Single, footloose and childfree | Women Uninterrupted podcast - Season 4, Episode 3

Childfree by choice

Updated - October 12, 2023 12:46 pm IST

Published - October 11, 2023 03:57 pm IST

A podcast with solopreneur Anuradha Kumar, who has decided to be childfree.

(Scroll down for the podcast transcript after the blog by Ann, member of Childfree India.)

Women Uninterrupted is a podcast by The Hindu. We bring you difficult, different and uninterrupted conversations about being a woman.

Host: Anna Thomas 

Guest: Anuradha Kumar

Title music: Maya Dwarka

Production: Anna Thomas, The Scribbling Pad

Blog: Is life only about the uterus?

By Ann, Researcher

I have decided to be childfree.

I am a member of the Childfree India group, but I am not an antinatalist. Antinatalists are people who don’t support procreation. Childfree is a personal choice. By childfree, we mean that we don’t want to give birth. Not only that, we don’t want to have a kid in our life.

Why did I decide to be childfree?

I have to start from my early life when I reached reproductive age, after menarche. We were told not to speak to guys. A taboo was there. We were told something like, you get married, you’ll have a kid. I could also see marriages happening, but I couldn’t see why kids should be a thing in marriage.

When I was in 12th grade, half of my classmates - because it’s a village - were planning to get married after 12th, as the legal age to marry is 18. And by college, like, second year, third year, they already had a kid. When I went to my hometown, it would be like, I am behind and they are somewhat superior to us. I was like, why are we feeling inferior? Just because we went to study and didn’t have a child made people like me inferior? I didn’t agree with that.

It felt a bit odd because the people who had kids totally lost their lives. They lose their education. After a child, they lose their identity. For example, they name the kid Priya. The mother is called Priya’s mother. Her original name would be something else, like Revati. They won’t call her Revati. They call her Priya’s mother. They even lose their respect if they don’t give birth.

And then came college. Everyone sees lovers in college. I could see so many people getting breakups every year, as they graduated. That was a destructive trend as per village norms. So they don’t send their daughters to college.

Let’s open our eyes to read in between: When they were in love, they didn’t have a kid. They enjoyed their life. And things didn’t work out. They moved on. But if the same happens for married people who have kids, they are not able to walk off. The kid makes them unhappy. And they are not able to voice it out. 

One more fact is, these people who all say kids are joy: At least for the first five years, kids are not a joy.

I came across people who got married who don’t want a kid, but they were put in a position where they have to give birth, because it is considered normal. I don’t think it is a normal thing. It is a forced thing. Is it a good thing to have kids in a marital relationship and lose the next 20 years of life in the name of happiness, family, society; or choose to be with a person you love, stay childfree forever and stay really happy?

A friend was not able to conceive. She visited nearly 10 to 15 doctors. She didn’t have any problem, but she was put into a situation where she must say some prayers, some kind of recitations. Only one fertility centre told her that she has to get her husband tested. He was not ready to do it. Maybe in cities such as Mumbai, men are okay with it, but in my place when a man goes for a test, it is considered a great sin. And if the guy’s test comes back as normal, that is a greater sin. They will blame the woman: that she made him do it.

So, it is always about the baby. The couple are not valued. Only her uterus is valued.

Is life only about the uterus?

No, it is about the mind and mindset. It is about how you support each other. Nobody speaks of it.

Some people spend one year together, understand each other and then plan for a child because they think it is a wise choice and the child will suffer if you have one even before you sort out your issues. I’m not telling you it is wrong. It’s a wise choice. But still, my point here is, after the kid, does it mean you’ll never have issues in your life? The only thing is, you’ll learn the techniques to handle each other. The question is why do you set a kid as a parameter?

It’s as if you need a year to get prepared for your child.

Why should that parameter be there?

Why can’t you do it for a lifetime?

My UG studies lasted for five-and-a-half years. By then, 80% of my friends got married. In post-graduation, either married people were studying with me or by the first year, everyone was getting married. And in the final year - my parents were from a village, so they obviously pushed me to get married. Everyone said if we are blessed with a child, it is god’s grace.

But I say, by god’s grace, I didn’t get pregnant. We were sexually very active and no contraceptives were used. I didn’t get pregnant.

Before and during my marriage, everyone respected me. After about three months, everyone was concerned about my menstrual history. The people around my age or younger had two or three kids. Whenever I went to an event, they asked, “Are you menstruating every month?”

I am a normal woman. I’m menstruating every month. What’s the problem?

When they asked me such stupid questions, I just ignored them.

And they were like, are you planning for a child?

I told them that we are not planning to have it right now. I want to get settled in my life. Until then, please don’t ask this question.

They were not satisfied with my answer.

Day by day, the respect towards me went very low. They did not treat me as a human. They forced me to take some fertility tests, all the hormonal/USG scans and everything. And I was normal. My husband was normal. Still, we had not conceived.

