I found myself in bed, curled up in the fetal position around a hot water bottle, dosed on strong painkillers, as my uterus prepared itself for a baby that wasn’t going to come for a very long time, if ever. Childbirth was not endearing itself to me.

The next time somebody mentioned getting pregnant, I was 14 and it was my mother and she was expressing just how unhappy she’d be if I ended up “in a situation”. Halfway through this latest experiment in good parenting, even she realized the absurdity of telling a child under constant surveillance and a 6 p.m. curfew (more importantly, braces and thick spectacles) to practice abstinence. It’s not like I had a choice, much less the opportunity.

So not only did getting pregnant promise to end unhappily for the most sensitive part of your body, but there were conditions attached to it actually being a “happy event”. Timing was everything. Post-wedding ring, everything was roses. Put it pre-wedding ring and it might well end up on the evening news: Grisly Murder of Skank Teen, details at nine!

Then there was the old lady I met on the street who was rabidly pro-life and wanted to know how I’d feel if I found out my mother had planned to abort me. Answer: I’d be fine with it because it’s not like she wanted to abort me after I was born and she had a chance to know me. Now that would have hurt my feelings. Not to mention, the man who didn’t want kids but was only ever attracted to women who wanted kids because he felt it expressed something positive about their personality.

I don’t want kids,” I said.

“You think you don’t want kids,” he told me. “When you meet the right person, you’ll feel differently.”

The certainty in his voice ought to have bugged me but in a way, I couldn’t fault him. I’m single and when I think about having a child, the potential father figure is very much a shadow person. I hope he’ll be a good human being, of course, but the only reality in this fantasy scenario is myself. And I, personally, feel no compulsion whatsover to procreate.

I see women say all the time, “I want a child”. I do not. I don’t want to leave a little me behind in this world, I don’t want to clone myself, I don’t want to experience “the unconditional love” of a child (which, and here’s my turn to be judgmental, has to be the most selfish reason I’ve ever heard to bring another human being into this world, second only to “When my baby cries, I hear my rich baby daddy go ka-ching! ka-ching! ka-ching!“), I don’t want to leave a little mark on the genetic map of the world to announce I was here for a quick minute.

The only reason – I think – I would want a child is if I met someone so utterly fabulous and so very dear to me, that I might want our child. Perhaps that is what these women mean when they say “I want a child”. I don’t know. All I know is that it doesn’t sound like that a lot of times. And that’s fine. The best part about being a woman and wanting a child, especially in this day and age, in many parts of the world, is that this is a very real option for you. You can have a child.

I think it’s much harder to say you don’t want a child. It invites roughly the same reaction as confessing to some sort of deviance.

“You like to wear diapers when you have sex?”
“You garden in the buff?”
“You voted for Sarah Palin?”
“You think 9/11 was an inside job?”
“You don’t think Obama is a Manchurian Candidate?”
“You don’t want kids?”

The judgment is immediate and universal: what is wrong with you as a person that makes you dislike kids? First of all, I don’t see what’s wrong with not liking kids. Some people feel uncomfortable around them or are just not interested. It’s like there are cat people and dog people. But sometimes it’s not a matter of dislike. I love to cuddle babies and I like kids, especially when they’re not screaming, throwing up, sassing me or asking me to do things like play with them (basically, what I really like are very short adults). I’m very fond of quite a few, some of whom I’ve only ever seen growing up on the internet, and honestly enjoy their antics. That does not mean I want any of them. You’ll never find me on the news as a child-hungry supermarket kidnapper.

Of course, I’m Indian and single. Nobody asks me any of these questions because… well, I’m Indian and single. All the aunties are too obsessed with my approaching spinsterhood to much wonder about my thoughts on childbirth. So all I have to do, is not get married until I find someone I want to have kids with.

Done! :mrgreen:

[Image via]


Posted by on May 19, 2010 in Desipundit, Life, Personal, Video


Tags: , , , ,

41 responses to “Saying No

  1. shilpadesh

    May 19, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Wow! It is like there is something in the air and I find bloggers all over talking about being/not being a parent. Totally agree with your predicament. I want to have a child when I want, not because someone thinks it is the ‘right’ time.

