It’s common across cultures and generations. Not long after a newly married couple establishes their home and embarks on their life together, the question comes: So when will you start a family? The question comes again and again until the couple finally produces a baby. (Before long, the next question follows: When will you have another?)
Though women in many cultures now have the freedom to chart their own path, the expectations around marriage and children have not faded. The pressure to reproduce can be overwhelming, and this seems to hold true around the globe. A Google search for “societal pressure to have a baby” yields articles from portals and publications from all corners of the world.
Young women in India are under significant family pressure to have children, according to Dr. Ranjana Kumari, Director of the Centre for Social Research in Delhi. “It is extremely important for Indian women to have a child,” she told German news portal DW.com. “Even today in the rural areas and small towns, if you don’t have a child from the natural marriage, then the men are forced by their parents to choose another wife because you can’t produce a child.”
Carrie Burton, a contributor to an online UK magazine, says: “At my age – 30 – the pressure to have children is escalating on a weekly basis. I’ve been told by doctors that if I want children, I should ‘probably get started.’ But the reality is I’ve yet to reach the point in my career or my life where I feel ready.
The pressure can come from friends just as often as it comes from family. Psychology Today contributor Dr. Ellen Walker PhD says “I’ve been told by many young women that they feel left out, as one by one, their friends get pregnant and shift into roles of mommy and daddy. These young child-free women get together with groups of others their age and find themselves alone in the crowd, as the talk moves from diapers to day-care options. They feel that their choice is to either join the group by having a child of their own or find a new group of friends.”
The pressure to have a child is exhausting, but when fertility problems exist for a couple, the pressure becomes even more difficult to bear. It is hard to acknowledge fertility problems internally and even more difficult to share the news with family or friends, particularly when parents and in-laws are anxiously waiting for the arrival of a grandchild.
In Dawn.com’s “Post-marriage pressure: ‘When will you have a baby?’” writer Akhtar Abbas says “Our perceived inability to make it ‘happen’ was explained away in myriad ways, with given reasons falling across a wide range, from ‘effects of horse riding’ to ‘bad company.