The decision not to have a kid is personal⁠ — but the social pressure against the choice is all-pervasive

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The decision not to have a kid is personal⁠ — but the social pressure against the choice is all-pervasive
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  • There are a huge number of young couples choosing not to procreate for a variety of reasons ⁠— sometimes at the cost of finding themselves at the receiving end of 'concern' and/or 'reprimand'.
  • Researchers from Lund University in Sweden have found that even a single less child per family can save "an average of 58.6 tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions per year."
  • Couples without kids are still treated like errant teenagers making bad choices.

India, the second-largest populous nation globally, is racing towards the number one position despite a falling birth rate of 2.2 births per woman, according to the government’s Sample Registration System in 22 states in 2017.

While European countries like Greece and Hungary fear that their dwindling birth rate will lead to massive economic issues and are resorting to paying people to have kids (baby bonus), India continues to face a problem of plenty.

But, as it is popularly said about India, just as true as any inference about the country is, the exact opposite has a sizeable number in its favour. So, there are a huge number of young couples choosing not to procreate for a variety of reasons ⁠— sometimes at the cost of finding themselves at the receiving end of 'concern' and/or 'reprimand'.
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The rationale for not having a child is freely available for anyone willing to listen. "For my husband and me, it was a personal choice we made that just felt right for us, a very special part of which was that my immediate family supported us unconditionally. However, comments from people around us always made us laugh, either they would outright scold us of having enjoyed our freedom enough thereby implying that it was high time to have kids. Or when nothing else worked they choose to instil fear with comments like 'you're young right now but who'll help you in your old age!'" Vandana*, a photographer form Lucknow, shares her experience with Business Insider.

However, the decision to not have one is still considered to be a break from the norm.

The decision to not have kids can be a personal struggle too: Vibha, a marketing professional, moved to Hong Kong in her 30s. So, while she didn't feel much pressure from her family, in her mid-30s, when most of her friends, who she presumed were not very maternal or fond of kids, started having children, it made her pause and wonder whether her decision was the right one. "It was more of self-inflicted pressure. I was extremely confused, I thought I was making a wrong decision, but I just couldn't see why it would be wrong because I felt very strongly about not having a child."
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Vandana and Vibha are a few of the many who are branded as 'selfish' for deciding to go child-free. And, while most cannot even fathom why couples choose not to spawn, there are reasons aplenty:

To save the Earth: Some couples consciously choose to not have children because of the destructive impact having a child has on the environment. Researchers from Lund University in Sweden have found that even a single less child per family can save "an average of 58.6 tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions per year."

Grim world to bring a child into: We do not need to go any further than the current pandemic we are smack in the middle of to realise that the world is not a great place to bring a child into. Asavari Singh, a mother of two, echoes this sentiment by saying, "Air crisis, water crisis, food crisis, war, cyber-bullying, reality TV, climate change… the list goes on and on. It is morally wrong to bring innocent babies into this mess." She acknowledges that while she adores her children, "I have done them no favours by giving them a ticket into this hellhole."
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Raising a child is expensive: What makes it worse is the middle-class aspirations and peer pressure, which often takes the cost of everything from food to education to healthcare to clothing and other basic necessities like transport a few notches above affordable.

The high cost involved in providing the best that one can to the child can be a deterrent for even financially stable people. The challenge is a lot tougher for people with uncertain incomes and less secure jobs, for example, many of those in the gig economy.

The forced tussle between motherhood and career: It is a known fact that women who have kids get paid less or lose their income altogether. And should they choose not to compromise and power through, they are subjected to discrimination at work — according to a LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company 2017 report, "motherhood triggers assumptions that women are less competent and less committed to their careers."
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Richa Bansal, VP of a private life insurance company, chose the path most working professionals are now opting for by going childfree. She tells us, "Not having a child is definitely an emotional compromise but in our case, we wanted to keep seeing the planet, in particular, off-the-beaten-track destinations and that’s a big challenge with kids. Our decision did make a few heads turn in society but we wanted to live on our own terms. Besides, we also have very demanding corporate jobs, which wouldn’t allow us to give due attention to the child.”

Freedom: Many people just choose to avoid both the high and the lows that come with being a parent and that is often considered the most selfish reason of all. A recent study recently concluded that the mental and physical wellbeing⁠ of parents declines after the first child.

Nitin Gairola, business management professional and adventure traveller, tells Business insider: "In our case, a kid simply didn't fall into the scheme of things from day one, since both of us wanted to do adventure travel around the world. With a child, even your destinations change, besides the time of year or the spontaneity of travel and we didn't want to compromise on this freedom."
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Being a parent, or not, is a life decision that can’t be made to please anyone other than two stakeholders i.e. the couple in question. But, couples without kids are still treated like errant teenagers making bad choices. Advice flows from all corner⁠ — everyone in between the domestic help at home to the random stranger at the gym.

Ironically, not everyone parts with the same jaded wisdom. For instance, in the case of Vibha, among her acquaintances, men have been more 'concerned' about her decision than the women. As she put it, the men she meets find it "very amusing" that she doesn't want to have a child. Some have even suggested, "it's better you freeze your eggs because you are going to change your mind."

*Name changed
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