WE ARE CHILDFREE

Escaping cultural expectations, with Mohita Solanki, an Indian in Australia

Patriarchy, pronatalism, the pressure to have children - this badass has left it all behind.

Episode 9

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Mohita Solanki was born in India, where pronatalism is everywhere. Her parents hoped their daughters would have children one day, but also insisted they get an education – and it’s this education that Mohita credits with opening her eyes to different options, other ways of living. Determined to live the life they wanted, Mohita and her husband left for Melbourne, Australia, where she works as a data analyst and runs a meetup group for 80 childfree women. We had a super eye-opening chat about her home culture, how patriarchy is all around us – in every country, even in our heads – and her hopes for the next generation.

If you’re in Melbourne, you can join Mohita’s group for childfree women here.

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Transcript

Mohita: Ever since I was a kid, I was very, very sure of everything I wanted to do. And I wouldn’t take no for an answer. That’s just who I am. And that might strike like a very bad thing for a lot of people back to my country. But it helped me a lot to be – to get to the point where I am in my life. Because I always was sure where I want to go. Secondly, I did see every woman living near me, what was their life like, and I never wanted to be like that, just never wanted to be. So I knew head-on straight where I should go in order to move away from that kind of lifestyle. And the other part of my strength came from my husband, because he is like me. And we both know what we want. And we just don’t like letting people tell us bullshit. So that is why – we are a very strong couple, very strong couple. And we know where we are headed.

Zoë: Welcome to We are Childfree, a podcast that celebrates childfree lives. I’m your host, Zoë, and each episode I’ll speak with another incredible guest about their decision not to have children, and what it’s meant for their life. Today I’m speaking to Mohita Solanki, a total badass! She was born in India, the second most populous country in the world, where pronatalism is everywhere. Her parents hoped their daughters would have children one day, but also insisted they get an education – and it’s this education that Mohita credits with opening her eyes to different options, other ways of living. At college, Mohita met her now-husband, and it was actually him who put the childfree choice on the table, concerned that the couple would never be truly equal if he couldn’t share responsibility for bearing and birthing kids. What a good feminist! Determined to live the life they wanted, this “dream team” left India for Melbourne, Australia, where Mohita works as a data analyst and runs a meetup group for 80 childfree women. We had a super eye-opening chat about Mohita’s home culture, how patriarchy is all around us – in every country, in our heads – and her hopes for the next generation. Enjoy my conversation with Mohita Solanki.

Mohita: Actually, I wasn’t the first one to decide that we are not going to have kids, it came directly from my husband. After we got married, he mentioned that he doesn’t want children. And at first, was like, what, really? But I wasn’t too defensive against the idea as well. Because I never thought about it, like not going in that direction, and not going in against the direction. I just never gave it a thought. So I was like, I was into it in a couple of months. So initially, I did ask, like, “Are you sure about this? Are you sure about this”. But that wasn’t too long, because I was very, very much interested in the idea of living our life, for ourselves, not for anyone else. And, and everyone knows, like, we are just humans, not here for a long, long time. So it made sense to live for ourselves first. So I actually liked it. But it came from him. Yes, so he was the first one. Lucky enough to have a husband who doesn’t want children.

Zoë: So then you had always thought you would have children? Or had it just been something, a topic, that you hadn’t really been thinking of?

Mohita: I never thought about it. But one thing I was sure about, was that I was never into children. I was never like, I never wanted to spend more time with any other kid. And I was just not interested or wasn’t that maternal, at any stage in my life. I still am not.

Zoë: And so tell me a little bit about your childhood, then where are you from?

Mohita: I’m from India.

Zoë: Okay.

Mohita: From India. I know, there are so many people there already. And it bugs me that you know, I come from that country, because it’s the second most populous country. And people are just not stopping. They don’t want to stop. And people like me scare them. They feel something is definitely wrong with me. And why else don’t I want children? So it’s something that you know, you do, it’s not something you think about, you just do. That’s what you’re here for. So that’s the common idea in my country. It’s like you don’t think about it. It’s more of a question of when you do it. It’s not a question if you do it.

