“Yes, I don’t want children”
At forty, Faiza Abbas has been married for 15 years. The pitiful looks she receives started a couple of years after her first wedding anniversary. Initially, they were accompanied with encouraging and humble words like:
Oh, it’s only been three years, you’ll have kids soon enough, I’m sure.
Don’t worry, there’s still time, you’re still young.
About these remarks, Faiza states with a laugh:
I used to think these aunties were more worried about my childless situation than I was! I didn’t really care for children, personally. At the beginning of my marriage, my career was just starting to take off and I didn’t want to be saddled down with a child at such a time. I suppose the fact that I wasn’t having any was a welcome relief.
But her mother-in-law wasn’t a patient woman and asked every time she visited her:
Something must be wrong with you. Why don’t you see a doctor?”
“I was very lucky that my husband was very supportive at that time,” remembers Faiza.
“But I grew tired of his mother’s constant tirades and we decided to see a doctor.”
It turned out, that the problem lay with her husband; he could never father a child.
Faiza and her husband decided to keep this news a secret because her husband was terrified of what ‘people would say’ if they ever found out about his infertility. He didn’t want to be emasculated. So, as supportive and kind as he was, he allowed his wife to take the blame for their childlessness.
They decided not to tell anyone that they had already sought medical help, and people were left free to assume whatever they liked.
Soon, her mother-in-law was convinced that Faiza was ”barren’ and decided she wanted her son to marry again; he did his best to fend off her match-making efforts.
Its been 11 years since the day they found out about his infertility, and to this day he hasn’t whispered a word about the truth.
Faiza, however, thinks that their situation is a blessing in disguise. She works as a principal and senior teacher trainer at an educational institution and doesn’t have time for children. In honest and straight words, she doesn’t want a child.
“My lifestyle is pretty well organised,” she says.
“I have to travel quite often for training sessions and a child would have made this very difficult for me. I like children, but I don’t want the responsibility of one and I don’t have the time or place for it in my life.”
Nasreen Bilal shares Faiza’s ideas.
“The first question from any new acquaintance is always about children,” she says.
“When I tell them I don’t have any, their faces always show a certain sympathy for me. This quickly changes to dislike or disdain when I tell them I decided not to have children.”
Her relatives whisper about how “westernised” her thinking is; they say she is selfish because she is depriving her (unborn) children of their place in the world. According to them, she is also depriving her husband of an heir to his name – a child to further his family’s name after he dies.
“Why do I have to cater to their notions of what a woman is supposed to be?” Faiza asks.
“I’m told that a woman is not complete until she is a mother. I say that is a nonsensical contention. My decision to not have a child stems from my inability to handle one. Why should I cave in to their emotional blackmail when I know I am incapable of taking care of a child?”
Women have always had to bear the brunt of society’s culturally set notions of what a woman should be. Most women accept defeat because they cannot fight; because their husbands believe in the same notions; because they don’t have the courage to go against the tide.
They get tired of the pitiful looks for not having normal lives. But has anyone given any thought to the fact that what they consider “normal” may hold different definition in someone else’s life?
“I like children,” Nasreen echoes Faiza’s words. “But only as long as I can hand them back to their mothers.”
It’s just the way they have decided to live their lives. If childless people can accept your noisy, bratty kids as part of your life, why can’t you accept their organised peaceful lives without children the same way?
I know a lot of people who should never have become parents; people who are unable to provide for their army of little ones at home; mothers who teach their kids that stealing and lying are good things; fathers who do not hesitate in beating up their wives in front of their children and those who have an assembly line of daughters in the hopes for a son to take on their legacy.
The psychological effects of bad parenting are there for everyone to see, so what’s wrong with deciding not to create an incomplete human being?
Would you rather raise a liar, a thief or an adulterer or not raise a child at all?
It is our responsibility to provide a good quality of life to children we decide to have. It is a responsibility one cannot delegate or neglect either.
We should have the choice of deciding whether or not we should take up such a responsibility based on our lifestyle and circumstances, not based on what the society or culture dictates.
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The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.