Skip to main content

An Ode To The Others

Image Source

This Sunday, there was this interesting article in the paper. Of mothers and others. Just the title made so much sense. I'm not a mother, so I guess I must be the other. The word sounds offensive or not, is a debate for another day.

My partner and I did talk about kids while we were dating. We had even thought of names and how we would bring them up. Still, there always was the question if we would feel the need to have one. Once we got married a couple of years later, we were clear that we wanted to be child-free. It was purely a personal choice, something that the both of us have discussed often and this is our decision alone. I don't think anyone else has a say in this. Yes, we do revisit our decision once in a while if some situations or scenarios pop-up and we always end up sticking to our original decision. We've been married for a decade now. We are voluntarily child-free and happy.

Since it has been years and the people in my inner circle know me and this decision, they don't ask me anything about it. When I meet new people and they hear this, they are not so kind. When I visited my obgyn for the first time and she asked me if I was planning a pregnancy and I said I don't intend to ever, she did not even flinch. She said okay and went ahead with my routine check. I was so happy to have a found a doctor with no judgements what so ever. Most people on the other hand haven't been even close to this.

Things I've heard as a child-free woman or as the other over the past few years:

~ How can you not want to have a child? As a woman, you MUST feel the need to have a child.

~ You are newly married, that's why you say this. You'll change your mind in a few years.

~ Are you that focused on your career that you cannot look beyond it?

~ Are you worried about getting out of shape? Stop being so vain.

~ Look at your friends having kids. Why would you want to be left out?

~ What about your future? Who will look after you?

~ Are your families okay with this?

~ Do you have a medical problem?

~ Aren't you worried about what the society would say?

~ Don't you have any maternal instinct?

Things my partner has heard as a childfree man:

~ Your wife doesn't want to have a child?

It is funny how the onus for this too, lies on the woman. Honestly, I don't know many people who have been voluntarily child-free. Just a couple, maybe. I know of people who aren't able to have children but want to, and it breaks my heart. People who want to have children should be able to have them without any hassles. The rigmarole of treatments might be worth it at the end of the day, but the emotional pain they have to go through is something else. I just read that today is World IVF Day. The very fact that the day exists shows how important having children is to most people.

Child-free couples or the others as now known are clearly a minority. Almost all our married friends have had a child or two by now. They may or may not understand our stand and we are fine with it. For us, having a child or not, is an option we can have an opinion on and not an inevitability. It is a conscious decision and we have no regrets. Down the line, if we feel the need to have a child we will. I'm totally fine to have a child in my forties too. I'm no Kareena Kapoor Khan but I trust my body and I shall trust the natural process. This is a very big if though and I already know the answer to it.

Like the article says, the descriptor 'childless' makes it feel like you are missing something in your life. While 'child-free' sounds a tad better, it can mean things in a cribbing sense. My partner and I like children, we just don't want to have one of our own. Yes, it makes complete sense.

We need to normalize not talking to couples about their plans on having children. It is insensitive and out-right nosy. Most couples want to have children and are trying their best to conceive, they might not want to talk about their struggles. Some couples might not want to have a child at the moment but are now pregnant and aren't completely happy about it, they too wouldn't want to talk about it. Couples who have never tried having children too fall in the same list. This is a personal call and no one else needs to know about it.

However, if the concept of being child-free is mentioned, it needs to be normalized. There is nothing great about being able to have a child. There is nothing offensive about not wanting to have one either. 

"A convention loses its force when breaching it doesn’t need an explanation" - this cannot be more true.

My Instagram bio proudly says that I'm a plant and pup mom. I am and nothing will change that. For me, mothering (not motherhood) is a state of mind. I've completely changed as a person since we got our pup home. I'm more organized, more aware and more sensitive now. It is not necessary for all women to have a maternal instinct. And if they do, it need not be for a child alone. I'm completely aware of the fact that my pup is not a substitute for a child. It is the world outside who thinks so.

Mothers have been celebrated enough! They have special days, movies, TV shows and articles written for them time and again. How about we celebrate the others once in a while? The ones who are still human and want to stay away from convention. The ones who know what they are doing. You don't have to overcompensate for the choice of not having a child. You don't have to become a CEO, run a business, have multiple god-kids, or travel the world. Do it if you want to, not because you have to, owing to the absence of a child. Rejoice in your choices. Rejoice in being you.

Here's to the others! You aren't doing anything wrong. You don't have to answer the questions thrown at you. You aren't special either. If motherhood is normal, so is otherhood.


  1. You know people don’t understand something as basic as ‘choice’. Also, let me tell you, they will judge you no matter what you decide. I also know how tactless our society is and I can only imagine the questions they might ask. For us, it’s why are we being selfish and not giving M a sibling. What will happen to her when we are no longer there, etc, etc. So, here’s to you, your choice and living life like you want to. If we don’t live our life first, there is no point in anything else 😊

    1. You know, Naba, the saddest part is that it is women who usually ask these questions and judge. Some of my friends of my generation still don't think what I'm doing is right for me. Most people are still waiting to say, "I told you so" some time down the line.

