By Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya
The decision to have children is personal, and in today’s world, it is a decision one must arrive at having considered several factors. A sense of responsibility towards the planet given overpopulation and climate change is a deciding factor, but couples may also refrain from having children or being voluntarily childless for medical or financial reasons.
In November 2021, Pew Research Centre published a study that found that a growing share of childless adults in the US do not expect to ever have children. They stated that 44% of non-parents between ages 18 and 49 said it is not too or not at all likely that they will have children someday.
Of those surveyed, 56% said they just don’t want to have children. The others cited factors like medical reasons, financial reasons, lack of a partner, age, the state of the world, and climate change as reasons to remain childfree.
Looking at the other side of the world, a video circulated on social media recently of a young man in China arguing with pandemic control workers, refusing to stay at a quarantine centre for several days. The strict measures are a result of China’s zero-Covid policy. In the video, a police officer warns that refusing to follow orders could affect three generations of the young man’s family, to which he responds: “I am sorry, we are the last generation, thank you.”
In Sri Lanka, concerns about future generations are high given the economic crisis and the long-term impacts we are looking at. A number of young people have already decided against having children, whether by themselves or after a conversation with their partners. Brunch spoke to three people who do not plan on having children in order to explore the reasons behind this decision and contributing factors.
Mayuri, who is in her late twenties, is in a relationship and said she ideally would want kids and has always wanted kids. “But now, with the country’s situation and medical shortage, I’m having second thoughts. I don’t want to die or end up with lifelong irreversible health issues due to pregnancy and/or childbirth complications (both for me and my child) only because of a lack of medicines,” she said.
Mayuri added that she also has trouble justifying adding another child to the country’s population, especially considering how bleak their future looks from where we stand now.
“Also because of my endometriosis and how sensitive my body is to hormone levels changing, I don’t know if I want to put my body through pregnancy,” she said. Due to her endometriosis, Mayuri had a conversation about the topic with her partner a year ago, as well as a month ago.
She explained that both she and her partner wanted kids, but her partner raised concerns even a year ago and said he would want to have kids if they were to live overseas.
“After some chit-chat and back and forth, we sort of came to the consensus that yes, we would have kids at some point,” Mayuri said, adding: “But after last month’s chat, I am now thinking if I want to put myself through that in these economic conditions.”
Mayuri went on to say that these thoughts about having kids are those that developed recently, and that her opinions would have been completely different a month or two ago.
With Sahani, the decision against having children was made years ago. “The very first moment I realised I didn’t want kids was when I was 14, because I noticed how unfairly mothers are treated and I decided that I don’t want to face the same fate.”
She explained that our society is one that says “a mother is like the Buddha at home”, but the next moment turns around and blames mothers exclusively for any wrongdoing by a person, as if a mother is the only one who parents a child.
“Our society only worships mothers that fit a strict narrative, where she is suffering and dedicates her entire life to her family and doesn’t care a bit about herself. The moment a mother starts caring about herself, she is seen as selfish. Things might be a little bit better now but this was very much the view a decade ago,” she explained.
Another reason are the risks brought on by pregnancy, which could lead to lifelong side effects or even death. The responsibility of parenting is something Sahani has considered, saying it is an extremely hard and life-altering experience which requires a lot of patience, kindness, research, and hard work, which she does not want to put into a child.
“One more reason is that I just don’t have a reason as to why I would want a child. I’m not royalty to continue my bloodline. I love kids in moderate doses for which I have siblings but I don’t have baby fever or desire to have a mini-me. A lot of people say not having kids is selfish but it’s more selfish to have a kid when you don’t want them and when you can’t give them the best life.”
Sahani added: “In addition to all these, the world is dying due to climate change, living is becoming way more expensive and difficult, the world is becoming more competitive and letting another human into this seems immoral.”
Risla shared the perspective of a young Sri Lankan who has moved abroad, and said she is married but doesn’t want to have kids. The reasons for this are both financial and ethical.
“You can’t have a kid and expect to have the same or better standard of living. Bringing a child into a world where it’s likely their lives will be worse than ours is selfish,” she said, asking if we really need more kids.
There is also the burden of children when you don’t have a support system, like grandparents and family who live in the same country or state, she said, adding “and when you’re an immigrant is just too much”.