Monday, July 17, 2006

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage

I've been reading quite a bit about about marriage on the blogosphere lately and it seems to me that a lot of people are thinking, considering and reflecting on marriage and going over the why, when and whom issues (see here, here, here, here and here). That brings me to something that's been on my mind regarding why people want to get married and how other people perceive it.

Like this question I've got from quite a number of people regarding having kids. It seems to me a lot of folks believe that two people should settle down and tie the knot primarily so that they can have kids. What the hell! I mean, isn't that the most ridiculous thing you've heard of? Of all the reasons I would have considered for wanting to get married that would probably be something I'd never have come up with. I mean, yes, it is nice to have a family with kids and all but not my reason for wanting to get married. Okay so I'll have kids at some point. But that will be when I'm ready for it. Not because I have the license to have them. Because it appears to me that for a lot of people that's what marriage is all about. A license to have sex whenever you want to and start a family. Give me a break. Please.

My next door neighbor tells me that her daughter's been married for over two years but she couldn't get pregnant until now, because her husband was still in school and they couldn't afford to have kids until he graduated and got a job. Point noted. She seemed mighty unhappy that her daughter married someone who couldn't afford to raise a child and that they had to be "careful" for two goddamn years even though they were married. Alright so marriage equals procreation. And anything that comes in between is considered strange.

We had rented a cabin up in the mountains for our sixth wedding anniversary and the lady who let us in was shocked at the fact that we didn't have kids. She was like "you've been married for 6 years and you still don't have kids"!!! Like we were some kind of freaks. She looked at me and goes "why?" Like it was her business and I had to tell her about some secret malfunctioning organ that I had which prevented me from getting pregnant or something. I was really shocked at her reaction.

And then yesterday someone else goes "you've been married that long and you still don't have kids?" Will someone please tell me if reproduction is the next natural step to getting married. Fine, society expects married people to produce babies and also people producing babies to be married. Not to say that there aren't exceptions. But that's what they are. Exceptions to the general rules of society. And I'm not saying that having babies is bad or something that I don't want. Like most other girls I always dreamt of having my own family and the "living happily ever after" bit. But only when I am ready for it. Not because I'm married and I can or am expected to. That I find ridiculous. A child is precious and parents have to be ready to welcome the baby into the family, into their lives. You don't have a baby just because you're married and you don't have a clue about contraception.

So why is it that so many people equate getting married with having babies? Can't people just marry because they are in love and want to spend their lives together? What about companionship and spending quality time together? Aren't those enough reasons to want to marry someone? You marry because you love and want to be with a person. More than anything else in the world. More than anyone else. And may be someday have a family too. But not simply because you want to start making babies. Come on, you don't even need to marry to do that these days. In fact you don't even need to have sex for that. Just go adopt a kid if you are so badly in need of having one.

Okay I agree that when people talk about family they envision kids. And I have nothing against that. I adore kids. Except I just don't like looking at me with incredulous eyes and thinking that I am some sort of a freak who is unable to procreate. I don't like people going "why haven't you had kids if you've been married for such a long time". All I'm saying is that we got married early, before any of my friends did, because we were in love and we wanted to be together. And that is good enough reason for me.

And that I would think would be the only reason why someone should get married.

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Anonymous bongopondit said...

Hey - I was going to blog on this 'issue', perhaps from a slightly different perspective - but now it wont be necessary - you have hit the nail.
Especially this line:
A child is precious and parents have to be ready to welcome the baby into the family, into their lives.

People don't understand this and talk about having kids as if its a social obligation !

We get particularly irked it when someone (from India) we haven't seen in ages or talked to for a long time starts off with 'any issues ?' (I find the use of the word 'issue' very funny though).

1:25 PM  
Blogger Cacophoenix said...

Phew, someone talk about it finally. It is not just that look, it is also the words. If I say I want to ge tsettled in life first and enjoy my personal space before I give up my life, it is like oh don't worry just have the baby, we will take care of it while you work/study. I am like huh!! If you want one that badly, why don't you have one!!

1:52 PM  
Blogger Anyesha said...

I totally agree....right after I came back to work after the wedding, the secretaries at work would gather round and make goo goo eyes and go "aww!! now you can have babies" and I realised that a firm "No I don't want any" is not the socially acceptable answer at all. Infact it is considered morally repugnant and downright offensive. Now I just smile and walk away because choice it seems is not a word most people are familiar with.