Zoë: Really? Yeah, that’s interesting. I mean, what is it like to grow up in a country – that must feel quite oppressive as a woman there?

Mohita: Oh, yes, definitely. I mean, coming from my country, I always have to have two eyes at the back of my head, just to make sure that I’m safe. And I had to fight a bit hard, then men as well, because you have to prove yourself at every point. But I was fortunate enough to have parents who treated both boys and girls the same. So there was never any distinction between me and my brother. So they give all the four of us prime education. So that was a very fortunate thing for me to have had. And so yeah, and a bit of my, I do think that I was a bit intelligent as well, and had good grades since the start. So it helped me climb up the ladder there as well. But things for women are still very different, there as compared to, you know, males. Something that you have to fight every day of your life, definitely. So even if I don’t want to have children, I know that my husband and I, we both decided, but the question will always come to me, rather than go to him.

Zoë: Yes, I experienced that as well. I think it’s this is, yeah, pressure that women, we get the most questions and the most comments –

Mohita: I don’t know why. I just don’t know why.

Zoë: So how big was your family?

Mohita: So I have four siblings. I have two elder sisters and a younger brother.

Zoë: So how have they taken to your decision not to have children?

Mohita: Well, to be honest, my father never said anything about it. But my mum still has hope. And so every time I call her like, once in three times, I would say she does bring the topic up. But now I feel… recently there was a conversation, where I felt like she understands me now, and that was a good one. Because recently, I started a childfree women group here in Melbourne. And it has like 80 members in it. So organised an event there, just drinks and catch up. So I just told her when I came back from the event that I did that. So she was like, kind of proud, I could tell. It’s like, “Oh, good that there are more people who think like you”. And she actually smiled at that. So that was something that told me that she is into the idea, not that much opposed to it now. Maybe she gets it, like who I am. And what I want.

Zoë: That’s awesome. I think, yeah, maybe some parents are just so worried about their, you know, there’s this kind of idea that you’ll be alone, if you’re childfree, you’re going to be alone. And there’s not going to be anyone there. I think you know, there’s no guarantees in life. If you have kids, you can also be alone. So I think it’s like maybe your mum is kind of seeing that you can have a community of people, you can have a fulfilling life, and that’s all she maybe wants. And, because it’s so alien to a lot of people, this way of living, they just don’t realise that you can have an incredible life if you want to – just like if you have kids. You make your own life, you know?

Mohita: Absolutely. And having kids is no guarantee. Yeah, having kids is no guarantee that you won’t end up in an old age home. Everyone knows that. So you should go and ask people, you have to go and ask, ask those people who have kids, and they’re still in an old age home. What’s that about? Like, there’s no guarantee?

Zoë: No. So then tell me more about the meetup there. So you know, how was it? 80 people’s incredible!

Mohita: Oh, that was great. I mean, not 80 people showed up. 80 people have been in that crew. But it’s an app that connects neighbours. So I just started, I wanted to join a group, but there was none. So I started my own. And I could hear, I have people from like women from all age groups, and even someone in like 70s as well. And they thank me, they thanked me for starting this group, they thanked me for acknowledging that we needed a separate community. So it was something that felt very good, personally, as well. Because I wanted to be, I wanted to have a platform where women can openly discuss this lifestyle choice.

Zoë: I mean, we are lacking those, aren’t we, you know, we don’t have anything like this. And this is one thing that I’m realising with the messages that I’m getting, it’s about community and it makes sense because as childfree people, you know, if we are the minority, we are lacking in those relationships where we have, you know, like-minded people. When your friends start having kids, they go on a different journey, a different path. And we need to be able to connect with others who are making this decision. Because our lives are going to be more similar to each other. And obviously, it doesn’t mean you don’t have your friends who have had kids – keep those relationships – but it’s so enriching to meet other people who maybe think a little bit more like you or or just have the same things in common, right?

