The formula for happiness post-marriage is not to have kids. Yes! Do not look stunned. This revelation was made by Daniel Gilbert, a Psychology professor at Harvard University, in his book, Stumbling on Happiness. He stated, “The happiest folks are married, make between USD 50,000-75,000 per year and have approximately zero offspring”. Well, staying childless is a trend that is quite popular overseas. However, in India, the thought is still in its nascent stage. Either for a liability-free life or owing to a troubled childhood, there are several reasons behind why couples are opting not to have kids. Let’s delve deeper to know more about the psychology behind this trend.
Decoding the reasons
There is a stigma associated with couples who choose not to have kids. They are often labelled as selfish, and are even considered impotent. Such couples are neglected in conservative societal gatherings and are looked down upon. But, it is certainly not right to comment and criticise their decision of staying childless. We actually cannot decode as to what goes into their mind when they choose to take such hard decisions.
Dr. Pulkit Sharma, a Delhi based Clinical Psychologist at Imago- Centre for Self, reveals various types of couples who choose not to have kids:
1. Couples with a traumatic past
A couple where either one or both partners have a history of trauma during childhood often think they are too bruised to behave like a parent. They feel that the world is too unsafe a place to bring in a new life. They feel if they could not save themselves, there is no way that they will be able to protect their kids.
2. Couples who want to enjoy life
Well, there are such couples too who do not want to sacrifice the joys of their life running behind their little ones. For them, career goals are more important. Delhi based Ritu Singh and Abhay Singh is one such couple. For them, children come as a huge commitment, which can overpower everything in a couple’s life. “We want to live life a certain way, travel and pursue our hobbies without any limitations. And, with kids, we cannot go all out doing what we feel like. So, we decided to stay childless by choice,” says the couple.
3. Couples with a troubled relationship
Gone are the days when couples were suggested to have kids to solve their marital problems. But the scenario has completely changed now. Some couples who are going through a troubled phase in their relationship, are now opting to remain childless. As their relationship is like a dormant volcano, which might erupt anytime, having a kid can risk his or her future.
4. Couples who face financial challenges
Inflation is one big hindrance in bringing up a child. At times, it gets difficult for couples to manage their own survival; giving birth to a new life is absolutely out of question. Right from their upbringing, education to marriage, financial restraint is a big factor.
Dealing with parental pressure
Well, couples who choose not to have kids, have to face difficulties in dealing with parental pressure. They have to bear the societal brunt as well as the emotional blackmailing from the family. So, what is more important is how they stick to their decision amidst all this drama.
Considering that parenthood is the next big step after marriage, many couples have to deal with awkward questions and advices. These vary from 'you have been married for long now, aren’t you thinking of kids?' to an agony aunt coming to rescue by advising the couple to undergo fertility treatment. The hue and cry about kick-starting a family life annoys most couples who take this decision after weighing all the pros and cons.
To this Dr Pulkit Sharma adds, “Couples have to bear the brunt of society, if they wish to remain childless. It is so because it is relatively difficult for the society to accept this thought. People feel that the couple is hiding something (fertility issues) and start pressurising them to think about starting a family. The couple feels disturbed as almost no one understands and appreciates/accepts their decision.”
“The only way to deal with it is to just ignore such comments and questions. If you start getting affected, this pressure will not let you live peacefully. Make your folks understand why you do not want to have kids. And even after that, if they emotionally blackmail you, do not give in. At the end of the day it is your decision and they should respect that,” suggests Dr. Sharma.
Well, we are no one to advocate in favour or against the couples who do not wish to have kids. It is absolutely a couple’s prerogative to take this decision. Couples should just make sure that they both agree to it, and not regret it later on in life.