Why some Indian Women don't want to be Mothers?
Meenakshi decided that she didn’t want to have a child shortly after she got married. She wasn’t suffering from a malaise nor was she ‘deeply troubled’. She simply got up one day and decided that she didn’t want to bring a child into the world which she perceived to be unjust.
Moreover, Meenakshi was passionate about her work as the founder of a retail company and didn’t want motherhood to take away from her responsibilities at work. Her partner understood and supported her decision. Meenakshi belongs to one of the small but growing group of women who have decided not to have children.
Plenty of women were not mothers. Some aren’t able to conceive, some have partners who have low sperm count. Others do not have functional reproductive facilities and some have lost the ability to conceive after suffering violence. The list goes on.
For the purpose of this article, we will be sticking to women who have chosen not to have children and have myriad reasons for making that choice.
Popular Myth about Motherhood:
In some parts of our society, these women are discriminated against for making this very personal choice. This is largely due to the prevalence of the popular myth that women who reject motherhood are ‘incomplete’ or ‘deficient’ in some way.
To understand the reasoning behind this thought, one need look no further than at the terms most often used to describe childless women: ‘barren’ and ‘infertile’. These words carry a negative connotation and compare women to an unproductive soil. As the popular adage goes, a barren field serves no purpose.
The implication being that a woman who is unable to produce children is ‘spoilt’ or ‘defective’ in some way. This line of thinking treats women like commodities and directly ties their worth to their ability to produce babies. This is an extremely harmful attitude to impose on women who don’t want to have children. They have to deal with the additional baggage of wondering whether they’re ‘unnatural’ or ‘monstrous’ simply because they choose not to have children.
What is Motherhood?
Here’s the thing. Motherhood doesn’t come ‘naturally’ to everyone. Popular descriptions of motherhood as ‘magical’ and ‘mystical’ totally erase the blood, sweat, and gore that come with childbirth.
A pregnant woman’s body undergoes dramatic changes; along with body aches, morning sickness, and post-partum depression. It is understandable if some women seek to avoid it. Further, while motherhood can be a very intimate process for some, a lot of women complain about their identities have completed subsumed under the all-powerful category of ‘mother’.
Motherhood becomes a consuming structure with rules and regulations that all ‘good’ mothers must subscribe to.
For example, it generally has frown for a new mother to leave her baby at home and go out. It has deemed perfectly acceptable for fathers to eventually return to their daily routines but it has considered shocking if a mother does the same. How often have we heard admonitions attached with the caveat, “But how can she do this, she is a mother!” Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.
Women in Patriarchal Society:
Women who choose not to have children are incredibly threatening to patriarchal ideas of what a good woman should be: nurturing, sustaining and forgiving. It isn’t a coincidence that the vamp in old Bollywood movies is a childless woman conspiring to bring about destruction to all those around her. We accept incompetence in fathers but find the idea of a woman who doesn’t want to change nappies alien. This is a profound disservice to those women who have discomfited with the idea of being a mother. They exist. They aren’t going to change their minds. The thought of handling a vulnerable human life terrifies them. And that’s okay.
We don’t judge nuns for taking vows of abstinence or men for being awkward around children. By that logic, we must also be empathetic to women who simply don’t see themselves as mothers. They’re not evil, strange or unnatural.
They’re regular people choosing to live life on their own terms and their way of life should not be seen as an attack on others.