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|by Pallavi Bhattacharya|
Double Income Single Child, Double Income No Child
Prashant, 42, a computer engineer, comes from a family of eight siblings of which two had passed away due to illnesses. Prashant says, “My parents never realized that bringing a child into this world meant taking full responsibility. I remember being punished repeatedly at school because my homework had too many mistakes. Me being the youngest always got to wear the tattered clothes discarded by older siblings and had to play with their broken toys. One of my brothers died before I was born and my favorite sister passed away quite uncared for when almost the whole family had typhoid. Another brother of mine has to walk with crutches just because my parents forgot to give him his polio vaccine. I am quite happy without a child and have plenty of nieces and nephews to spend time with.” Prashant is married to an active social worker who runs an NGO for underprivileged children. Prashant’s wife doesn’t feel that having a child is mandatory to make them a ‘complete family’ either, “I’m like a parent to the children I work with anyway.”
More and more people are nowadays are opting for one child or choosing to have no children, especially in urban Indian families. The reasons for taking this option may be as varied as having less time for physical intimacy after a tiring day, a general dislike of the behavior of children, fear and revulsion towards the physical condition of pregnancy or childbirth, memories of traumatic childhood or even concerns regarding over-population. The terms ‘double income single child’ and ‘double income no child’ are therefore very often used in contemporary lingo. There is a clear distinction between ‘childless couples’ and ‘childfree couples’. The term ‘childless’ applies to anyone who wants to have a child but can’t have one. The term ‘childfree’ are those who plan not to bear children for a variety of reasons.
According to psychiatrist Arijit Bhatta, “Double income single child is not just a trend seen in urban areas- one cannot ignore this in rural areas too. In both metropolitan cities and towns the family planning trend is almost the same for the rich and middle class. In my view ‘the poor’ generally still think that more children the more help they’ll get in future to earn more money as well as in household chores. My wife and I have one child too as both of us are working in the social work field committed to the promotion of mental health where monetary gain is not the first priority and our joint income is also not adequate in comparison to other couples. We want our daughter of two years to be quite well educated and a good citizen too.”
Graphic designer Rashmi Sharma and her husband Sushil- event manager in film / TV had a child seven years after their marriage. Rashmi says, “We wanted to be mentally prepared and mature to take care of another life on this earth. Rearing your child to be a responsible citizen of the world is a very big responsibility.” When Rashmi is asked what her reply would be to a clichéd advice that ‘having two children is important as just in case one child dies or is led astray, the other will serve as a backup’ she answers, “I find this theory inane and inhuman as I don’t think that one child can replace another. Besides how do we know for sure that both the children will survive the parents, there is no guarantee about anybody’s life and the funniest of all is- keeping a back up for what?’ This is the ice age propagation of race theory on the assumption that children will take care of old parents, and help in gathering food or killing animals. So the child that comes out not as a culmination of love of two people but as an insurance for old age- a very expensive Insurance Policy indeed!”
Nagesh Kukunoor’s Hyderabad Blues II in comic overtones dwells into the ‘double income no child’ phenomenon- here the husband Varun doesn’t want a child but his wife Ashwini does. Ashwini even goes to the extent of learning tricks to make lovemaking better so that she can trick her husband into having a child. Jyoti Dogra, who played Ashwini in the film says, “Ashwini wants a child as she feels that her marriage has reached a stage wherein the next step forward is to have a child. When Varun expresses disinterest in having a child she starts to question her husband’s comfort level in the marriage. However it’s not that having no child makes Varun and Ashwini drift apart but the fact that Varun had expressed interest for another woman- it’s the mistrust that created problems in their marriage.”
When asked about the pros and cons of having a single child in a double income family, Dr. Arijit Bhatta answers, “The parents’ level of expectation may become higher for a single child thereby putting too much of pressure on him / her to excel. If both the parents are busy about their work, the child may not get the requisite care and attention. A single child will however always benefit from the financial point of view as all monetary resources will be spent in rearing just him / her as opposed to it being distributed among the siblings.”
How would life in India be if we had mainly double-income single child families? We may refer to Dombivli, a town just 50 kms from India, exemplary of a planned town with a planned lifestyle, which is thought to have stemmed from planned family planning. Almost 70% couples in Dombivli happen to be professionals with a ‘modern lifestyle’ often reflected in their one-child families. In many ways Dombivli is a model city. It has 8 colleges for a student population of just 20,000 of which there are rank holders every year. There religious institutes for all faiths. The city is also known to have one the best healthcares facilities in India, the doctor patient ratio is just 1:1000.
DINK (the acronym for Double Income No Kids) appeared in Pat Buchanan’s bestselling book The Death of the West in which he by ‘double income single kids’ referred to ‘couples with plenty of money leading a life with no brats to tend to at five o'clock in the morning’. He harshly reprimands DINKs as couples who have shirked off the liabilities of having kids with a lifestyle, which allows them to, “Sleep in till 10:30 a.m. Saturdays, followed by a champagne lunch, lobster dinner and whatever pleasure the weekend has to offer.” He labels the DINK lifestyle as ‘a shallow one, adding nothing to the propagation of the race and family line, and contributing to the decline of Western civilization’. Pat Buchanan's subtitle to the book is "How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization" – a ‘sinister warning, backed up by irrefutable documentation and historic examples’. He prefers to call it "depiction, not prediction." It is according to him a depiction with statistics of Western countries with slowly dying populations and others, including the United States and Britain, tuning into Third World nations because of runaway immigration. This prediction however seems extremely hypothetical for India, which happens to be a populous country.
Besides, not all childfree couples can be typecast as selfish. Some childfree adults chose to add volunteering to their already busy lives whereas others freed themselves from the financial responsibilities of children to dedicate themselves to charitable causes instead. To name just a few of these families: William Blake and his wife Catherine worked tirelessly to produce an edition of Blake’s poems and drawings- Blake wrote the poems whereas Catherine hand-colored and printed the pictures illustrating his poem.
It’s said Sri.Ramakrishna Paramhamsa and Sarada Devi didn’t have children as they had jointly decided themselves to a greater spiritual cause instead. Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey says that she doesn’t have children of her own as she is focuses her resources to help the world’s children instead. Oprah is in fact devoting her private time to help to build schools for underprivileged girls in Africa.
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