  2. Beth

    May 19, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Oooh I have so much to say, namely that this is delightfully written and sums up my own views quite well. I have no desire to have children and never had, and anyone who seems to imply to me that they think I am lesser for it, or flawed, or selfish (um hello, having a mini-you is WAY more selfish than inflicting only your already-extant self on the world), or cold, or whatever…just doesn’t know me. Thank Helen above only total strangers ever ask me about this.

    Anyway, another good reason not to have kids, apart from the world being horrible, is that we will not allow them in our awesome Bollywood fan retirement haveli/group home/refuge away from the maddening crowds where the stars come hang out to relax, and I can’t really imagine you not being a part of that! 🙂

    • memsaab

      May 20, 2010 at 2:50 pm

      Amen sister.

    • sitaji

      May 25, 2010 at 10:34 pm

      Add another spinster aunty to the Bollywood fan retirement haveli/group home! Count me in! 🙂

  3. Kashmira

    May 19, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    I have been struggling with this for a while too…anyone I meet asks, so when are you having kids. (We have crossed the 2 yr deadline after getting married)

    Point is, neither one of us wants a baby. We don’t understand them. But others don’t understand this! My SIL, for example, when I said, I said I don’t feel like, her response was, its not about your feelings. huh!? Then whose?

    Then the MIL says, are you not trying? are you not able to have kids? Honestly, I don’t know, and I don’t want to find out whether I can. The third option “don’t want” just does not occur to anyone!

    Then there are others who casually ask and then equally casually say, ok, enjoy life for some more time. Hmm…so are they saying having kids will ruin my joy? If so, then why am I expected to have them?

    Traditionally, in India, ppl had kids solely for having a boy, solely to have someone take care of them when they grow old. Selfish?

    Sigh…there is no end to this discussion. I think next time some one asks, I will say I cannot. Period.

  4. Nandini Vishwanath

    May 19, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    Okay, first things first. I’m trying to think whether I love this post more or whether I love the Khanna posts 😀

    I think I will choose this for now.

    Now that we’ve cleared it up ( do you see how well I create paragraphs?), I TOTALLY TOTALLY understand the fetal position and the screaming and the yelling and the God-knows-what-else. My gynaec who is also my aunt ( Hmm!) said that I’d suffer like this every month (she is right!) UNTIL I have a baby. At 11, I decided I wanted a baby. I begged my mom to do something about it. (Imagine scene – Tambrahm house – I’m asking for a baby!) Anyway, like everything else, I bore it all (I’d like to say silently, but my neighbors, friends and family will disagree) and made peace by calling God a man. I mean how else do they get away with throat problems and hair on their face ( that they like!) as puberty issues? And we end up with mind-body but not stomach and back numbing pain? Really.

    Now, I’m married. I hate kids. Not hate them coz they are pests. That too, but I don’t get along with them. I am not creative enough. I get bored. But the ‘our child’ thing? That has hit me. Until recently, say a year ago, I wanted a kid just to get rid of my pain ( worsened after marriage – meaning again, a man is responsible). Now, I want it for me. So, I could groom him or her to change the world. Something I couldn’t do because I’m lying there for a week every month.

    *phew* Don’t you just love stories in parantheses? 🙂

    Good post. ( No, I’m not telling myself :D)

  5. Unmana

    May 20, 2010 at 12:28 am

    I also thought I’d probably want kids when I was with someone fabulous and committed. I was wrong: I wanted kids less. My life is complete, balanced: a kid wouldn’t be welcome at all! And isn’t it kinder to not bring a child into a home that doesn’t need it?

    • eclat

      May 21, 2010 at 2:40 am

      I agree! We don’t have a kid yet, despite my being in the danger zone of reproductive age, because we lead a perfectly happy life with each other, and don’t feel the need to make space for one more. Is that a crime?
      Plus, I have another reason, which some may term as excessively Cassandra-like, but can our planet really cope with another mouth to feed? I look around and see people going without water, clean air, food, and it just completely puts me off having to put my child through this ever-increasing struggle for the most basic things. And yes, at least in India, things are going to get worse, no matter how much we try to disprove global warming and stuff.

  6. Unmana

    May 20, 2010 at 12:36 am

    By the way, that video’s awesome!