What is the problem? I’m not concerned. They were more concerned than me and my husband. Nobody was seeing that I’m healthy. They were all torturing my mental health. Was anybody satisfied with him being happy? Me being happy?

People bother about a couple being on good terms until they get a kid. After that, nobody is bothered. Most of them are in distress with spouse and children. Everyone graciously ignores it in the name of “What a wonderful family god has blessed you with.” That’s their last word.

In the same way, nobody took any initiative to see if we worked together as a couple. But everyone took initiatives to make me have a child.

Am I a machine?

And then we got separated. The marriage didn’t work out. It was not because I’m childfree. Some other issues came up between us.

Actually, I never knew that women had a choice until I was introduced to Childfree Tamil Nadu. It was after my separation that I became aware that women can choose. In my village, there is no choice for a woman. If you are not having a kid, that’s it. You’re an infertile woman, giving a bad name to the family and a demon to the society. Or else, they’ll find other ways to conceive.

The human population is increasing in India. Nobody is controlling the population. For the increase of population, people are very eager to take initiatives and treat women cruelly. If a woman is not able to conceive naturally, that means her body is not ready for it. Give her some time. 

Instead, they alter her hormones and make her prone to all sorts of health disorders. And we call it “motherhood!” If conception is god’s gift, you can call a conception through IVF as a doctor’s gift, right? Why is it hard for society to accept that? Is it not cruelty towards humanity, and is it not pathetic?

I get to hear a lot of comments like, we are worried that we can’t have a child after 8 years, 13 years and so on. I wonder how blind people can go, and lose 8 to 13 years of wonderful life they could have led. The goal in life is not to have a kid; the goal should be happiness.

Yes, I have decided to be childfree. I am single as of now. If I’m seeing someone, I will make sure at the beginning, even before the conversation starts, to state that I’m a childfree person because it will be just a heartbreak and a waste of time for both if I did not make that clear.

Audio Transcript

Anna Thomas: This is the Women Uninterrupted podcast brought to you by The Hindu. This podcast is a space where we host difficult, different and uninterrupted conversations between women. (Music)

Hello, I’m your host, Anna Thomas on Women Uninterrupted, and this episode is part of a five-part series on women and singlehood. It’s a quiet morning in Bangalore and with me, I have a single, footloose and - well, I’m not sure if she’s fancy free, but she’s sparklingly single and wants to be hashtag childfree. Welcome to Women Uninterrupted, Anuradha. We are here on this podcast today because we’re talking about being childfree. Increasing numbers of people are identifying as childfree. Instagram this morning had 335,000 posts with the childfree hashtag. Women are celebrating being childfree, creating online communities to find respite from taboos they encounter in real life. 

Anu, let’s begin from the very beginning. Was being childfree an organic state of being for you or did you have an eureka moment like, hey, I don’t want to put marriage and motherhood on the cards anytime now. 

Anuradha Kumar: Hi, Anna. Thanks so much for having me on your podcast Women Uninterrupted. 

To the point in question about singlehood and childfree, it’s not so much as singlehood as it is childfree, because being single or not is my decision. Again, I feel a lot of women can take the decision to be childfree as well. And I’ve chosen to go childfree irrespective of what the society around me thinks. So yes, I may get married later in the future. But having a child is definitely not on the cards.

Anna: I’m going to ask you a question which I would not ask in an ideal world. No childfree person would have to give reasons for being who she is, in the same way that you would not ask a parent: “but why did you become a parent?” But because you’re on my podcast, and we try to open up conversations between generations on difficult topics, I am going to ask you: Could you name some of the reasons? Have you analysed why you’re childfree?

Anuradha Kumar

Anuradha Kumar

Anuradha: So, Anna, basically, going childfree was a decision of mine I’d taken really early in my 20s. Then I figured, with most of my friends getting married and having kids, now that I’m into my early 30s, I feel having kids has become a really expensive affair. 

B) It just feels a lot for me personally, to want to have a child of my own. And I’m really not there. I don’t think I want to be in that situation. But I’m always fond of my friends’ kids. And I think I have a bunch of them who have children who love me a lot and you know, like, I’ve become Auntie Anu.

Anna: Favourite aunt to many children, would you say?

Anuradha: Yes, in fact, I think…I’m asked to take them around as a library companion or as a playdate with them when I spend some time with my friends in their houses. So, yeah, I mean, it’s not about being averse to kids; it’s just that it’s my decision to not have any of my own.

Anna: Do you mean being biologically childfree? Would you - have you ever thought earlier of other methods of having children like adoption? Have you considered it?

