This post is specially for Swati who left me a note on another posting on this blog.
Swati wanted to know whether my view on having or not having children has changed after becoming a mother. My response may confound the readers further because I still believe in everything that I listed in my previous referenced blog and yet I am glad for embracing motherhood. Pregnancy and the first few months as a new mother, and then the next three to five years after that, provides the most indescribable time in the life of any woman (and also the man if he wants to feel involved and responsible.) Motherhood is stressful; it is a stress that makes you strong physically but extremely weak emotionally.
Having said that I also want to point that having enjoyed the bliss of motherhood, I do not feel inclined towards having another child. A child brings immense joy and fulfillment to one’s life, but a child is not a toy, and is not a tool for self-aggrandizement. A child is not meant to be brought into this world to fulfill your selfish interests and desires, be it of familial acclaim or social acceptance, or to carry on the dreams and aspirations of the parents or extended family. A child is a responsibility and a responsibility that you need to fulfill without any expectations from the child. So, whether you have one child or more, remember to appraise yourself on the grounds of how capable you are of fulfilling your responsibilities towards your child – emotional, physical, material, social, educational, and medical – and the list is inexhaustible!
Whatever your decision be, don’t ever have a baby just because someone told you to (such as friends and neighbors), demanded it of you (as mostly the case of in-laws) or because everyone else you know is adding to their litter (such as colleagues). I find myself increasingly in the situation where people ask me if I am planning a second baby, since my son is now 3.5 years old. I find a lot of first time mommies discussing plans for a second child.
Many feel that a single child is lonely and spoilt. This may be true in the lives of many single children and I myself know of young adults who have faced lonely childhoods because they had no siblings. And yet this may not be true for many single children. I would not have a second child just to ensure my first child is not lonely, because there is no guarantee that the two (or more) siblings may gel well with each other, or be in love as much as we imagined them to be. Sibling rivalry is real and manifests in the lives of many. Such conflicts may leave a child and young adult more perturbed, disturbed and in fact lonesome.
Do you know why families (especially in developing countries) were expected to have more than one child or even a big brood, until a few decades back. Disease, pestilence, war and lowly living conditions resulted in high child mortality. Having many children was a guarantee that at least some children would survive difficult living conditions. Economically backward and illiterate societies still follow the twisted math that many children mean many helping hands. People forget to count the many feeding mouths! Human mortality has improved greatly and the dynamics of bringing up children has drastically changed in the modern, educated society.
Having said that I would like to take up each of the points that I had mentioned in my previous blog post and see where I stand today.
1. Fear of health issues – I had a difficult time getting pregnant and then I had a difficult pregnancy with gestational diabetes. My son was born through C-section and I took time to recover. Aches and pains have been a part of my life since then. However, modern medicine has remedies and treatments for all maladies. Fear should not be the reason to give up on the hope of maternity.
2. Fear regarding career – Good quality day cares have made it easier for working mothers but the career graph may not see a steep incline for many years. Taking it slow may be required for quite some time. So, if one is looking for a jet-setting career, then having a child may not be in their goals to be achieved.
3. Fear about financial drain – If one is able to continue working (even with a perpendicular career graph) usually bringing up one child is not too much of a financial burden. One thing that I had not considered in my calculations was that with each year the income also increases. The hike may go into buying diapers and immunization expenses but middle class families can afford one child at least. I would like to make an interesting point here – if you earn well, and probably exuberantly, and do not have a child (or children), you may not really have as much use for so much money.
4. Fear of losing out on the fun and the companionship with your spouse – This is a real fear. The fun and frolic, intimacy and leisure time with your spouse are literally thrown out of the window, unless you have a strong support system/extended family that allow you free time on your own and with your spouse. The first three years, your entire life is centered around your child. As I read on Facebook, the only vacation that a mother of a toddler can hope for is an undisturbed trip to the bathroom! Things start easing out by the time the child turns five years old. By then your body aches and pains all the time or you want to start concentrating on your career, or are probably planning another child. You can plan vacations and travel after the child is four years old because then the child also starts enjoying things and is eating most of the things that adults do. While you may lament the loss of intimacy with your spouse, you may celebrate the growth of companionship and camaraderie because child rearing is total teamwork.
5. Fear of being left alone in old-age if we don’t have children – The fear is true and should be gracefully accepted whether you have a child or don’t have one. It should not be a reason to have a child. Do not have a child to burden them with expectations and responsibilities.
6. Fear of the bad times – This is yet another big fear and is true, in fact the scariest of all the real fears that you may ever have to face. The world continues to be a big bad place and there are lots of crimes towards young children. Do not have children if you do not have the strength, sensitivity and stability to protect them both within and outside the confines of your home. Nature’s wrath and the impeding destruction of our planet is another reason why we should think twice before bringing children into this world. Unless, of course, you can dream and hope for a life on an alien planet or a miraculous recovery of our planet from black smog to green air!
I have addressed all the points from my previous post but there is one point that I did not mention there because it never occurred to me at that time. It did not occur to me because I was not a mother then but I want to highlight it now.
7. Fear of weakness – This is the biggest fear and the biggest truth of parenthood. If you are in your right senses, a normal, loving person, remember that your child has the greatest strength to make you weak. And this weakness is of the heart and of the emotions and is deep-rooted and incorrigible. The moment the tiny fingers of a newborn curls around your large knotty fingers, you lose your heart to your little bundle of joy and the little imp takes control over your life. Let one tear drop from those fairy tale eyes and you are ready to fall on your knees to wipe away those pearls. One squeal of joy and happiness and you give your heart away to the gossamer purity of your child, and then there is no way to reclaim it. In your loss, lies your biggest victory.
So, here is my verdict. If you are ready for sacrifices, you should definitely have one child. But if you have constraints or are the fun-loving, non-committal person then do not commit yourself to parenthood. Take a small test – meet young parents, spend time with very young children (and not just a few hours, but a couple of days, maybe a week). Evaluate your feelings and take your decision.
When I had to decide about having a second child, this is the test that I put myself through. My husband and I agreed, that one child had exhausted us enough. We love our child, we love all the beautiful memories he has created for us, we are proud of him and gloat over his emerging personality. But we also recall the sleepless nights and troubled days and we know there is a long road ahead of us and him, together. Between the two of us – the man and the woman; the hubby and the mummy – we are ready to reclaim our life! Three cheers to that!