November 14, 2013

Why Have Children. ~ Lalita Iyer

You know the feeling when you start a piece by writing the headline first and then begin to wonder whether you are actually qualified to write it?

It’s what I’m having right now.

Once upon a time, I was a serial singleton and all my friends were making babies on loop. I was then the cool aunty who bought the best gifts, treated babies like grownups and humored mommies. I could do all this, and go home, to my bed and get my nine hours of sleep. I didn’t have to spoil it all by becoming a mom.

Having a child was not the most strategic decision of my life, nor was it the most emotional one. Having done it, I went through the motions; I am good with motions. Then my friends told me I was such a natural as a mother and I wondered. Me? Natural? Yes, I did cats, and could fake excitement at baby photos or children’s birthday parties. But that was about it. Unless you held me for the fact that I had become a mother to my mother through her double valve replacement surgery.

Did that really qualify me to have a child?

In the loneliness of stay-at-home motherhood, the internet became my best friend. I began to read arguments and even research papers in favor of and against children. I could only think of it as a conspiracy theory. Why now, I thought. It’s already done.

Maybe my reasons weren’t deep enough. I never thought having a child would complete me, or for that matter, marriage would.

I am not afraid of being alone, in fact I usually crave it. I’m not generous enough to love unconditionally, nor have I been worried about being looked after when I’m old. It’s unlikely that I will join the ‘Parenting was the best thing I did with my life!’ cult. No thank you.

Well, once you have done it, it’s like you don’t want to admit you screwed up, so you may as well celebrate it.

I waited for that moment when holding a child in my arms would evaporate every other sadness in my life, but sorry to report, it didn’t happen. Plus, it was way cooler to be a pet-parent. We can all lead exciting, chaotic lives, make love to our smart phones, travel, have recreational sex, back-pack on a whim, live life to the fullest.

Who wants kids?

So then, what was it?

Could it be about happiness? But the internet tells me that children rank lower in pleasurability than cooking, watching televison, exercising, talking on the phone, napping, shopping, or even housework (yes!). (I was nodding through the list.)

It’s definitely not about bringing a couple closer. If marriage is fragile, children make a tsunami out of it. They take a small crack and turn it into a fissure of irreparable magnitude. They are a reminder of a life and a spontaneity that was, they make us realize that the gap between our fantasies and our reality is huge.

For a lot of women it’s about getting something right. If not the partner, the baby. Haven’t you noticed that people who actually end up with their soul-mates take much longer to make the babies?

Yes, children do the most unexpected, kind, and loving things that send a rush of hormones to your brain. Or whatever it takes to feel good. Like when my four-year old Re built me a house with his blocks. Or massaged my stomach when I said I had a tummy ache. Or shouted at a taxi for trying to overtake me.

Then there are gentle kisses. Cheeks to bite. Baby breath. It’s addictive.

Yes, the moments of joy are pure and unparalleled. But so are the moments of frustration, despair and anxiety.

Every year, on Re’s birthday, we sit together and watch videos of the past few years. It feels gratifying and so much fun, although it did feel like tedium at the time.

But I think what I like the most about having a child is that every once in a while, I get to see the world without a lens.

Because I want to believe that if the moon does not ‘follow’ us when we drive back home from the park, it can actually lose its way.

Because I want to believe that every watermelon has mamma slices, dada slices and baby slices.

Because I want to wake up when it’s sun o’clock.

Because I liked that part of me that is less impatient and self-involved than the me that was.

Because I was the kind of person who was likelier to regret the things I hadn’t done than the things I had.

Because sometimes we need to slow down. And that’s what a child does for us.

But innately, we should want to.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Bajirao Pawar

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