The glorification of motherhood and the pressure women face when motherhood isn’t their first priority.
The way most Indian families are structured and having children after marriage is considered a given and not a choice that people should exercise. Once someone is married, after a few years everyone they know, from family to friends, starts directly or indirectly asking them when they are having children. In the society where I live, there is a designated age for everything a woman (and a man) has to do, and you have to adhere to their norms. Finish your graduation at 22, get married at 24–25, have kids immediately or one year later.
Society and patriarchy have never given them any other choice or opinions on the matter. It has become a norm that a woman should become a mother, just because she can give birth to children.
Why? Why didn’t anyone question it before? Why didn’t anyone just stop for a moment and think whether motherhood is really their cup of tea? Do we not minimize the importance of a woman’s career by this? Don’t we just assume that all mothers can conceive and not even consider whether they want to? Are we not reinforcing the stereotypes by asking the woman and not the man?
If you do talk about not being ready to have kids, you are called a selfish woman or given advice on why motherhood is the best thing a woman can experience. Childbirth is often romanticized. It’s a happy picture of the baby being handed to the new mother, who clasps the child to her bosom and cries happy tears. Women are conditioned to treat motherhood as their greatest achievement. Women often succumb to societal pressure and choose to conceive even if they are not actually ready rather answering the gibberish questions.
Girls should not feel guilty when asked these questions as there is nothing wrong with following your heart and choosing your own way of living your life. You should choose motherhood only if you want to, not because others force you to.
It’s a big responsibility to raise a child. Parents, especially a mother, need to be physically and mentally prepared before taking the ‘big decision’. It is an irony that in our country all that is important is to have children and not how they are brought up. There is a perpetuation of the notion that women are somehow incomplete, unsuccessful, or unhappy if they are not having kids. There is nothing wrong with having children and there’s nothing wrong with not having them, it’s just a matter of choice.
Advertisements, movies, and TV shows reinforce the belief that motherhood is the only purpose of women’s existence. The socio-cultural impact of advertisements is huge and it is important that brands and agencies realize this. Women are told that they are inherently nurturing, selfless, and sacrificing. Hindu religious imagery sentimentalizes and idealizes motherhood. The conceptualizations of the Devi-Ma (Goddess-Mother) in Hindu tradition are reinforced by the many goddesses in the Hindu pantheon. Such religious myths, perpetuated throughout the centuries, enforce the belief that motherhood is an essential part of being a woman.
Motherhood is and should be a choice – but only if it’s made willingly, happily, and under no pressure from the family or loved ones. One should also acknowledge that this choice is also about shared parental duties. If more people were supportive of women’s choices to have or not to have a baby, we would definitely have happier moms, happier babies, and definitely a happier society – one that is more balanced, more equal, and more accepting of both men’s and women’s life choices.
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