  2. Soumya, these have often been my thoughts, too. Being the 'other', I was at the receiving end of questions and enquiries galore, mostly by people outside the family. My colleagues, for instance, were so very curious about why I didn't have kids or why I didn't want any. I did not want to tell them the reason as I didn't want to provide any fodder for gossip. You never know, mental illness being the reason behind not wanting any kids can also become a point to discuss for people. The barrage of questions that would then follow!
    I have been a dog-mom and am now a bird-mom. And, just thinking about it makes me so happy. There was a time when I wished I could have a baby, but then one look at the stressed atmosphere at home, and I would change my mind. But with Chickoo entering our life, I forgot about it. Now, 25 years later, nobody bothers me or about me. People who really care, regard my pets as my babies and always ask how my bachchas are doing. Motherhood should be a choice, not a necessity for the woman to feel "complete". And, as far as "who will look after us in our old age" is concerned, well, we will look after ourselves! That's what I used to tell anyone who asked me. I would like to tell all the 'others', that if you are happy with the decision you have made for yourself, then you need not care a hoot about what the world has to say. You live your life the way you wish to. It is your life, after all, and the only one you will have!

    1. I can't even begin to imagine how they would react to that, Shilpa. I'm glad you stood by your choice and have lived life beautifully since then.

  3. I cannot understand how and why people are so insensitive. If only more people would follow live and let live. I have friends who are single in their forties and are constantly badgered about why they are not married, both women and men. People just can't seem to mind their own business. I am very proud of both of you for making a conscious choice and not buckling into societal pressure. As much as I love being a mom, I don't see why it is made to be something spectacular or other worldly. What matters is that we respect the choice of our friends and acquaintances.

    1. Absolutely! People need to take live and let live more seriously.

  4. As someone who had children ten years after marriage I was the 'other' for a long time. Honestly, I never felt any maternal longings, nor understood them, till the children actually came along. I had a job I loved and lots of friends. I dreaded meeting my husband's colleagues wives. They always assumed it was I who didn't want children, specially because I enjoyed my work so much and talked about it (a lot, perhaps). When the twins came along one of them commented, Serves you right that you got two of them after running away from children for so long. It was said in jest, of course but it annoyed me no end. Not sure if it was my post-partum hormones but comments like those just drove me crazy.
    I am certainly glad I have the kids and I'm equally glad you're doing what works for you and your husband. Societal pressure is crazy.

    1. Isn't it so sad that a woman is put through all this just because she has a career?

      OMG! How did you react to that comment? I would have shed a few drops of blood for that.

  5. Hmm, honestly I don't know if this nosiness ever goes away. People and their curiosity allow them to be senselessly nosy. They won't even wait for a year of marriage to pass to ask the "good news" question. Although I am a mother of two kids and I love my kids deeply, I have always maintained that motherhood didn't complete me. I haven't felt incomplete before having kids. I haven't felt complete after having kids. In fact, I have felt having kids had changed my life in a magnitude that I couldn't have imagined. It's not magical I would say. All I can say is I am glad being able to survive.
    Good for you, Soumya. Knowing what you want in this life and standing by it is what we should do. Not everyone can understand that. ❤️

  6. Thanks for writing about this. At the very beginning (before marriage and in the early stages), I was on the other side thinking it to be extremely normal to ask these questions. However, I've unlearned a lot and now this makes complete sense to me. My aunt who loves kids couldn't have one, she has gone through IVF and all the pains to get the child, but she couldn't. The pains that she went through is more painful than her not having a child. I adore her and have stood by her from the time these things made sense to me and today when she sees my child, I know well she'd care as her own. My uncle himself was called names that he couldn't have a child. From being such a funny person, he became silent and suffocated. The marriage gets spoiled for some just because they don't have a child. Very few couples are supportive of each other, it takes understanding of each other.

    When it comes to being child-free, it totally makes sense. One does not have to hate something to not have it. We as a society need to get over a lot of insecurity to just live. A good friend of ours has decided not to get married, we understand his choice and support his decision. We are in the bad books of many because we spoiled someone's life. Well, so be it.

    Another friend went through the pain of the process. However, when it comes to gifting the children, she finds amazing gifts every time for the kids. The pain the lady has to go through for the child is unbearable. The blame however stays on them as rightly stated.

    Our pup is now 13 years old. When he first came home, I used to talk so much about him so much when friends shared about their children. To me a pup's doing and a child's doing is pretty much the same - care free and adorable. My friend got annoyed and asked me if I am comparing my pup to her child. I told her that I love them both, so it's easy for me to relate how raising a child would be. That's all. She got offended.

    Today when someone tells me about their pup when I talk about my child, I just love them more, because I know they adore my child just as much as they adore their pup. That's love that's all.


Post a Comment

Just like me, say what you feel. While constructive criticism is welcome, please keep it subtle and kind. Thank you!