"I’m too selfish to have children"
Marriage is a significant aspect of Indian culture – the union of two individuals marks the point of children and many generations ahead.
Other Indians believe marriage is bondage, where you are often forced to live together for the sake of families and society.
However, a new wave of Indian couples is now actively shunning parenthood, and instead seeking partners who, like them, would rather be childfree.
The issue is choosing not to have children is almost seen as a defiance of culture and tradition. But, why are more couples opting for this life?
DESIblitz explores some reasons why Indian couples are choosing child-free lives and the possible impacts this could have.
Children and Domestic Violence
A young Indian woman from London, aged 26 shared that she does not wish to have a child despite being in a long-term relationship.
“When I was younger, I often saw and heard my father abusing my mother, verbally and physically.
“In Indian culture, men are usually the ones with all the power.
“My mother was completely dependent on him for finances, shelter, food, clothes and her children.
“I don’t want the generational trauma to carry through for me and my future.
“Some may say I’m a hypocrite because I have a boyfriend, so I must want children?
“But he understands and shares my perspective. In his own words ‘children are a headache’.
“I’ve been going to therapy since 2020 to unlearn toxic traits and patterns.”
“I do not want to add a child to the mix.”
The woman, who works as a hairstylist, believes she is still a “strong Indian woman” if she chooses to go against her biological responsibilities within Indian culture.
Talking about the future, the hairstylist has realised it may be difficult for her to be accepted, but she hopes to pave the way for future generations who reject societal norms.
Marriage and Independence
It’s not only Indian couples or singles rejecting children as part of their life plan, married couples are also in agreement with the idea.
An interracial married couple, both 43-year-old lawyers from Indian and English ethnic backgrounds have shared their view on keeping children out of the equation.
After meeting in the workplace, the couple shared strong career ambitions. They were adamant about not having children and this aligned them perfectly.
The Indian woman expressed how challenging it was to shun her cultural expectations and put her legal career first:
“In Indian culture, your parents almost expect you to get an education, get married, and then have children. That just didn’t resonate with me.
“I’m the furthest possible thing from being maternal.
“If I’m honest, I’m too selfish to have children.”
“I married my English husband which was a challenge in itself after we had dated for four years.
“We met at a law firm we both worked at during that time.”
The 43-year-old lawyer claims that she and her spouse appreciate their independence:
“Freedom requires money, and raising a child can be extremely expensive.
“If I had a child, I couldn’t get up and go for a staycation whenever I wanted.”
“My husband and I would not be able to go on several holidays throughout the year that falls during when children are typically at school in the UK.
“At times, I think people view us as egotistical but peace of mind is everything to us.
“We have the privilege to discover new interests in each new location we visit – I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
Other Indian couples who favour not having children consider that independence is valuable.
As long as one is not responsible for raising children, one can engage in hobbies and indulge in interests freely.
What do Marriage and Family Specialists have to Say?
According to Nisha Khanna, a marriage and family counsellor based in Delhi, there are several reasons why couples choose to have no children. Khanna explains:
“Some might not have had a very healthy childhood.
“Secondly, today’s generation lives a fast life in metro cities.
“They have too many responsibilities on their shoulders and feel that a child would be a bigger responsibility.
“For the first few years, it is important to be with a child physically and mentally.
“But with today’s lifestyle, one hardly has that much time to devote to a child.
“People are also marrying late these days and then having a child might not seem a very good option, as they think they would be too old when the child grows up.
“Then there are financial issues, environmental issues like increasing pollution, etc, today.”
Clinical psychologist Ellen Walker reflects on the psychology of what it means for individuals who choose childfree lives:
“In my book, Complete Without Kids, I cited time-management research that shows that it takes an average of eight hours a day to parent two children to the age of eighteen.
“That’s a lot of time that’s not available for maintaining your relationship.”
Ellen provides reasoning that having extra time to invest in relationships without children is important for Indian couples.
Dr Mrinal Jha, a consultant psychiatrist, describes the child-free trend as:
“Natural, predictable, and in some ways inevitable.
“The populations of different countries go through a specific curve.
“Around the time our country gained independence, life expectancy was low, and the reproduction rates very high.
“With an increase in education levels, employment rates and better medical care, there has been a significant increase in life expectancy and a decrease in reproduction rates.”
Jha believes that having the choice to decide whether or not to have children reflects the growing freedom of the person (particularly women) in an advanced, less patriarchal society.
Consequences of Choosing to go Childfree
If a majority of young Indian couples decide to go child-free, the global population could be at harm and the world economy will collapse.
According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) report, by the year 2100, fertility rates in 183 countries won’t be high enough to maintain existing populations.
It also projects that by 2064, there will be 9.7 billion people on earth at its peak.
In 23 nations, including Japan, Thailand, Italy, and Spain, the population is expected to decline by more than 50% by the end of the century, bringing the total to 8.8 billion.
It continues by saying that large population decreases among people of working age in nations like India will slow economic growth and cause a rebalancing of the world’s power.
Additionally, according to the 2017 Global Burden of Disease Study, populations in Asia and Central and Eastern Europe will decline at the quickest rates.
One main cause of this is infertility.
Statistics from India’s Sample Registration System state the fertility rate in India decreased from 5.2 to 2.2 children per woman between 1971 and 2017.
Society still struggles with those who defy cultural ‘norms’. But, we may hold out hope that ultimately it will permit people to live according to their own set of values.
Knowing that the couples who choose to go child-free are becoming frequent helps to establish a network of support.
It gives people the opportunity to have control over their own life.
Everyone has their definition of happiness and success. Couples are free to have happy lives with children if they so want.
However, if a couple decides to avoid having children, their decision should not be challenged.