  7. apu

    May 20, 2010 at 1:24 am

    “Halfway through this latest experiment in good parenting, even she realized the absurdity of telling a child under constant surveillance and a 6 p.m. curfew (more importantly, braces and thick spectacles) to practice abstinence.”

    Hahahahha. Hilarious.

    To be honest, I don’t quite understand how people “dislike” children; sure, you can dislike some kids, but I don’t understand treating them all like one homogenous group. They’re individual people too, just like adults.

    Having said that, I don’t see what is so wrong or selfish about nt having kids. If anything, it’s those who have kids and then whine about their ‘life being over’ who are selfish…

  8. Zahra

    May 20, 2010 at 3:04 am


    “…braces and thick spectacles) to practice abstinence. It’s not like I had a choice, much less the opportunity.”…. LOL!!! Join the club, sistah! 😀

    I’m a pro-bachcha type myself, but I don’t see anything wrong if women insist they don’t want kids…. people oughta have a say on their own bodies and lives after all.

    As for that part in the end on being Indian and single, well, single Indian women are not even supposed to know why hens lay eggs till they tie the knot :P. I’m single and am always asked if there’s ‘good news’ (i.e. a man, just in case you wondered)…. on a weekly basis, mind. My married friend tells me the phrase continues even after marriage albeit for different reasons.

    It’s much more weird/ abnormal to have a kid when you do not the time or space for one in your life.

  9. dipali

    May 20, 2010 at 5:14 am

    Somehow, not having kids didn’t really seem like an option when I was growing up! People who didn’t have kids usually couldn’t, and either ended up being sad and depressed, or adopting. Having kids is now a far more thought out affair, and is of course entirely between the man and the woman involved. Before he hit fame with his baby and kiddie glorifying poems, Ogden Nash wasn’t too enamoured of them either- I’d blogged about it here do check it out.
    It’s interesting how a woman’s reproductive system is the focus of so much public concern! Great post.

  10. Amodini

    May 20, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    “. . . I don’t see what’s wrong with not liking kids. . . It’s like there are cat people and dog people.”

    LOL – I disagree (about the cat-dog thing), but how hilarious ! I have kids, and while I’m in love with my 2 little mes, I do think that a woman should have a choice to not have kids, and be able to say so, without getting the “she’s-insane/unwomanly” treatment. A woman is not the sum of her ovaries, but society is yet to comprehend that.

  11. Shalini

    May 20, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Personally, I think not having kids is the most *selfless* decision a person can make. And I say this as the Mother of a much beloved little boy whom I only ocassionally want to give away. 😀

    • dipali

      May 20, 2010 at 1:42 pm

      I think we all want to give them away at some point or the other!

  12. Rohini

    May 20, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Thought you might find this interesting

  13. sachita

    May 20, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Just adding to the thought pool,
    I like babies and have always wanted to be a mother. And I like men too and hope to find a decent guy someday. They arent related, as of today in my head.

    Infact, till a few years ago, I wanted to adopt(in case I couldnt find) but realized I can barely manage myself leave alone a kid/baby without some one to share the responsibility with.

    Couple of more things, suffering for 35+ years is way too much for couple of years of child bearing that I plan on.

    And of all things in life, having babies should not be a default option.


    ps: Regarding your Khanna saga, let me just say that Vinod Khanna was when God wanted to make Rahul Khanna and failed – he got it right with Rahul Khannna – Good job! some one up there:)

  14. memsaab

    May 20, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    I usually tell people when they ask why I’m not married and don’t have children that it’s because I am overqualified for it all.

    That usually shuts them up, since they are now clearly underqualified.

    • Shivani

      May 21, 2010 at 9:17 am

      Woohoo! Superb. Taaliyan for memsaab. And someone is going to hear that retort very soon 😀

    • sitaji

      May 25, 2010 at 10:41 pm

      Oh I LOVE that, “overqualified” is fantastic! I love kids and am frequently asked by kids/teens I work with, “Do you have kids? Don’t you want kids? Why don’t you have kids” and I have always responded, something like, “Well I’m not married and I think it would be too difficult of a job to do alone, ” and that normally stops conversation, and if it doesn’t I add, “Now if you know someone fantastic for me to marry, let me know,” and then that completely shuts them up. I like the simplicity of being overqualified. I have other friends who believe that the qualified are not reproducing, and thus society continues to go down hill. 🙂

    • Beth

      May 25, 2010 at 10:46 pm

      I almost hope I get asked just so I can use memsaab’s awesome line!

