Ekta Kapoor, Sakshi Tanwar, Sushmita Sen. These are a few Bollywood personalities who have a single commonality amongst them, that they decided to achieve motherhood sans the traditional method: marriage. Instead, they decided to adopt, and as a result, received backlash for their decision to independently raise kids, without a father figure or a male “head of the family”, owing to the fact that our society is not ready to accept this kind of behavior, which it believes is not right. Earlier this year, actress Dia Mirza was criticized for her decision to get pregnant before marriage, which piqued social media users, so much so that they went on to establish that she was pregnant before marriage. From there, it was a short road towards blasphemous comments and threats being issued to the actress, on account of being uncultured and setting a bad example. All such incidents bring us to deliberate upon the question: What does it mean to be a mother without marriage in today’s day, age and society?
Marriage, in India, is considered as a sacrosanct union between two individuals, and is believed to be the defining hallmark of a woman’s life. It’s also the foundation of a new journey and with that, the beginning of a new family. The moment a woman gets married, the couple are barraged with the question: “Kush Khabri Kab De Rhe Ho?” meaning, when are you giving us the good news of child bearing? This is a simple example of the deep correlation between marriage and motherhood in our society. So much so, that girls are groomed to have maternal instincts since childhood, which can be corroborated by how girls are asked to play house-house while boys are better off playing the more ‘masculine’ games. But, in spite of all the preconditioning, it isn’t the right time to bear children, till after marriage and not before.
A girl is asked to follow the chartered course and marry a man to conceive a child. Once that’s done, the married woman, giving birth is considered as a miracle of God and the mother herself a Goddess, for enduring hours of pain and months of hardships that come with carrying a child in the womb. It is always considered a glorious aspect where she is celebrated by all and looked upon with respect and admiration. However, when a woman decides to have a baby without marriage, she is shamed by society. Why? Because it’s not ideal. This is so because our society has always disliked people who didn’t follow conventional norms, because it shakes the patriarchal order of things. Secondly, child bearing is always connected to a man’s need of carrying his legacy forward. However, if an unmarried woman, who is doing well in life, decides to bring a child into this world sans marriage, she is not appreciated for her achievements, and is humiliated for her unmarried status, which is outrightly wrong.
Motherhood is a beautiful feeling, but it also comes with its own set of hardships. Right from deciding which way to go: to start with in vitro fertilization (IVF) and become pregnant with a frozen sperm or to go through surrogacy and have someone else carry your child or whether to adopt. Single parenthood can be a challenging decision, but it’s a decision that needs to be applauded, supported and encouraged by all of us in the society, because a child isn’t raised on the parent’s beliefs alone. It’s the collective environment of their parents, family members, teachers and friends that aids in a child’s upbringing. But to bring them into a world filled with so much hypocrisy and prejudice against raising a child with love, single or not, is not ideal. Motherhood works when a mother decides to love her child unconditionally and protect them, no matter what, and that definitely has nothing to do with marriage.