Anuradha: So, adoption was something that did cross my mind for a later stage in my life, because I think a lot of people say you cannot live like an island. So, just in terms of having someone to care about and you know, who will probably care for you in return…I think most part of being a parent - 80% of being a parent nowadays - is to ensure that they have somebody to look after them in the future - because right now, the way kids are growing, it feels like Gen Z are all about - they’re still with their parents and there’s a lot of attachment still. It’s not like the early days where one would just go out, make their own life and then you know, call (parents) to come and visit. Now even when people have kids, it’s their mothers who are looking after them. So it’s become like a whole family affair, and you just feel like childbearing is becoming a little too difficult, at least from my point of view.

Anna: There’s something called tokophobia: fear of pregnancy… 

Anuradha: Right.

Anna: Does the physical process of childbirth…has that been an influencing factor?

Anuradha: That’s also one of the things - because I love my alcohol. I am being a bit blunt here but yeah, to a lot of people, I think sacrifice comes first place in having a kid - and I have not been that sacrificial by nature. I have sacrificed for, yes, things I want…but they say a mom is somebody who can sacrifice a lot for their kid, and I’ve never seen myself being the person who’s sacrificing so much to allow that discomfort into my area. I know I might be treading on so many shoes here when I talk about discomfort and kids. But this is a personal point of view. I just feel that for me, it would be discomforting to my way of life.

Anna: Have you ever had occasion to discuss this with family, with older members of the family?

Anuradha: So with family, I feel it’s come to a point where they also know that I prefer not wanting to get into an arrangement where I’d have a kid involved. And it’s mostly been pets - so, I’m a huge dog lover. I think I’d rather have a golden retriever and look after the golden retriever for 14 years. 

Anna: Yeah, it’d be nice to be a pet mom? 

Anuradha: Yes. Always been a pet mom. I was a pet mom for 13 years, when my dog passed away. And then, it’s been a little bit of a grieving stage. I feel even though it’s been five, six years, it takes a lot from you. I love dogs. And I think I would want to be a dog mom again.

Anna: So, to anyone who says that being childfree is a passing fad - or she will grow out of it - we have to say that the term childfree… Well, when did you first hear of it?

Anuradha: As you grow up, you just come across these terminologies. As for people who tell me you’ll grow out of it, I think I hear it the other way, where they say: What if the guy who is with Anu wants to have kids - then what do you do? So I’m like: No, this would be a discussion we’d have very early because A) he’d be somebody who loves animals too. And we’d prefer not having any biological kids of our own. Of course, if it’s somebody who already has a kid, then again it’s me staying true to myself, where it’s not me biologically having a kid but it’s yeah, someone I can care for - that’s fine.

Anna: At what age did you think: Ok, I don’t think I’m going to have children…Were you a child; were you a teenager?

Anuradha: I think I was in my mid 20s when the quarter life crisis hit me. So I think around 24/25 - that’s when I was convinced that I would not want to get into a situation where I’d become a mom. And I think there is a little inherent fear within where I feel it’s more about control. And I see that - because this situation might not be in my control - is one of the reasons that I would not want it. Because that again is a very - it comes as a - I don’t know - fork in the road of your thought process. But I guess it’s just that: just not being put in a situation where I’d have to take control of another human being’s life ‘cos I just feel like, laissez faire. Like, it’s non-interference for me that I like. So I prefer being non-interfering to other people around.

Anna: So, as I was saying - I was just coming to that - the term childfree was first used in 1901. It’s not a social media new term. It became popular globally in the 1970s among feminists, and then, that was the time when media started featuring the Double Income No Kids couples…(And I remember that) you said that you were a SINK!

Anuradha (laughing)That’s an acronym that my aunt actually coined for me and told me in a very joking manner: So, Anu, you’re going to be a sink…and it took me a while to connect the dots and then I was like, yeah, single income, no kids, sounds cool. I think that can be a new hashtag, going forward.

Anna: By 2004, the hashtag childfree was trending. And it’s taken longer in India, of course but now, in India, we have the Childfree India movement, and I’ve spoken to a few of them. This movement includes antinatalists: in a nutshell, they say it is morally wrong to procreate. There are the efilists: that’s a social movement that assigns a negative value to birth; there are childfree persons like you. And there is the VHEM: the Voluntary Human Extinction movement. They’re part of the Childfree India movement. When you say childfree, it includes the term free - freedom…

Anuradha: There is no movement as such that has caught my fancy. Like I told you earlier in the podcast, it was a personal decision. And in fact, I have no issues with people who have issues - I mean, it’s up to them (laughs). As long as you’re not getting into my space, that’s cool by me. 

To all those who have taken a decision to be childfree, I just have to tell them: you know, I give this as a comeback to some people who ask me if I do not regret having kids. I’d just be like: Do you regret having them? Cheers!

Anna: Thank you, thank you so much, Anu. If you are a single woman and would like to share with us your views on being childfree, or antinatalist, email us at Signing off on this episode of Women Uninterrupted, a podcast where we host difficult, different and uninterrupted conversations brought to you by The Hindu.

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