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The best time to have children in a marriage should be one of the most personal choices a couple can make. For the most part, times are changing. Girls’ mother-in-laws are regarded more as an integral part of the family resulting, slightly unexpectedly in less interference by “the in-laws”. As Indian households move forward and embrace* western culture; the decision regarding when to have children lies increasingly with the couple.
* ‘embrace’-I can think of many other words my father’s generation would use to describe this move towards westernisation of Indian society none of which are remotely related to the word “embrace” and certainly none I could quote to the general public. The fact that “YOU BASTARD I KILL YOU!!” is included in the script of most Bollywood movies appears to have escaped ALL parents. “Cursing” and “swear words” are only significant when used by ‘local’ people; cue tutting, head shaking and various ‘elders’ muttering “these people…”
So back to the matter in question; and now I wonder that since the decision to have children does lie largely with the couple, is this really such a good thing?
In the past the mother-in-law would teach her daughter the ways around the kitchen and general pottering around the house looking useful, of course dressed in full splendour; saris, bangles, heavy jewellery etc. This information is based on the highly realistic Indian soap operas that portray the typical Indian family; doting but secretly scary mother-in-law, brow-beaten, covertly hen-pecked father-in-law, evil unmarried aunt (father-in-law’s sister) who spends the best part of the day stirring the proverbial cauldron, the beautiful but dizzy yet-to-be-married little sister, the even more beautiful butter-wouldn’t-melt “I’ll do everything you want me to” daughter in law (which, of course, would be me) and most precious of all, the son and the centre-pin of the family, the pampered “I couldn’t possibly put my empty tea cup in the sink, speaking of which, where is the sink?” king-in-the-making.
Although, on the outside, this looks like a highly dysfunctional family unit, at least everyone knew where they stood. The main characters, the men, did whatever they felt like whenever they felt like doing it, the women would dish up the meals with ravishing smiles and not a grimace in sight. After the daughter-in-law had been satisfactorily trained in all manners relating to the household, her mother-in law would set about sending her daughter-in-law upstairs for a few “early nights” resulting several weeks later in a coy confession of pregnancy. This, of course, would be followed by thundering declarations of the house being filled with the laughter of a delightfully fair young boy.
And in this way, everybody knew where they stood, until the daughter-in-law produced a daughter, then things pretty much went downhill from there (and the evil aunt would sit smiling cruelly and stroking her beard. Did I say beard? I did mean chin).
These days the whole baby palaver seems to result in huge amounts of drama and lots of tantrums, and that was just my husband’s reaction to the thought of a baby gate-crashing his life.
I would have to categorically admit that the decision to have children was mine and mine alone.
After spending two and a half ‘blissful’ honeymoon years with dear husband; where the days were spent dreaming of each other wistfully during work hours, chatting through our lunch breaks desperate to be reunited again at the end of the day. And the nights were spent chasing away nightmarish premonitions of my children being asked (in their formative years) “why is your mummy OLD?” followed swiftly, a few years on, by “Maaan! Your mum is ROUGH” Finally, pushed to the threshold of insanity, I’d had enough, the time had come to pop the question. “Don’t you think it would be really cool if we had a baby?” Perhaps not the best way to broach the subject, but when one is working with such unmalleable material, one must start off slowly.
Over the weeks and months, the word “cool” was substituted with various other adjectives (e.g. cute, lovely, precious, fabulous and other ‘describing words’ that suggest a favourable outcome). This line of playful banter came to a screeching halt with; “Don’t you think it’s absolutely necessary that we have a baby NOW?”
Which brings me, yet again, right back to my original question; is it really a good idea for an issue with this amount of gravity to lie solely with the couple? In all cases; this subject is brought up by either the wife or the husband. (and you, the sanctimonious moron who is shaking your smug head and saying “we both decided at the same time ACTUALLY”- I highly doubt that you both sat up in your smug chairs AT THE SAME TIME and smugly said “Alrighty! Let’s have a baby!”
One or the other of you would have broached the topic).
I accept that in many cases cajoling, gentle encouragement and blatant nagging may not have been necessary; but what happens to the spouse who suggested it?
On a hot summer’s day, whilst husband and (in the case of particularly doting parents)/or (in most cases) wife dress baby after a refreshing splash in the ergonomically designed tub, pretending they’re enjoying every precious second of baby-bonding time, whilst sweating profusely and wishing they could sleep for just one measly hour. And then oops…baby has an adorable accident and the shit, quite literally, hits the fan. Those precious, wonderful moments that were being enjoyed up until that minute come to an abrupt halt and all you can hear is the whirring of the ceiling fan and someone pipes up “WELL, it was YOUR stupid idea to have a baby in the first place!” Copious amounts of howling follow… and then the baby decides to join in.
No decent parent needs to say that they love their child more than anything but when the going gets tough, which with small children it invariably does, is it both parents’ responsibility to work through the hard times, or just the parent whose bright idea it was to have the baby? If one of the parents has been “talked into it”, the likelihood is that the answer will be the latter scenario.
Now that our bundles of joy are growing up fast, one in the first stages of primary school and the second still in nursery but perhaps needing to be in some kind of correctional facility, my husband couldn’t be happier. I was lucky enough to have provided him with one of each colour; one pink, one blue, or vice versa if you think about it in biological terms, and so we’re done.
When the going got tough, which it did many times during their infancies, dear husband was always there to hold my hand and make me see that there was light at the end of the tunnel. It was when the going was its mundane normal, day-to-day self that I felt I didn’t have the right to ask too much of him.
When the babies woke up on an hourly basis, not at the same time, resulting in no sleep at all and mornings at the breakfast table looked like scenes from “Dawn of the Dead”, I never woke him up. After all, it was my bright idea to have them (and I am an absurdly amazing wife). Ask my husband.
Author: Keeya Mehta is a budding writer and online contributor to GaramChai.com