Mohita: Absolutely. Absolutely. You need that. You very much need that.

Zoë: So then what about your siblings? How do they take the decision? Do they have children?

Mohita: Yes, yes. Two of them. My sisters, both of them have two kids. And my younger brother is still not married. But he will have them for sure. So that’s a very strong case I make in front of my mother that all three of your kids are having kids. So just leave me alone [laughs]

Zoë: The pressure should be off.

Mohita: It’s not like you’re not a grandma. You got it.

Zoë: That’s it. It’s interesting that the pressure, you know, when your siblings have kids, you like, okay – phew! – sigh of relief. Just leave me alone, you got your grandkids.

Mohita: Yeah, my sisters were opposed to the idea – absolutely. They were opposed to the idea at the beginning. But then they realised, then they saw how I live. And you know what I’m able to do with my time, my energy, my money, anything. And so now, they say they have like, accepted this idea that if they didn’t have kids, they wouldn’t be missing them because there was nobody to miss. Now they have them, so absolutely, that’s a different timeline for them. So they have to take care of them, they have to love them, right? But she accepted that one of them, that, “Yeah, I understand, if you want to go in that direction. It’s your choice. It’s your life and you’re absolutely entitled to make that decision.”

Zoë: So then where do you think – you know, it’s always interesting to me how, when I’m talking to different childfree women, the reasons, and when they decided it – and, you know, for myself, I just always kind of knew, and so many childfree women, they just always knew, right? And, you know, when they have siblings, and like, they go the opposite direction, I have a twin sister, and she, you know, really, really wanted children. So it’s super interesting that, you know, we can be brought up exactly the same, but we have these, we have completely different – we’re different people. There is no one woman on this earth that we all should be, you know, exactly the same. We’re all different. But society does tend to paint us as the same, we’re the same – we all should be mothers, we all should want to be mothers.

Mohita: Well, that’s a very patriarchal thing. That’s a very patriarchal thing. Like, all of this is to keep some things in check. And women are on the top of that list.

Zoë: In a country like India, obviously, the pressure for women is pretty intense to, you know, be a good wife and have children. And, you know, I’m assuming it’s very traditional – the gender roles, men and women, they have their role set. Am I right?

Mohita: Absolutely.

Zoë: How is it then for your mum and dad? How was it for your mother? Was she happy as a mother, you think?

Mohita: Well, I think that she is a brilliant woman. And had she, was she given a choice to do something else with her life, she would have done wonders. And, it’s safe to say that she does regret a couple of decisions around having children. But, as a mother, you can’t always say it out loud. But you do feel that, your entire life, your entire time, just went into raising kids, could have done something else. And also, being a mum is not a very, like, it’s not a job that gets a lot of acknowledgment or appreciation. And that does eat you up. And it’s true for every woman who is a mother. So I do feel that she felt at some point that, you know, she could have taken a break, or it’s getting overwhelming.

Zoë: Yeah, I mean, having one child already looks intense, it looks like a lot of work. So, you know, anyone who has multiple children, I don’t know how – I don’t even understand how people do it. It looks, there’s so much hard work. And you’re right, it’s kind of like a thankless task. The way we treat mothers in general is actually really appalling. It’s kind of you know, they’re not, they’re not really seen, it’s not really seen as a job either. It’s just the thing that women do. And they just have to get on with it.

Mohita: Yeah, it’s put upon us. And recently, something that also appalls me around the inequality even in households, is that, even when a man retires, he wouldn’t want to contribute in the household chores, right. But a woman never retires, she will still be expected to do everything, I don’t know until what age. So that kind of frustrates me.

Zoë: Very much. Yeah, that’s the thing. We are the caregivers, the households, you know, the cleaners the… I see this a lot in even, you know, even in more Western countries, I see it in the friendships that I have, I see in young people, the roles are still the same –

Mohita: It’s everywhere.

Zoë: It is frustrating. I’m like, lucky that I’ve got one of the good ones. My husband, he does more housework than me.

