Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 01/25/86 3:51 PM

Feature: Famous last words!

Should I Have A Baby To Please You?

I’m not fond of children and I don’t want any. This is a fairly straightforward statement but the reactions I get are by no means straightforward.

I don’t want children. I don’t really foresee the patter of little feet in my house at any time. I don’t see sturdy young shoulders becoming my prop in the twilight years ahead. This is no spur-of-the moment decision; I have weighed all the pros and cons, and the pay-off suits me fine.

So tell me, why do I have to take the world and its kin into consideration? It takes two to make a baby. Two to decide not to have a baby. But it takes a lot more than just these two to condemn such a stand. Believe me, I know.

In the last century, children were accepted as a gift from God, this being one better than the stork. Now I find children have become a matter of duty. Duty to one’s god, country, lineage, parents, friends, acquaintances, neighbours, the manufacturers of baby products. Duty to oneself as a woman.

No, I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. All the same, I do expect others to respect my opinion.

Wishful thinking, I have discovered; all of a sudden, I seem to have become the object of misplaced compassion, thinly veiled sarcasms and aspersions galore.

What is it about a childless married woman that brings forth a torrent of violent feelings in people? Really, it’s my life, my decision. And a matter of priorities, mine.

I’m young, very happy with my life, my marriage, my career, and have so much to look forward to. I have this marriage of mine to work on, this book to write, a career ladder to climb, places to visit. I’ll do it all too, in my own sweet time, enjoying myself every step of the way.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying a child will mess up a woman’s blueprint for life. We all know women who are excellent wives, super mothers and who probably wield a skillet as efficiently as they do a T-rule. Quite a lot of women, I am sure.

However, quite simply, I am not sure I am one of them.

It’s not that I am a card-carrying feminist; I quite enjoy being a woman, as the ad line goes. But something Germaine Greer wrote about recently made sense to me. She was talking about how Indian men, by and large, are locked into their macho image, which made them more often father figures than real fathers. Obviously, under these circumstances, it is the woman who brings up her offspring, takes decisions, literally rules their lives.

For me, that opens up a horrific vista of influence, under the sub-title of `smotherlove.`

I don`t want to become the prime shaper of a future that is not mine. I don`t want to teach a little being all about conforming. I mean, whoever wants an updated version of `Mommie Dearest` dedicated to one!

Which is why I am not keen to open this particular Pandora’s Box.

Yes, life does get lonelier as we grow older, sometimes without a loved one by our side. But using one’s children to alleviate that loneliness is unfair to both generations. Where is the dignity involved in being a parasite who compels nothing stronger than a sense of duty in one’s offspring?

Men have it easier, I have found. I mean, you hear of more barren women than sterile men, right? And it is the childless woman who is `frustrated` or `concealing a deep sorrow behind her smile.` Sheeesh.

The whole point is, as a free woman in a free world, I am entitled to my opinion, however radical it may be. I don`t have to pay a price for that opinion.

I know that. But how come other people don’t? Like someone said, whose life is it anyway?

This ran in the EVE’S WEEKLY issue of  January 25, 1986.

Within a startling short while of this piece appearing in print, the writer proceeded to have a baby, grow her up,  and now is a happy mother of a young woman. However, she still does not profess any fondness for children on the whole.  

The picture of the baby accompanying this piece? That’s the baby the writer was determined not to have.

This appeared in EVE`S WEEKLY of January 1986.

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Sheila Kumar • January 25, 1986

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