2:49 PM  
Blogger J. Alfred Prufrock said...

SIX years? You've got a long road ahead, child. We held out for 14. Enjoyed ourselves no end, too.

Different matter that now I'm a little, well, soppy about my daughter. But for those 14 years, I at least was very clear that I saw no need for a child in our lives.

And now I think she's growing up too fast. You can't win. Damn!


2:52 PM  
Blogger Kausum said...

"We got married early, before any of my friends did, because we were in love and we wanted to be together. "

Question: Why do you need to marry, if you are in love?

You are still together when u r in love, rite, so why marry?

3:07 PM  
Blogger Dreamcatcher said...

Hahahaaaa you remind me of my cousin who had kids 11 years after their marriage (she got married when she was 23) and the entire family thought she was unable to have kids or that he was impotent and boy it was such a shock for some of them..:D
I think she was quite gleefully told some people that they couldn't have kids..:P familes, neighbours and the like can be such nosey parkers.
But you're super cool, I am sure you can ignore everyone.

4:27 PM  
Blogger Brown Magic said...

"And that I would think would be the only reason why someone should get married."

how about tax breaks? or wedding presents? :)

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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5:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:10 PM  
Blogger ggop said...

I'm so glad there are people like me. :-) Thanks for the good post. Well meaning friends will sometimes remind you of the biological clock. That depresses me..

6:16 PM  
Anonymous Neela said...

Dear M: I have been meaning to write about this for sometime now too. You hit the nail on the head, if you are not the family way within 2-3 years of your wedding, people start staring at you weirdly, particularly, in our Indian society. A particular relative of mine said even pointed out to me that it was my "duty" to provide grandkids for my parents and in-laws - especially after all the sacrifices they have done for us. Guilt-tripping to the extreme.

7:11 PM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

heh heh heh. bingo again. if i may take the liberty of responding to a couple of previous comments --
kausum: in the india of the 20th century, you often were *not* allowed to be together if not married.
brown magic: wedding presents??!! can you say eight ghastly wall clocks and six "lemon sets"?!
- eight years and going strong.

8:04 PM  
Anonymous confused said...

I second Kusum here.

Why does one need to get married?

And yes, I completely agree with the kids bit.

9:33 PM  
Blogger Ekta said...

ooh! I agree
although we have been married for 1.5 yrs now...there are people giving us" indications"..that its "time" for us to have kids!!!
Surprise me that people actually believe that they have a right to decided when we are ready to have kids??!!

10:09 PM  
Blogger Grafxgurl said...

ive been married for just two months now..and even though its been such a short time.. i know how you feel.. because im not ready to have a child at ALL right now...maybe in the future.. but yes... right now.. its time to bond with my husband...and that comes first..

people forget that after the nest is empty and the bird have flown away... that what draws the husband and wife together has to really be strong.. the end.. they will be just two people together if youre not ready to have kids.. dont. because if you do something youre not ready to do....then ultimately your relationship with your husband suffers.. whether directly or indirectly....

ive been reading a book called " a Woman after God's own heart" - by Elizabeth might seem a bit conservative when you read it but it is SO fulfilling.... and it says.. that your husband is your top priority... nothing comes before that...and even when you have kids. or not....he is what you have to cling to and no matter what you have or dont have..your husband is number one . kids are secondary .

1:15 AM  
Blogger Anand said...

Am so glad u put up this post!
One of the most irritating things abt elders...they'r almost looking out for young married couples to victimise by their "ab time ho gaya beta"..lines..
Hate it!

1:28 AM  
Blogger Anand said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:28 AM  
Blogger Anand said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:28 AM  
Anonymous Paavani said...

Yes, its all right when people don’t, not ready for child, why to take responsibility.
One can always adopt a kid and be a single mother (father too), why to marry for a kid/s.
But its people-society keep interfering before marriage and after too.

2:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, so why not simply live together? What does being married add to that?

Also, NOT being married, to put it bluntly, gives you an out. And that's not just cowardice. Our wants, needs, desires, passions and attitudes change with time and experience. I wouldn't want to be stuck in a decision -- ANY decision -- I made 6 years ago.

If you're going to have children, on the other hand, a commitment is prudent -- you don't want to mess up your child's life tomorrow because the marriage no longer appeals to you.

Just what I think. Would love to know why you think differently.


5:19 AM  
Blogger Rohini said...

Great post.