      • sitaji

        May 25, 2010 at 11:08 pm

        Hey Beth, why no kids?

  15. Never Mind

    May 20, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    I think I will put myself in the selfish category here. So far, the reasons I can think of for having a baby was the immense curiosity to see if I am capable (my MIL offered to pay for gyn visit to make sure everything was working :))and to experience the whole nine months. The added pressure from family, friends and random aunty-types helped immensely. I am trying not to think of snotty noses, nappies and sleepless nights, of course!

  16. eclat

    May 21, 2010 at 2:41 am

    PS I love my pink monster profile pic! Can I get one in green too? 🙂

  17. rgc

    May 21, 2010 at 9:18 am

    More than not wanting to have kids, I want relationships where the ‘wanting kids’ part is not a default. A lot of people looking to be married or to be in a relationship assume that the other person wants kids.As though its as natural as breathing. I mean this from a male perspective as well.
    I love the fact that there are so many couples who are choosing not to have kids. I like that.

  18. rgc

    May 21, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Also : I’d rather be a mentor/coach and leave behind talents and skills in this world than a full blown human being. That to me is ultimately more useful than having a child.

  19. Shivani

    May 21, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Just what I needed to read. I’ve been often guilty of saying ‘*I* want a baby’ – but I totally get what you mean. There’s no way I’m going to have one if I’m the only one raising it, just because I love babies in general. There has to be someone who shares my principles on family, parenting, blah blah to make that child with.
    Gah, but will these aunties ever understand that? One has also asked me recently, “You’re so fond of kids & good with them & they love you — why don’t you get married?” Yeah, like the best, most obvious reason to marry EVER

  20. Rahul

    May 21, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Children are overrated.

  21. Amrita

    May 21, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Well, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one! That Bollywood retirement home is going to run out of space pretty quick at this rate! 😀

    Shilpa – I read this article over at Jezebel that I’m too lazy to dig up now; it was about breastfeeding. And it scared the bejesus out of me. And I got to thinking how I planned to have kids if something as simple as breastfeeding freaks me out (did you know the nipple is like nozzle that sprays milk down a baby’s throat? ARGH! Not my nipple!) – and I finally got off the fence and faced facts: I don’t plan to have kids. Surprises are welcome but the batteries are dead on my biological clock.

    Kashmira – hahaha! I don’t understand them either! I know how to take of them but the whole bonding thing defeats me except with a few kids who basically have to train me to get along with them. Next time somebody asks, tell them you’re thinking about it. That way nobody will bother you by trying to “convert” you.

    Nandini – that is hilarious! And the world could always use more people with the genetic know-how to create paras!

    Unmana – god bless the french, right?

    @ Shalini & Dipali – LOL!

    @Sachita – lol @ the Khanna. I have considered adoption too but again, its not something I want to do all by myself. If I somehow find myself in the situation of single parenthood, that’s one thing. But I don’t voluntarily choose single motherhood biologically or otherwise. (the biology of my child is largely irrelevant to me actually)

    @NMind – that’s what husbands are for! :mrgreen:

    @eclat – i think its totally random 😦 The pink monster just loved you that day!

    @ Rahul – you’re a brave man, my friend! 😀

  22. le embrouille blogueur

    May 22, 2010 at 1:32 am

    Kudos to you for saying what you said ….and touching every possible aspect of this theory….why do Indians start to panic when a woman is single … and does not consider motherhood the ultimate goal of her life…..I think this post of yours is my most fav post of yours.

  23. Kanan

    May 22, 2010 at 2:35 am

    I like the post, Amrita.
    Not sure whether you can read Gujarati or not, but here’s a picture I took on my last trip to India in 2009. I really liked it a lot. I wish I got to read part 1 of it, but I couldn’t find it while I was there.

  24. Jan

    May 22, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Amen, sister girl. A.MEN.

  25. Hades

    May 24, 2010 at 7:14 am

    You’re doing the planet a favour and all, too, btw:


    The earliest I remember someone saying as much to me was when my then BFF told me her cousin, who was the same age as us (maybe 11 at the time?), didn’t want kids because she wasn’t looking forward to experiencing labor.