Mohita: Me too!

Zoë: Right? So we are, we are, and it’s interesting – once you break those gender roles, and you say, “Actually, let’s work out who is better at these things? Who likes doing these things? What makes more sense? What am I not -” You know, start thinking like that, rather than, “Men do this. Women do this”. You get much happier relationships. And I see this with friends and they have relationships where they are doing the majority of the household work, the childcare, and they’re not happy and I wouldn’t be happy either.

Mohita: Why would anyone be happy doing everything? I mean, it’s draining, you’re left with no energy at the end of the day, no time for yourself. And when someone can actually take that load off you, but no one is doing that, so why would the woman be happy? And I don’t understand. If, like, why aren’t those men, their husbands, their partners, why they’re not able to see that, that someone in the house is like overloaded with work, and they could use some help. I just hate to use the word “help” even because you should be contributing to everything in the house.

Zoë: Yeah, it’s like a mutual respect, isn’t it? It’s like, I wouldn’t dream of letting someone who I supposedly love take on so much extra work just because of their, you know, genitals. Basically, if we boil it down to it, it’s like, okay, because you’re a woman. So it is, it’s about respect. I mean, you’ve got to tell me then, where did you meet your husband? How did you meet? Tell me about him.

Mohita: In college.

Zoë: Okay.

Mohita: We’re college buddies!

Zoë: That’s even more adorable, Mohita! So this is back in India?

Mohita: Yes, that was back in India. We have known each other since 2006, so we started college in 2006 together. And we started a relationship in 2010 after we graduated, so nothing happened in college. But yeah, after we graduated, we kind of started realising we missed each other. And that’s how it started. Got married five years later, been married for five years now. He’s an absolutely amazing man.

Zoë: Well, he sounds it, he sounds it, you know. Because any guy who really, they understand that it’s not, it shouldn’t be down to a woman to you know, stick in their supposed lane – just, you know, clean the house and just do what you’re meant to do. Any man who goes against that… I just, you know, I wish there were more of them out there. And I think we’re both very lucky that we have these partners who understand that it should be equal. We have to have equality. That’s what we’re fighting for.

Mohita: Yeah.

Zoë: And, you know, he sounds awesome.

Mohita: Oh, and I must tell you, the reason that he didn’t want children in the first place, was not that he disliked children. He just said that “I love you so much that I don’t want you to go through that thing ever. Because I know, as a man, I won’t be able to contribute 50% because when you go through the childbirth process, you’re already doing a lot, and I can’t compensate for it ever”.

Zoë: Wow.

Mohita: And he said that “I don’t trust men, men, they do change after kids. And I just don’t want that to happen to you”. That was the reason why he decided to go childfree.

Zoë: Okay, he’s incredible! Well, you know, you are incredible, so you both are perfect together. But that is such an incredible statement for him to say – you know, for him to even think like, that is incredible. And I am intrigued about him and his family. You know, what are his family like with this decision, then? Are they understanding or not?

Mohita: No, not at all.

Zoë: Okay.

Mohita: Yeah, not at all. I mean, his siblings are fine. But not the parents, not the grandparents. They are not very much into the idea. The grandmother said, every single day when she calls us, “When are you going to have a kid?”

Zoë: Every day?

Mohita: Yeah. But it breaks my heart to break her heart. Because I can’t expect someone you know, who’s 80 plus to understand this particular way of living, because it’s alien to them. I understand that. But, yeah, it’s something that we decided. And it’s a lot to do for someone else, not for us.

Zoë: Exactly. This is your life. You know, you have to be happy and live your life not for anyone else. Because they may be happy, but you certainly wouldn’t be.

Mohita: No, I wouldn’t be. And then who will I blame? And if I blame the other person who I was trying to make happy in the first place, then our relationship anyways, you know, will not be good. So there’s no point – at least not such a big decision.