One of the worst arguments that I have heard for having kids is "It will make your marriage stronger". Helloooo! I can tell you from experience that you need a pretty strong marriage in the first place to survive the sleepless nights, frayed tempers and changed priorities that come with having a baby...

Also, I find inevitability of children is what pushes many women into suboptimal marriages because they (and more importantly, their families) feel that the biological clock is ticking and so they get married just so that they don't miss the baby boat. It really sucks...

7:03 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ bongopondit lol "issues" indeed! Yes it really is strange how people you hardly meet and share your life with have a say about what you should do and when you ought to get them done. We've faced that too.
@ cacophoenix I know what you mean and yes I know all about the biological clock ticking etc. But what bothers me is this notion that you HAVE to have kids as soon as you get married. Like that was the sole reason why people had to marry.
@ anyesha well sometimes it bothers me so much that I think I might snap back that I could have had babies even if I hadn't been married. Would serve them right for being so intrusive!
@ J.A.P. you held our for 14!!! Gosh now I need to take life-lessons from you. Good for you! For not giving in to pressure.
@ kausum
"Question: Why do you need to marry, if you are in love?
You are still together when u r in love, rite, so why marry?"
Answer: You don't NEED to marry if you are in love. But you may WANT to marry if you are in love. Because you want to spend every second with that person. You want to wake up next to that person and go to bed smiling knowing he/ she is right beside you. You want to share every little thing that happened to you that day over dinner, a cup of coffee. And yes living together without marrying will allow you that, but I love the sense of belonging and commitment that marriage gave me. I'm a traditional girl at heart. And the whole procedure of actually "tying the knot" gave me immense pleasure and satisfaction. Before we got married we'd have to meet up in the evening after classes to spend time together and go back home at night to avoid getting into trouble. Conversations would last through the night and the phone bills would run into the thousands. I think our parents were relieved when we actually decided to get married :)
I don't know if I answered your question, but that is why I got married. Because I could not be together as much as I wanted to.
@ dreamcatcher that was really smart. We told a relative that we had decided against and it send ripples of shock through the family. I couldn't stop laughing.
@ brown magic tax breaks? I thought you got those for having kids.
@ gg well most the people might be meaning well and handing out unsolicited advice. Don't let it get to you or even depress you. After all who would be the best judge of when you will be ready to have a baby? And thanks for stopping by.
@ neela emotional blackmailing has been there forever and its unlikely to go away anytime soon. And I think it is just horrible to put people through that kind of guilt trip. The society does that all the time: when would be the right time for you to get married, and who you should marry, and once you do get married when you should have kids and how many you should have. The list is endless.
@ tabula rasa 8 years! Congratulations! lol over the wall clocks. Thank God I did not get any because there was a strict "no presents" rule for my wedding. And I was leaving India right after so there was no point in giving me useless teasets and the likes.
@ confused I just answered Kausum's question the way I see it. And like tabula rasa mentions above Indian society is not really high on the living together bit.
@ ekta oooh yes they do. And they'll also tell you how many kids you should have. Like once you get your first child it will be about giving the kid a companion, a brother/ sister. And then it will be about which schools they should go to etc etc. It never stops.
@ grafxgurl I agree with you that your marital relationship is the most important bond that keeps things going. One shouldn't complicate matters by bringing in children until they are ready to face the challenge.
@ anand to give the "elders" some credit I believe they have our best interest at heart. But they need to realize people marry for many different reasons and having a baby might be just one of them but it is not number one.
@ paavani thanks for stopping by. Well we are social creatures and it would be really hard to ignore/ irradiacte social interference. And it is not just our Indian society (that is what I used to think) but my neighbors are white americans and they harbor very similar ideas about marriage and having kids.
@ parth okay I just answered kausum for his question about "why marry". Yes living together gives you the same flavor of being together all the time but it is hardly the same. And for the exact same reason that you bring up. It's about commitment. And while you may not feel comfortable commiting to a relation that you do not know will last you a lifetime, there are very few things in life that you can be sure of and can guarantee will endure. What I mean is, a commitment is a personality thing. People who are scared of commitments simply because they say they cannot be sure have a fear of commitments and probably have misgivings about the relation in the first place. If I love someone that bad, then I have already accepted that person the way he/ she is, with his/ her faults and drawbacks. There are no surprises. How can you fall out of love? And like you say having an "out" in the relation gives you space. I think it is paranoia. You cannot have a meaningful relation if you leave an escape route in there. You are either "in" or "out". There's no in between. If you aren't sure, then you are not in love. And most definitely not ready to get married. And even more importantly not ready to bring a child into the picture. And like you say that you need to marry to give the kid a family and stability and screw up his life because of your own indecisions, I'd say THAT would be the worst reason for staying married. If your relation is not strong in the first place, no child can give you that stability to make it work. Yes some people may live their days that way, but it definitely is not a marriage and not happiness.
@ rohini just loved what you had to say. I echo every thing you said and hopefully it answers a lot of "issues" that were raised here. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

9:10 AM  
Blogger karmic_jay said...

