To become or not – a parent.

Yesterday, I came across this article.

It talks about how many couples seem to be opting not have children – for various reasons. While some viewpoints support the idea, there was one viewpoint that caught my eye.

But how natural or unnatural is it for a couple to not have kids? “It’s not a socio-culturally natural way of living,” says Dr Bhavna Barmi, senior clinical psychologist and marital therapist at Escorts Heart Institute, “as physiologically, the body has a child-bearing capacity which should be optimised.” 

Surely, just because the body has a ‘child-bearing capacity’ it is not necessary to have children? What about the mind? What about not wanting to have children, does that not matter at all? If we have to do everything the body is designed to, then why ‘contraception’?

The article also reminded me of a somebody who was glorifying motherhood on Facebook. She mentioned something to the effect that women will always be ‘greater’ than men because only women can be ‘mothers’. It begged the question, what about women who don’t want to be mothers? Going by this logic, the only redeeming feature women has, is the ability to become a mother!

You hear so many people glorifying motherhood, that it makes me wonder how it makes those feel who have decided for whatever reasons, to not have children. The moment the ‘expected’ amount of time goes by after one is married, the hints, the gentle reminders start on how we need to become parents, on how it is time to have a child. And god forbid, if the child does not make an appearance soon enough to make the society happy! Whether one is ready for it or not,whether one wants to become a parent or not, is besides the point. It makes me wonder how many people decide to have a baby because of these external factors.

Having a baby is treated as a fix-all in so many cases – if your marriage is not working out, have a baby, that will fix it! A friend was lamenting on a friend of hers who was literally asked to leave the house by her husband. It was arranged marriage and her husband was just not interested in being married, apparently. She had supportive parents who supported her fully, yet when she discovered that she was pregnant,  she chose to go back to her husband because she felt that a baby would change things. This despite her parents and her close friends counseling her to think before taking this step. Apparently she strongly believed that a child would make a massive difference.

It also makes me wonder why being in a relationship is considered so important, that she went back into a relationship where she was told that she was ‘unwanted’! Not just that, she even thought that bringing a child into a relationship like this was a good idea.

Haven’t we all heard of irresponsible men, of whom people say, ‘Get him married off, he will get change once responsibility comes upon him’. I don’t understand this. A person who clearly has problems, or is not mature enough to handle his life, will get mature and responsible just because he has entered a new relationship? Does it ever work? Well, it might for some, while for others the poor wife might have to bear the brunt of it.

Any relationship, be it marriage or having a child, after all being a father or a mother is starting off a whole new relationship, isn’t it, needs to thought out. Instead of going by what society dictates, wouldn’t it be wonderful if people decided based on what they wanted from life? If couples are deciding against having babies, well, more power to them. Whatever be the reason. I hear people say, ‘oh all she is bothered about is her career’, or ‘what do they think they will do with all this money’! Surely, that is their lookout. If someone wants to focus on their career – so what? And what of a homemaker, who does not want a child? Surely that is possible. I personally know someone who is a homemaker and they have decided not to have children. I think it is remarkable that they have thought it through, and have decided based on what makes sense to them. If only every child that came into this world came because the parents truly wanted to have a child, not just because that is what is expected – by others.

If couples feel that they are not ready for a child or that they do not feel the need to be parents, I respect them for having that clarity of thought, than having a child, and then feeling cheated or wishing that they had waited more.

Not having children is far better than having a child and then regretting it, or worse, not being in a position to give the child the love and security that makes for happy childhood and a secure, confident adulthood.

Managing Expectations

In continuation to my previous post, I wanted to add a few more thoughts.

In my working life, one of the things that I used to stress to my team was on the importance of managing expectations. There were several instances where people would commit to more than they could deliver, or to time lines which were just not practical or possible, for that matter. It did far more harm to then have to go back to the client and tell them that the work item that was promised could not be delivered on time.  We have an unexplicable urge ‘to please’ people. So many times, people say ‘yes’ to things, to avoid conflict, but then end in bigger conflicts than what would have been, if they had handled it right the first time.

Managing expectation, in my experience, is the crux of all relationships, be it professional or personal. It makes much better sense to set expectations right, rather than set high expectations and fail to deliver.

And it works both ways. Some children have a sense of entitlement that is mind boggling. I remember having a conversation with somebody who was angry at his parents, because he needed money for something and his parents refused – they said they did not have it. Now this fellow is well educated, in a well paying job, surely time to stop expecting handouts from his parents? I feel it is totally fine for his parents to have refused, but he kept saying that they had enough to spare. Whether they had enough or not – surely, it is their decision. Can’t they decide what they want to do with their hard earned money? Does being somebody’s son or daughter entitle us to everything they own? I think once parents have brought us up, given us an education, we really cannot expect handouts from them. If they have money, I would rather that they kept it and used it for something they like. Have some fun, go on holidays..

There are other instances of parents assumed to be ready made, free, babysitters. I find that really unfair. Even more so, when sometimes, they are uprooted from where they are comfortable, and brought to places(sometimes abroad), where they know nobody, have no life for themselves, and have the job of looking after the grandkids.  It is perfectly acceptable if the parents want to do it, but sometimes, they just do not know how to say no and end up in a situation where everybody is unhappy.

The same goes for parents. Just because they have brought us up, does not give them a ‘right’ over our lives. I am sure that most children would love to be there for their parents, but it works much better when expectations are managed and set.  There are families where the parents live with their son and have a miserable time, because they cannot understand why their daughter-in-law comes home so late from work.  Their son coming back late is perfectly acceptable, but not for the daughter-in-law. It really helps if expectations are set right in the first instance. The fact that both of them hold down jobs and that both their jobs are equally important is something that is best understood at the beginning rather than after things spin off into a point of no return. Pixie’s comment on this post is one such example.

Unreasonable expectations from all quarters can be equally de-stabilizing. Be it from the younger generation or the older. It makes life so much easier, if we could all set, manage and handle expectations at all fronts. Although I have to admit, managing expectations in professional life is a cake-walk in comparison to the managing expectations in personal life.