Zoë: No. This is one thing that I’m not sure how it’s possible to compromise, not for a woman anyway. I This is the most, you know, the biggest decision that you’ll ever make. And yes, maybe maybe men, you know, because they aren’t the main caregivers, because they’re not pregnant, maybe they can compromise. Maybe they never wanted kid, but you know, when they have a child, it changes and – but that’s, I think possible for them because they aren’t the person who it’s really affecting as much you know –

Mohita: No. And like, why men have children, they are different reasons than why women have children. Why men have children is because, at some point, it feels like – when they have a kid, they feel like now they are the head of this family. And now society can’t tell me shit. Right? I will do things my way. Society will respect me now more. And it’s true. It’s true. It’s a fact. Yeah, it happens. So they walk proud as a daddy. And although they might not be contributing to being a daddy much later on, it’s something that adds this star to their shoulder.

Zoë: Yes, yes, you’re totally right. And you know, what we need to happen is for society to see that we’re not all the same woman as well. Yes, some women desperately want children. And they love that role. But there are many, many, many others, like you, like I, that do not want that. We have no desire for that. And we need society to stop putting that pressure and making those assumptions about us. It’s just not right.

Mohita: Yeah, it’s not right. And then one thing that I recently experienced, or someone telling, trying to almost force me into having a kid: “It’s great. As someone who has two kids, I know the story”. Like, if you have like 10, 12 year olds, then you are definitely busy. And you’re not the happiest person on the planet. But they would definitely want to force, you know, “It’s great, you should absolutely do it”, and blah blah. So it just makes me realise that maybe they are trying to tell themselves, that they made the right decision by forcing me to do that. So if I do it, it will be a confirmation that fine, “I did the right thing too”. It’s not something that they know, it’s not something that they feel was the right thing to do for themselves. But if I convince one other person to go in that same direction, then maybe I was right. Or at least both of us are suffering now.

Zoë: Yeah, I think it’s like a natural thing that you want people to join your gang.

Mohita: Yeah, it’s a gang thing!

Zoë: You want people to be part of your gang. And I mean, yeah, it’s frustrating when people kind of, they have their life choice. And they try and say that this is going to work for you, this is right for you. And it’s irresponsible.

Mohita: Yeah. Do you know me? Do you know what I do, 24/7? No. How can you tell me I’m born to be a mum. I don’t even know if I can wake up at six when I want to. How are you telling me that I can be a good mum? And not a mum. It’s not about being a mum. First of all, you have to be a mum. And then you should be a good mum. That’s another pressure. Like, you can’t be a bad mum. Right? That’s not allowed.

Zoë: No, no, no, no, women are not – they’re not anything other than perfect. At being a mother, you have to be perfect.

Mohita: Yeah, I mean, every role. You got to keep the men happy everywhere. Every step of your life, whatever, whoever is the man you are like reporting to. So it’s not, it’s not just about being a mom, it’s not. Society’s expectations from women never end. Even when you are a grandmum. Like, even if you are at that age. You have kids, and they will keep asking the grandmother like, when are you going to have grandkids? So it doesn’t end for them. I’m not sure if people ask men at that age, when are you going to be granddad? But I’m very much sure it happens to women. And that is what might be happening to my husband’s grandmother as well that she is so worried every single day.

Zoë: So then, you know, where do you think, where does your strength come from? Because, you know, to grow up in a country like India, where the pressure is so immense, to really know who you were and what you wanted? Was it that you saw what maybe was happening with women there and you thought, “I don’t want that”. You know, is this something you just think you were born with?

Mohita: Yes. So two things. When I was ever since I was a kid, I was very, very sure of everything I wanted to do. And I wouldn’t take no for an answer. That’s just who I am. And that might strike like a very bad thing for a lot of people back to my country. But it helped me a lot to be, to get to the point where I am in my life. Because I always was sure where I want to go. Secondly, I did see every woman living near me, what was their life like, and I never wanted to be like that, just never wanted to be. So I knew head on straight where I should go in order to move away from that kind of lifestyle. And the other part of my strength came from my husband, because he is like me. And we both know what we want. And we just don’t like letting people tell us bullshit. So that is why – we are a very strong couple, very strong couple. And we know where we are headed.

