DEEPA ALEXANDER

Many couples are deciding against having children early in marriage, or not at all. High-pressure urban lifestyles and unconventional career choices seem to be influencing decisions on parenthood. We ask an obstetrician, a lawyer, a clinical psych ologist and a social work consultant on how these choices affect women.

Give yourselves time

I have always believed that a couple should give themselves a chance to know each other before embarking on the responsibility of a baby. A couple needs a year or two to work out the pitfalls that are a given in the first flush of living together. In a culture like ours, where the girl may well meet her husband-to-be just a few weeks or months before her marriage, waiting to have a baby allows her to get used to this new individual in her life. Even a couple who have been going out with each other for a long time may be caught by surprise at the adjustments needed when you actually have to live in the same space and time continuum! Too, a new family, with its own quirks and idiosyncrasies needs adjusting to. In this scenario, to plunge into parenthood seems reckless and may create tensions where none need exist.

At the same time, I do believe that having a child completes the circle of love. Though putting off having a child is sometimes a compulsion for the sake of studies or a budding career, it should not be for ever.

As a gynaecologist, my suggestion for safe and dependable contraception has always been the low-dose birth control pill. These can be taken for as long as the couple wants to avoid a pregnancy. Once the pills are stopped, fertility is restored and the couple can go ahead with a pregnancy. The common fears of unwanted weight gain, abnormalities in a pregnancy and the risk of cancer are unfounded in scientific fact.

Having taken birth control pills for five years to complete my residency in obstetrics and gynaecology, and then having gone on to have two wonderful children and build a successful career, you may say I have walked the talk!

Dr. GITA ARJUN,


Director and Obstetrician,


E.V. Kalyani Hospital

I believe that couples deciding against having children early or not all are only stray cases in today’s context that too only among educated, elite, urban couples and not among the illiterate, rural couples. A child is a new beginning, a new hope and a creative gift of mutual love of the partners involved but often in today’s context it is not so. In our patriarchal society, women are often compelled to have children, without any say in the matter. Women who make unconventional career choices very rarely remain married with such decisions. They either stay unmarried, are deserted or are divorced. Couples should discuss this option before marriage as the decision not to have children taken solely by the woman after marriage is a violation of the human rights of the man.

RAMANIE MATHEW,

Legal advisor, Gender issues

Whether it is DINK (Double Income No Kids) or Voluntarily Child-Free (less stigmatising than childless), one common thread seems to be freedom of choice. There has been a steady rise in the number of women opting out of motherhood.

Personal reasons such as career growth, financial freedom, time spent on educational goals, hobbies and interests maybe motivators. Population explosion, environmental/global concerns, parenting issues, latchkey children and rising crime rates among youngsters are the larger concerns.

In the absence of any comparative research, women who choose to be child free maybe as well adjusted vis a vis their counterparts. Whatever the reason, women especially are ostracised by the family, discriminated at the workplace, neglected by the media and perceived as being selfish and less committed by the community.

Flouting societal norms and stereotypes are considered deviant rather than different. These women maybe missing out on bedtime stories, PTA meetings and birthday bashes. However if happiness is a matter of personal choice and if that’s what women want, so be it.

SANGEETHA MADHU,


Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Trustee, SERFAC

I was married in August 2003 when I was 29, an age when most women in India have had two or more children. Immediately after my wedding I began a Masters Program and so had to put aside the idea of having a child. During the months that followed, I was quite happy with the decision I made. I could see that having a child would hinder my education. Upon my return to India I went ahead to finish my PhD for which I had to live in a different city from my husband. All the years of independent living put the idea of having a baby at a distance. The more I led my life independently, the less I began to see the need to have a child. My husband supported me in this decision, although he would have loved to have a child, but I was not ready for it. I feel that postponing was a good decision since otherwise I would not have been able to complete my education.

FLORINA BENOIT


Founder and Director,


Glo Foundation

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