**This was originally written for and first published in Woman Today, one of the magazines I edit.**
Of my parents’ generation I know of very few childless couples, and those that I am aware of always seemed in the periphery of most socialising.
And they were ALWAYS identified or referred to as ‘the childless couple’, not as Mr Banker, Messrs Teachers or Mrs Nose-up-in-the-air. Even if they answered to any of these descriptions, childlessness was the pick.
Now amongst my generation I see far more couples without children – ‘childfree’ as many would like to term it, against the more detrimental ‘childless’.
The DINK (Double-income-no-kids) club membership is on the rise. An educated choice taken by many couples, whose priorities are different from what is considered ‘conventional’.
But from the dip in tone to describing couples who are unable to have children – “isn’t that just so sad!”, to the indignation against those who choose not to – “how selfish can one really get” – it is not easy being married without children in this world.
About 10 years ago if someone told me he or she had taken a conscious decision not to have children I probably would have been judgemental.
However, now with two children under my belt (pun unintended), I think differently. I believe it takes a certain maturity, responsibility even, to choose not to.
Having children should not be about procreation alone. We are, after all, not race horses or prize winning dogs to have breeding as the ultimate intention.
We spend weeks contemplating a purchase – a car, flat screen TV, a holiday. Yet, when it comes to having children, we make the decision emotionally, or even worse, in response to social pressure.
It’s a lifelong commitment – one we cannot shirk or approach half-heartedly. It’s not a step we can retract if reality doesn’t meet our expectations, or if we are uncomfortable. It definitely is not ok to give birth and expect the nanny to do the heavy lifting.
We need to salute those who make that whole hearted commitment and discharge their duty (Yes, duty. Loving? That’s easy. It’s the duty involved that’s hard).
And just as important (or more so) is to take our hats off to those who are honest with themselves and make the decision to not make that particular commitment.
At the best of times, with best of intentions, being a parent is an uphill task.
Who amongst us hasn’t wished to disappear for a day, a week or a month to just be US? Who amongst us hasn’t had the urge (and probably even done it) to serve Happy Meal as the wholesome meal fifth day running.
Who amongst us hasn’t sent our child to school with wrinkled uniform, or leftovers in the Tiffin box, or fudged an excuse for incomplete homework?
Who amongst us hasn’t taken out our child-unrelated stress on our offspring?
Yes, I am sure most of us, given a choice to go back in time, would do it all over again. I am equally sure that some of us will pause a moment while making that choice.
It annoys me mostly, and angers me occasionally, when self-righteous comments are made of those who don’t have children.
It is a hard, often thankless, job. Yes, there are ‘joys’ to being a parent, that maybe someone else could just as easily realise with their pet dog, their niece or their career.
Footnote: I reproduce this here not merely out of laziness to do another post, but also to reach out to my audience (of 5) outside of Qatar.
ETA: An interesting post kind of connected to this subject, here.