Great post. I pretty much agree with what you have to say. Societal norms and all.
Been married longer than you and we don't have kids yet. Adoption is an option we would look at too.

9:48 AM  
Blogger karmic_jay said...

Stay cool :)

9:48 AM  
Blogger Dadoji said...

I agree. It is a choice to be made by the couple. Better to bring in the kids when you are ready for them. Else it would amount to being careless.

However, based on personal experience I want to say:

It is possible that one may later feel one waited wee more than was required. Having a child in school/junior college when one is about to retire is not exactly the best thing. No harm done but something to think about.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Hawkeye said...

/* My next door neighbor tells me that her daughter's been married for over two years but she couldn't get pregnant until now, because her husband was still in school and they couldn't afford to have kids until he graduated and got a job. Point noted. She seemed mighty unhappy that her daughter married someone who couldn't afford to raise a child and that they had to be "careful" for two goddamn years even though they were married. */

hey this is my story. who is your neighbor? Which city is this? :-)

11:14 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ karmic_jay thanks! And don't get me started on adoption. That will be another post that I intend to write on sometime.
@ dadoji well it is really hard to generalize, isn't it? Everything has a time and place and esp when it comes to something like children you have to be very sure that this is what you both want. And honestly this post was not about whether people should have children but the mere assumption that getting married means you need to have a kid right away.
@ hawkeye DC suburb in northern VA :)
Well this well-meaning neighbor is elated now that her daughter has a brand new baby.
Thanks for stopping by here.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Kausum said...

Interestingly both m and tabula rasa have mentioned that Indian society is not hot on staying together without marrying. However, Indian society also likes couples to have children earlier rather then wait. But, I do believe both the choices are with the couples.

@m: I would like to say, you wanted to marry but, you are not keen on admitting that you also needed to marry (for the society). So you made a choice. However, once you marry, the "want" for you to have kids is yours, the "need" to have kids has to be given externally. Thats what society is for.

Essentially, generalizing a married couple will have kids. You may think, you are not ready for it, but your parents did raise you and know the difficulties of being not prepared, coz raising a kid is not easy. Yet they ask u, tell u, inquire about it. They are trying to create a need.

They are still trying to think about your future. They are wondering whether their grandkids would have a safe future (refering to Dadoji's point). Hear them out, and see if you "want" it.

12:43 PM  
Blogger Hawkeye said...


good topic. our society wont change. I have blogged about it so much. it has never happened in my case, i have seen many people close to me being subjected to this torture of "any good news"? I actually have yelled at elders. Its no use. they are what they are.

Interesting thing is scientists probably attribute love, seeking-companionship etc to a fundametal urge to have sex. if not for those vital chemi-bio reactions tied inextricably to our reproductive organs, we wouldn't fall in love at all. psychologists may support the theory also.

whats baffling is when did our elders start reading science magazines? :-) (just kidding)

1:11 PM  
Blogger Jinguchakka said...

Is this a tag or what? looks like seeing the other posts you refer to!

1:13 PM  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

What! Six years and no kids? Tch...

Okay, just kidding :-) I really wonder what it is that makes people want to poke their noses in other people's affairs. It bugs me no end. Particularly bugging are those strangers you meet while you're travelling and who think it's perfectly alright to ask personal questions. For instance: "What do you do?" "How much do you earn?" "Are you married?" "Any issues?" Issues...where did that come from anyway? Now, I'm always armed with a story to fend off people. Try it sometime, it's great fun.

