The “no kids” decision

5 09 2016

It never occurred to me that parenting could be a choice (like many other conventions of course). When I first heard about it from an acquaintance , the idea of choosing not be a parent was truly shocking to me, to say the least. I couldn’t comprehend the reasons behind the sentiment. But that was 8 years ago. My perception, view, and understanding of world and people has widened to a non-trivial extent since then. 😛 And now besides being curious about the phenomenon, I can totally understand the decision.

I, like most, have been led to believe that raising offspring is the most meaningful aspect of one’s life. What about happiness? Of course, having and raising kids is the source of unsurpassed happiness. Isn’t it? But academic research had not been so conclusive about it. In fact, several research studies suggest that young parents are far unhappier compared to non-parents. The happiness benefits rather seem to roll in much later for the parents – when the kids are grown up. Hmm! Such a dismal outcome! 😦

That parenting is an ordeal is undeniable. It is exhausting physically and emotionally. And the expectations of “modern parenting” only add to the anxiety. According to Jennifer Senior, the concept of parenting and childhood as exists today is only about 70 years old. In the past, kids used to work and were treated as economic assets. Now, kids are economically worthless but emotionally priceless, as sociologist Viviana Zelizer puts it . Jennifer, the author of All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, says that the happiness of our kids is an unfair burden both for parents and kids. We should instead focus on creating circumstances in which they become productive and confident. Happiness can only be a by-product (Listen). Despite the parenting crisis, parents usually vouch for the contentment it brings along the way. Nevertheless, when someone decides not to have kids due to the above or any other reason, they need and should not be judged.

I would think this particular phenomenon has been on an increasing trend in recent times. But maybe not universally. It is mostly seen in advanced/developed societies. This observation brings up many interesting questions.  Where is it most prevalent? It is in individualistic  societies or collectivist societies? What other cultural and social factors are correlated to this trend? (Adding to my to-read list: Japan: The Childless Society?: The Crisis of Motherhood.) Is it because people have become selfish, shallow and self-absorbed?

SelfishMeghan Daum tried to probe the question through “Selfish, Shallow and Self-absorbed” a collection of essays from 16 writers who “chose” not to have kids (a few decades ago). I don’t know what I hoped for, but the reasons they cited for their decision are not very dramatic. The simplest and most straight-forward reason is that they never liked kids, never felt any emotional attachment to any kids, and hence did not envision themselves raising any. Other reasons included: not ready or up to take on the huge responsibility; didn’t think they could do a good job; to focus on career passion etc. Whatever the reason, the decision was not always an easy one,  given the social expectations and personal dilemma. But this may be changing recently and the practice is gaining wider acceptance. A 2012 statistic states that 22 percent of women in 40-44 age bracket are childless by choice. (Source).

To choose to be childless, especially for a woman, is largely perceived as very unnatural. This is due to the pervasive notion that women are mothers first and people second. But as Laura Kipnis explores in her piece in the above book, the mother-child bond is highly overrated and has evolved only more recently. She questions and explores the so called “maternal instincts”.

Another interesting observation made in the book was the possible implications of this decision. If a significant proportion of a particular segment of people, say for example, highly educated white people, decide not to have kids, will it not result in an imbalance in the genetic mix of the next generation? Well, maybe that’s ok. Maybe that’s part of the grand scheme called the “human evolution”! 🙂 Also, of course there could be economic implications – lesser workforce, greater social security costs, school enrollments, vaccine demand etc. (See here).

Lost along the way

2 04 2012

I presume we all come across plenty of instances in the course of our life, which provide opportunities for us to learn from little kids around us. Things like compassion and candidness. Not that we don’t know any of it. Having kids around help us to stop and think, they do remind us of many values and virtues, which we learnt and practiced during our own childhood and even try to inculcate them in the next generation but sadly we (there are always exceptions) now see ourselves either beyond those traits or just  consider them too impractical to warrant much attention and time in our busy lives.

Just the other day my son and I were browsing through the newspaper, when he spotted a picture of a bird perched on top of a water tap trying to get to the water droplets oozing out. He was curious about it and I explained that the summer heat is making the bird very thirsty and that the picture depicts the bird’s desperate need for water. He nodded in understanding and immediately put this proposition before me:

“Let’s put bowls of water for the pigeons who visit our balcony daily. Also, we’ll offer something for them to eat.”

More than a few pigeons have been visiting us for quite some time. They even built a permanent kind of nest in our balcony. I always viewed them as nuisance for the ruckus they cause and the resultant cleaning I have to do. Not once did it occur to me that I should offer something for them. My son’s words were like a rude jolt to me. They painfully reminded me of the long journey I made since my innocent childhood. Something has really lost along the way. Time to stop, think, assess, change, and act.

Greedy mom

7 01 2012

The other day I was reading a story titled “Greedy Forester” to my son and he wanted to know what “greedy” means. Fair enough.

Me: See, you are greedy about toys; despite having many toys, you want more and more of them. This is greediness. Do you understand?

Son: Yes.

Me: So, can you tell me what is mom greedy about?

I held my breath eager to hear what he would say. I was curious both to know whether he got the meaning right and also to listen to his perception about me.

Without a moment’s hesitation, he said “Books”.

He hit the bull’s eye at one shot. Needless to say, I was delighted. Not only for the obvious reason but also because he didn’t notice or is unaware of my other, less noble, objects of greediness (clothes, shoes etc.). 🙂

A little prayer to God

2 01 2012

My Son: Devdaa naaku baaga chaduvu raavaali. Nuvvu okasaari Magadheera cinema choodali. (God, I must get good education. You have to watch Magadheera movie once.)

Context: That morning, he watched the movie from the start to finish at one go and apparently enjoyed it so much that he wanted God too to have the same experience. 😛


Sense of humor

21 12 2009

We are teaching our son  to say and remember our full legal names and keep asking him now and then what our names are.

The other day his answers were as below:

Q: What is Nanna’s name?

My son: Nanna Avvari

Q: What is Amma’s name?

My Son: Amma Avvari

He gives those answers deliberately and breaks into a hearty laugh, enjoying his own joke (and of course our amused expressions).

Who can guess that even two year olds have sense of humor?