“Good upbringing of a child is the most challenging task and the biggest achievement in life,” said my mother and I couldn’t agree with her enough. Considering how gendered upbringing has retarded the social and individual development, raising a feminist child is crucial to carving a new future. But then the aim will only turn on its head if motherhood becomes an obligation, a pressure and not a choice. Will a mother be able to give a good upbringing to a child if she never wanted to be a mother in the first place? Even if some women do, will motherhood mean happiness to all such women if it became a barrier in the path of their career or dreams? Motherhood can be beautiful and empowering only if a woman chooses to embark on that journey.
Indian society defines womanhood in terms of her roles as a daughter, sister, wife and a mother. It is assumed that a woman is born with maternal instincts and is always a good mother. Even our Goddesses are addressed as mothers because motherhood is considered to be the only role in which a woman can excel. If she isn’t a good mother, she isn’t a good woman. But what if a woman doesn’t want to be a mother? Why does she lose her value as a woman and a human in society? Why should she be labelled as incomplete, selfish or a woman with an inherent fault? Must motherhood be the only trophy that makes a woman shine? And does the society question a man’s worth if he chooses to not be a father? No. Why? Because a man’s primary role is to lead and earn for the family.
This clearly points out to the society’s lack of understanding or its reluctance in accepting the fact that women are much more than being fertile. They are capable of excelling in the field of education, whether it is on the primary level or on the PhD level. Women can earn as much money as a man in her family or even more and can be the leader of the entire family and world. Just because she chooses to not conceive a child doesn’t mean she cannot live a happy life with dignity. It is a flawed idea that a woman’s life is incomplete, unsettled and unhappy if she doesn’t have a child. Her life can be complete and successful with her achievements in career, love for her close ones and her bank balance.
Also it is high time for us to understand that the consequences of forced motherhood is not always good. Society needs to get rid of its conception that a woman will eventually be a good mother even if motherhood is forced on her. This is just not true. Forced motherhood comes with sacrifices that a woman has to make unwillingly whether it is in her education, career or any other aspects of life. Can any person be happy if they are forced to sacrifice the dream of life just to fit into the unreal expectations of the society? No. And it is natural that the consequent dissatisfaction with life and society will find a way of venting itself out.
According to several studies, unwanted pregnancies or forced continuation of pregnancy makes women vulnerable to depression and mental illness. Moreover, it affects mother-daughter relationships as mothers end up either blaming the daughters for their unfulfilled dreams or enforcing those dreams on the daughters. Yes, some women do seek empowerment even in forced motherhood by raising a responsible child. But let’s not make exceptions a golden rule. To choose is a woman’s basic right. Stop enforcing motherhood on women and start recognising them as a humans with lives, goals and earnings.
Views expressed are the author’s own.