    When I was five I was convinced God had it all sorted all, fairly:

    Women went through labour. Men got circumcised.

  26. Ramsu

    May 24, 2010 at 11:12 am

    LOL @ child-hungry supermarket kidnapper… although I think Diablo Cody has a better turn of phrase in baby-starved wingnut 🙂

  27. I am Fe Male 2!

    May 24, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Inexplicabe, my Monday morning instinct to kill two birds with one stone:

    1) I am female too, and here’s a frickin’ good chance to chime in and reinforce that!

    2) I saw Iron Man 2 this weekend and…and… SPEECHLESS. (Is there such a thing as a top-secret Hollywood meme — to randomly pick ONE person (from, say, the Silicon Valley!) and make an ENTIRE movie just to cater to their EVERY whim and fancy — that Jon “Happy Hogan” Favreau may have carried out SO WELL? If you answered yes, then Saturday was *my* lucky day!)

    And now, this whole “immediate and universal judgment” thing — tell me about it!! Glad I’m far removed (at least as of *this* point in life) from jumping-to-quick-conclusions auntyji types. But they’ll probably love me to death coz I married and had kids super early. Unless of course I rain on their parade by rattling off a couple of those deviant confessions, inviting reactions roughly along the lines of:

    “You want to have your boy friend AND your husband too?”

    “You actually *told* your husband he’s not your soul mate and he’s ok with that? And still loves you to death? And you love him for that?”

    “Your husband really says things like, ‘I can never figure you out; when there’s a bulding collapsing right in front of you, how can you blissfully stare at a floating leaf?'”

    “You hated marriage, hated kids, yet nosedived into both, relatively uninjured?”

    OK, the last one is just me talking to one lucky me. 😀

  28. Reema

    May 25, 2010 at 2:47 am

    totally agree with the post..even when I am married now 🙂

    check out my take on the topic

  29. sitaji

    May 25, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    OK, I have already replied to other comments, but wanted to add another. I was recently misunderstood it a way that you will perhaps understand. Had a conversation at work with someone (rude adult!) asking me why I don’t have kids/don’t I want kids, etc. and I did the typical response (described in my comments above) saying I thought I’d only have kids if I were married since it was too difficult to do alone, difficult on the child and parent. This person went on to tell me that now days I could be a single parent w/out as much scrutiny from society as in the past, etc.. “Well you could adopt!” WTF!? Can you believe she kept on and on!?!? Anyway, I said that I thought when people just want to have a kid to have a kid it was selfish. I left it at that, thinking if she was so rude to keep on, now she’d stop. I thought it was obvious that I was saying, without expressly stating that it, that to have a kid to just have a kid was then a motivation that came from either societal pressure, or from the ego vs. one of pure love. Of course she still didn’t get it and replied, “So you think you’re too selfish to have a kid?” and I tried to say “No, I think if would be selfish for me to have a kid, just to have a kid.” Obviously she didn’t get it, but I bet you do. 🙂 I firmly believe that it’s the rarest of situations where 2 people come together and are intellectually, financially, emotionally, and spiritually prepared AND love and respect each other and THEN have a baby to show the baby a great life. Great post behen. So when are you going to have a baby!?!?!?

    • Amrita

      May 26, 2010 at 3:41 pm

      I’m overqualified, sister! :mrgreen:

      And that is one obnoxious woman. You should have asked her if she gets a commission for every convert. Just really sweetly and as though as you meant it seriously and had no idea it might offend her.

  30. devalina

    June 1, 2010 at 7:00 am

    LOVELY. i love the things you say, and the way you say them. i’m 35, married, and feel absolutely no need to have a child. My favorite way to deal with the ‘why are you not having a baby’ is the following: i wait for the person to go into full flow, and then, when they pause to breathe, i say
    ‘i’m sterile’

    then, the much more subdued line of all this IVF stuff, i wait for that to hot up, and then say:
    ‘it’s really sad, but we cant afford that’
    which is usually end of the conversation:))
    fabulous post, and really enjoyed the discussion. is it ok if i follow you?

    • Amrita

      June 1, 2010 at 3:47 pm

      LOL!! Now thats what I call beating them at their own game! welcome to the blog!

  31. eclat

    June 7, 2010 at 12:14 am

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