This is not your home; eventually, you will have to get married and start a family of your own. Numerous women are made aware of this fact in the household that they are born into, even today. This becomes the crux of our existence in Indian society; get married and start a family, or as most people call it – settle down. But should it be a compulsion for women to get married and have children? Must their existence be pinned down to fulfillment of their procreational duties? Why must a woman’s life be seen as incomplete if she chooses not to marry or have kids?
- Is there nothing more to women’s identity than being someone’s wife and some’s mom?
- Why are marriage and motherhood such a compulsion for women?
- Is it sensible to marry or embrace motherhood out of pressure, keeping your individual happiness aside?
This becomes the crux of our existence in Indian society; get married, start a family, or what most people call it- settle down. When will it change?
The pressure to get married is equally bad for both genders. However, for women, it isn’t just about getting married, but getting married at the “right time”. Their desirability as a prospective bride comes with an expiry date. The older you grow, the poorer are your chances of getting married, or that is what most wide-eyed mums and dads with a twenty-something daughter to be wed, believe firmly. There’s this panic that has been created by the marriage market in India, that is powered by patriarchy, stereotypical beliefs, consumerism and all the people involved in this circus called big fat Indian weddings. The biggest victims of this system are of course poor parents, who begin getting egged and pushed by their near ones and extended relatives, the minute their daughter completes her education and lands a job.
Also Read: Why Should A Woman Change Herself After Marriage?
“The right time” is also a big nod to the idea that women are at their fertile best in their twenties and the older you get, the more “problematic” it will be for you to have a child. But there’s more to marriage and mommy-dom in life and women rarely have a choice to reject them and opt to stay single. The brave few who manage to find an exit route have to endure immense criticism and scrutiny. Clearly, something is wrong with her, if she has chosen to remain single. A woman must then keep a character certificate handy, because the scrutiny of her lifestyle is unending. That’s the price you pay for dissent.
Marriage and motherhood aren’t the only goals for a woman, she can find happiness in being on her own. She can dedicate her life to her career, or follow her passion, and that should be what defines her, not her choice to stay unwed or not bear children.
Education, a good job, an impressive pay-check, making good investments for the sake of a secure future, these are the new priorities women have for themselves, but does our society approve of them? Does it approve of a woman who chooses her career over matrimony or motherhood? Does it want women to gain financial independence, learn to do one’s own taxes, make investments and live their life on their terms? No, because that reduces our dependency on the opposite gender. Sex outside of marriage and single parenting is still frowned upon. Which means you must get married if you want to have a baby. Patriarchy has created a similar sort of dependency among men by telling them that they do not belong in the kitchen, or that it isn’t their job to clean the house. Their job is to earn money for their family.
However, this stereotyping does nothing but push men and women into unwanted alliances, and opt for matrimony not because they want to, but because they have to. Marriage and motherhood aren’t the only goals for a woman, she can find happiness in being on her own. She can dedicate her life to her career, or follow her passion, and that should be what defines her, not her choice to stay unwed or not bear children. With more and more women choosing to remain single and not have babies because the society then demands that they stay at home to raise them, time has come to challenge these social compulsions more vociferously.
Also Read: Shame And Humiliation: What Girls Get In Our Society For Menstruating
We need to question this stereotyping of happiness and fulfillment. The absence of choice for women. The need for social approval that most parents foster, prioritising it over the happiness of their children. Choice is a luxury in our world, but it shouldn’t be and the dynamics won’t change unless we start reclaiming it and challenging society’s outlook.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.