She's a young Tamil woman. She's successful. She's unmarried. She wants to have children. One problem though. She has not found someone who she can settle down with. But should that get in the way of her having children?
Couples having fertility problems and reaching out to assisted conception methods is not an uncommon phenomenon in our Tamil community. Although many would not openly speak about it, it is still accepted. However an unmarried, Tamil girl seeking out a sperm donor and 'willingly', that's right, by choice, having a child is something that would cause more than just an unsettling reaction in our community.
I met Priya* a few years ago when I had just come out of grad school. We are like-minded when it comes to many things and constantly talk about career, travels, family etc. Over the years I have seen Priya become more open-minded about life in general. It never occurred to me though that this 30-something young woman had such a strong will to have a child. I mean many of us, although we like to think we are open-minded, would hesitate to even consider something like this. Raising a child is a huge commitment and many of us think of that as the next step after we meet our life partner at which point we feel that we are ready to take the relationship to the next level.
The idea of an unwed mother whether she is with or without a partner is not widely accepted in our community (or even elsewhere for that matter). Why do we judge women who want to be mothers and raise children without the support of a husband if they are financially and emotionally stable? Why do they have to face these hurdles?
I recently sat down with Priya so she could share her story with Mommy Culture as I feel that it is an important issue to discuss.
MC: When did you first decide that you want to have a child?
Priya: I love kids, I have always wanted to have one of my own. I'm always playing with my nieces and my cousins' kids. Growing up, I wanted to have three kids of my own. I even imagined the order I would have them in: a boy, girl and a boy. I don't have any brothers, so I wanted my daughter to have an older brother and a younger brother. I know, I have no control over the this, but a girl can only dream, right? I even have names picked out for them.
Now that I'm getting older, I don't think I can have 3 kids, so I would like to have at least one child.
MC: What prompted you to come to this decision?
Priya: I'm 33 years old now. I'm still single and having difficulty meeting the right person. In my life, I was able to accomplish lot of my dreams without any trouble....getting a degree, having a great job, owning a home, travelling to all my dream countries. But the only thing that I was not able to accomplish was settling down, getting married and having kids. This is the only thing that I feel I had no control over. I never had any luck with relationships. I met a lot of people over the years, but they all took advantage of me in different ways, financially and emotionally. Most of the guys that I met here in Canada were not serious about settling down, not mature enough and they were all acting like they were still in high school. My colleagues and friends advised me to meet guys through a marriage broker, online dating sites, at parties/events, through family etc. I tried everything and I was still not able to meet anyone.
I have a couple of friends who are having difficulty conceiving. I thought about being a surrogate for them and even mentioned it to them. Knowing me and how I love kids, they didn't think it was a good choice. They all said that I would not be able to cope emotionally when giving up the baby. That is when I decided to go the route of artificial insemination.
Priya talks a bit about her experience with meeting men:
People around me started saying that I was very picky. My only requirement was to meet a guy who was responsible, easy going and who had an ambition in life. It is very simple, but the hardest quality to find in a guy. As years went by, I started to lose hope in love. If I get married later in my life, I don't want to go through obstacles again to have a child. I don't know if or when I will get married so I don't want to lose the opportunity to experience giving birth to a child.
MC: Are you prepared to face any potential backlash from family and the community for doing this?
This may come as a surprise to some of my friends and family, but I have put a lot of thought into this. There are always people to criticize your decision. You can't make everyone happy. There is a point in life where you have to be selfish to do certain things for yourself. This is one of them for me. I don't want my generation to stop after me, and the only way to continue it is to have kids of my own. My life experiences have made me a very strong and independent woman. I'm ready to face any consequences.
MC: So will you be prepared (emotionally and financially) to raise a child on your own?
I'm emotionally and financially stable to raise a child on my own. There are lots of support and services available for single/low income families. I know at the beginning, my parents are going to oppose this idea, but eventually they will understand my situation and support me. I believe in that. I also believe that a person becomes stronger when they are faced with challenges.
MC: What are your thoughts on how our community views an unmarried, single, tamil girl with a child?
I find that the Tamil community is narrow minded, even those that are born here. I think it’s the parents to blame for it. If a person makes a mistake, people always remember it and never give them a second chance, even if the person learns from it. People segregate them and put them in a different group. For example, I had been engaged in Sri Lanka, a register marriage (legally married), but we only signed the paper at the house in the presence of a registrar. We never lived together as I moved to Canada. When our relationship ended we had to get a divorce as we were legally married. It was just on paper. But now, I’m classified as a divorcee in my community. If I want to get married again in the Tamil community, I can only marry another divorcee or widower.
Guys who were not married before lose the interest in me as soon as I tell them that I’m divorced, even when I explain my situation. My past experience was similar to a boyfriend-girlfriend break-up but Tamil people have a hard time getting past that. The proposals that come through marriage brokers are with other divorcees. It really hurts me to see this happening. Now, I am only given a choice to marry a guy who was previously married longer than me or someone who has kids. I have no problem with that but why am I forced to only choose from this group, especially when a lot of the men are so much older than me? I have even dated a few guys that were previously married or those with kids, but even they did not want to commit to a long-term relationship. I just can’t seem to meet the right person. People don’t accept a girl who is divorced, so I don’t think they are going to accept a girl with a child. So I don’t care what the Tamil community thinks.
MC: Have you thought about what you will tell your child if he/she asks about the father?
I would like my child to know who his/her father is. When I did my research on artificial insemination, I only looked at donors who were willing to share their contacts and are ok to be contacted later. I want my child to be mixed, so I have looked at Columbian donors. I think that's a great mix. When my child asks about my father, I will tell him/her the truth. I know he/she will understand.
*Name has been changed to maintain anonymity.
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