Making life choices unapologetically

All over the world, the journey of a woman's life is predetermined by the patriarchal society we live in – it's not an opinion, but a fact. This restricted and claustrophobic journey is sadly amplified for those girls who are born in regular, unassuming and conventional families in developing countries like India. Although I was not born to conservative parents, their parents were very traditional. So, when I was born, a second daughter, my mother was subjected to a lot of emotional abuse from both of my grandparents. Not a great thing to learn when growing up, however, it does explain why I was never as close to my grandparents as my older sister and younger brother were. I don't know how this affected my subconscious?! Perhaps, me being fiercely independent from a very young age and a bit of a rebel would be a measured behavioural outcome of the knowledge that I had of how (un)loved and (un)wanted I was by my grandparents! Anyhow, getting to the crux of the story, I have always lived my life on my terms “unapologetically”, but never used this term till it was made trendy by millennials. I worked from the age of 16, got my Bachelor's degree, left my country to pursue my Masters (1000s miles away from my home) in pursuit of freedom and independence when a lot of my peers were getting married. I got a job, lived on my own, fell in love and married to a “gora / gringo” (it wasn't a done thing at the time in my home country). All of these things were challenges in their own right, but I was never phased by them. Also, I love a good challenge, a classic trait of a rebel! I must add here, my parents and siblings always supported me at the end and stood by my decisions and even, celebrated them with me. As a child, I always dreamt of travelling the world, and I got to do that a lot with my loving partner-in-crime, my husband. However, as expected from a woman, once you're married with a job and a house, the prospect of producing an offspring was lingering over my head. Now, this expectation, isn't just limited to females from certain conventional families, it's an expectation from females, full stop. Apparently, a desire to procreate should come naturally to women…only I didn't feel that way. It took me weeks to gather courage to tell my husband that I didn't feel the need to leave a legacy behind – a child. I wasn't worried about telling him that I didn't want to use my female reproduction super powers (we share an open and transparent relationship), but what worried me was, what if he felt differently – could I bear to lose my best friend? We went to our favourite Italian restaurant and after a few glasses of wine (of course) I told him that I didn't want to be a parent, but, instead, I wanted to see the world with him! He listened to me patiently and, he replied, to my surprise, that he shared the same feelings, but didn't know how to say it. Well, needless to say I was greatly relieved! However, soon after I felt relieved, the thought of telling our parents about our decision took over and that, seemed like a huge mountain to climb. Remember, I said expectations! It's not “normal” for people to decide not to procreate – human instinct and all that. It was easy for me to tell my mother, as I tell her pretty much everything, but to tell my in-laws of our decision was very daunting. My mother took the news beautifully, as always, she supported my decision and said “as long as you both are happy, that's all it matters”. Eventually, we told our in-laws and although, it was far from easy, and it took them some time to come around our decision, they accepted it. The declaration of our decision to not procreate and overburden the planet which is already brimming with children, didn't limit to our family and friends, it's something we have to do on a regular basis by answering questions, “so, do you have children / when are you planning to have a little one / when are you going to start a family?”, to extended relatives, friends' families, neighbours, my hairdresser, my local café owner, strangers…the list is endless. I have been tempted at times to say “we've tried but to no avail” – you see, you get sympathy to that response, but not when you say you've chosen not to have a child – you get judged for it and are even called “selfish”. So, here are the questions I contemplate – why is it “normal” to want to have kids and not acceptable to choose not to? Also, why do we have to conform to the society and live our lives dictated by it? My husband and I chose, NOT to conform – we couldn't be happier and are living fulfilled lives. Years ago, I came across a very powerful saying that I always go back to when I am feeling lost and unsure - “If Not Now, When? If Not Me, Who?” I keep reminding myself not to worry about what others think and I continue to make life choices that I feel are right for me and I do that unapologetically.

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