Anyway, don't listen to them and hold on for as long as you like :-)

1:48 PM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ kausum absolutely. I got married because I "wanted" to and "needed" to. Like I mentioned above we as human beings are social creatures and live in a society. And we cannot ignore the "demands" the society makes on us.
As far as my parents raising me yes they felt the "need" and "want" or whatever else you may call it. But it was their decision. I'm sure they had social pressure and expectations and they dealt with it. I was born 7 years into their marriage which was not that common in those days.
But i'm deviating from the issue here. The point is not whether someone wants or needs to have a child after they are married but the fact that marriage seems to be the license to start reproducing right away. And if you do not comply it is considered strange and nonconforming.
Trust me I have nothing against having kids. It's just the way people expect you to behave that irks me. esp if these are people right off the street who cannot see why someone would want to get married if they are not making babies. That I just don't get.
@ hawkeye I hear you and agree completely. "scientists probably attribute love, seeking-companionship etc to a fundametal urge to have sex" I wouldn't be surprised if it were true. Basic all boils down to that. And honestly no one is saying that married folks cannot have sex. But having sex is not exactly making babies is it? At least not anymore. Unless you are catholic. Why do married folks have to start making babies within an year of their marriage to prove a point that they can and are capable?
@ jinguchakka no tag I assure you:) Just tons of people having problems with similar "issues".

2:00 PM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ ghostoftomjoad just missed you there :)
Yeah a lot of people have issues with "issues" it seems :)
And those strangers we meet on the street who are oh so interested deserve nothing better than a cock and bull story. So what do you tell them?

2:03 PM  
Blogger Rohan Kumar said...

Wow tose other blogs were kinda intense :), btw here's to you livin life on ur own terms cheers

6:07 PM  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

Oh, it's usually a sob story about the marriage breaking up and how it is getting ugly. But what I'm really dying to try out is that Woody Allen line - My left me for another woman - but haven't had the right opportunity :-)

7:47 AM  
Blogger Dadoji said...

m: "Whether to" and "when to" are both choices. Decisions. And I always support that choice. I guess we are going to be in violent agreement over everything. :-)

8:53 AM  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

Oops! That should read: "My wife left me for another woman."

10:29 AM  
Blogger Kausum said...

I can only say, "Opinions is like an ass****, everyone has one" Getting irked by that is giving them a say in your mind.

12:00 PM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ rohan thanks! Yeah will see how intense things start getting for you once you make that trip to India :)
@ ghostoftomjoad lol that's a good one :))
@ dadoji "violent agreement " loved that term :)Well as long as we can be friends I'll take it all.
@ kausum lol well I try to ignore other people's opinions as well their ass****.!

2:05 PM  
Blogger sapna said...

Wow! M, I just loved this post! Coz we too are in the same boat with you! There is no end to nosey parkers and 'well wishers' telling me about my 27 years already being 'quite told' according to the baby making calendar and all that. What irks me all the more is when some friends do it, who've had to marry early, have kids early and here I am doing everything I want and feel like freely, be it a career or a hobby! Its been two years since we got married and I'm sick, sick and sick of these questions and alarmed expressions! I have also started telling some people that we have decided not to have kids at all :))(and then i love watching them with their jaws dropping...)

1:00 AM  
Blogger sapna said...

old i mean!

1:00 AM  
Blogger Aparna said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:44 AM  
Blogger Tanushree said...

"It's just the way people expect you to behave that irks me. esp if these are people right off the street who cannot see why someone would want to get married if they are not making babies."

Well if you did not get married to have babies within a year and then devote your lives to rearing them, then it means you may have got married for other reasons, and you may even be having *gasp* sex for pleasure!!!

5:55 AM  
Blogger Aparna said...

Came here through multiple links, and then realized that you are jsut seconding my opinions on the same topic...btw, me married for 4.5 years now, and have been getting those 'looks' for a long time. It helps of course that I am in a different city than my relatives :)
Do, check out my post which I had done about two months back:

5:57 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ pearl don't let them get to you girl. Do what you think is best. Be it your career, your home or family. It is intimidating, but can be ignored.
@ tanushree "you may even be having *gasp* sex for pleasure!!!" this just made my day :))) Touche!
@ aparna well I'm miles away too but that doesn't stop them from bringing it up anytime they get a chance. But these incidents that I recounted happened to be all strangers off the street! Will check out your post. Thanks!

9:05 AM  
Blogger A.G.Sudarshan said...

OMG! I am not even touching this thought with a mental foot-long pole! Abhi tho mein bacchaa hoon!! :D :D

7:21 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ a.g.s. Well you have to get to the love and marriage bit first. Then we can start goadfing you about the children bit :)

8:55 AM  
Blogger ubergeek said...

"And that I would think would be the only reason why someone should get married" - Couldn't agree with u more!

4:28 AM  

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