If you're pretty sure you don't want to get married or have kids, you're definitely not alone. You've got more company than ever. Times are changing, priorities are changing. But despite the shift in trends, a lot of us still feel shame around acknowledging what we really want.
It's also more of a problem for women than men. As if all women are inherently born with the yearning to share a nest with someone or to procreate, and nothing else. As if it's the rightful duty of men to be independent or ambitious or do whatever they want to.
It's convenient to believe that the institution of marriage is for the social good – that our lives are better and meaningful when we have children. That not having either of these is basically a failure of one's existence.
According to Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar, it's about women going the "western way" and this "is a paradigm shift in our thinking which is not good.”
“I am sorry to say this. A lot of modern women in India they want to stay single. Even if they get married, they don’t want to give birth, they want surrogacy," the health minister said.
What's even more problematic is that the minister made the bizarre, misogynistic comments on World Mental Health Day at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurological Sciences (NIMHANS) in Bengaluru.
Well, getting married or having a baby is not the pinnacle of a woman's life, and there is nothing WRONG in going the "western way."
There's Nothing Wrong With Being Single in a Married World!
There are more single women in India today than at any time in history, yet patriarchy and stereotypes still exist.
If you don't marry someone, you'll have no one to take care of. If you don't marry someone, you'll probably be miserable. If you don't marry someone, you'll probably die alone and be eaten by your cats! The society makes you feel left in the dust with the whole marriage thing, isn't it?
There's even a term for this obsession – 'matrimonia' – coined by professor Bella DePaula, an expert in the field of single studies, who says the society is occupied with the idea of marriage.
But guess what, despite this ridiculous obsession, trends are changing.
One in four young adults in India do not want to marry, according to data from the YouGov-Mint-CPR Millennial Survey. Among millennials, 19 percent aren’t interested in either children or marriage.
There has been a 39 percent increase in the number of single women – widows, never-married, divorced, abandoned – from 51.2 million in 2001 to 71.4 million in 2011.
The conventional idea of adulthood and motherhood does not resonate with everyone and the number is swelling.
We're all different, and it would be unfair to expect that we strive for the same things in life.
Instead of calling women "spinsters", the health minister said "modern women". As if being modern is a sin. What if being modern can mean good things, better things?
What if being with "the one" is not something all of us seek? What if we enjoy being alone and spending time with family and friends? What if someone's asexual? What if all I want is to focus on my career, education, and freedom?
Marriage doesn't really guarantee a secure life-long relationship, nor does it fulfill the rosy picture the society portrays. Sometimes, for a lot of women, it can also mean suffering, compromise or an outdated institution.
These can be good enough reasons to stay single and one doesn't need to feel guilty about it.
Don’t Feel Guilty About Surrogacy Or Not Wanting Kids
We live in a society where having a child is still considered the most obvious and logical step after a couple gets married.
"Are you going to have children? No? Why not?"
"Are you sure the two of you will be enough for each other?"
"Oh, you'll probably change your mind about kids when it's the right time."
"You'll probably regret your decision in the future."
Whether you're married, or single, all women would've been bombarded with these dreadful, highly personal questions at some point their lives.
It's like women have to justify themselves for not having kids, lay out all the reasons for their choice, so that the society doesn't hate them.
Why can't "I just don't want to" be a satisfactory answer?
As if women aren't judged enough for not wanting kids, they are also scorned for not wanting to carry a baby.
"Even if they get married, they don’t want to give birth, they want surrogacy," the health minister said.
It's incredibly surprising how even in this day and age, women are made to feel guilty for making choices about their health and body.
Women are made to feel that conception is something that comes naturally to everyone. Why do we assume?
It's okay to not want to go through the physical burden of carrying a pregnancy. It's also okay to choose surrogacy because of fertility issues or anything else, which again is an extremely personal choice.
We don't need a man, a 'health minister', telling us what to do with our lives and bodies. He clearly doesn't understand the complexities of it.
Whether it's reproductive or other rights, it is time to change the rules, and the conversation.