Zoë: Yeah, you’re the dream team, the dream team.

Mohita: Yeah, the dream team.

Zoë: I love it. I love it. And, I mean, you both moved from India to Melbourne, Australia, right? So you have to tell me then what was the catalyst for that?

Mohita: Well, the catalyst was that I never felt, we both never felt like we belonged to the country. Because we both are atheists. We don’t believe in God. We are not very religious as well, of course, being an atheist. So we don’t like the way people like to control people in my country. Everyone is controlling everyone. So parents try to control kids, siblings try to control you. And society, of course, who you know, one person you met, like 15 years ago, they would want to pitch in their decision in your life. So that’s something that just didn’t sit well with us. And it wasn’t safe. Growth opportunities were not there. And we were childfree people. So everyone saw us as a risk. You know, they’re trying to tell people not to go in the direction they’re supposed to. A lot of things. So yeah, that’s why we moved. Now here, I feel Melbourne, like it’s my country, my people. I do feel that way. And I’ve been here for only three years. But at least no one here judges anyone like back in my country? Something we both needed.

Zoë: Yeah. It must be such a relief to be somewhere where you don’t have that, that intense pressure. I mean, I felt it, a little bit here, but I’m living in Germany now. But I can’t really fathom the pressure that you would be under in a country like India and young girls must be under as well. I mean, if they don’t want to have children, it’s gonna take a lot for them to be able to say that out loud and tell their families this. And I mean, you did it and you had – I’m so happy that there are women like you who were able to escape that pressure. But yeah, it makes you realise that there must be so many women and young girls who are just, you know, stuck in a country that treats them like they’re a second-class citizen.

Mohita: Yeah, I hope I can inspire a couple of girls in my life to go in that direction. I hope I can. And one of the reasons I want to succeed in a lot of areas is because of that – so someone can look up to me and say, “Fine, she did well, so can I. I don’t need a kid to tell me, you know that I am ‘complete’ in quotes”. But yeah, and one more thing, I do feel like my – the credit goes to my parents as well, because they put so much effort in my education, that I was able to make those decisions. And actually, I’m standing on my own feet, which is a big deal for someone back in my country as well, because my parents had three daughters and a son, they could have given us mediocre education if they wanted to, like everyone else close to them was doing. But they gave us first-class education. And they always had faith in us to go – my mom especially, she made sure that all the girls were having the best education possible, so that then they won’t go in the direction that she went.

Zoë: Education is power, isn’t it? You know, especially for women?

Mohita: Yeah. If I wasn’t working, if I wasn’t like, had a proper degree or not doing a job, then I wouldn’t have been able to make such decisions, such bold decisions in life.

Zoë: Absolutely. You know, if you can educate young girls and tell them that they have a choice, then they can think, “What is going to be right for me? Do I have, you know, is my passion with being a mother? Or is it with something else?” And you know, that’s what we just need to empower young girls and women to know, that they have a choice and that they can make a decision on this. And we need obviously countries to let women make this choice. That’s the problem that we have with so many countries, putting this pressure on women, that they don’t have a choice, that it’s their duty, and this is so wrong.

Mohita: And it’s their duty to not just have children in most countries, it’s their duty to produce more men. Produce more men and more men. What is that about? And in creation, in this creation of this army of men, so many women’s lives are just, they just disappear. You don’t count them as lives lost, but weren’t they lives lost. When you tell a girl to be a mom at the age of 20, she doesn’t even know who she is. And before she knows it, she is a mother, that’s all she is now, so they never even find themselves.

Zoë: That’s it. I mean, at that young age, you know, we don’t know who we are. Gosh, when I think back to when I was 20, I had no idea who I was.

Mohita: Exactly.

Zoë: And you know, add on to that pressure from family or friends or your culture, you know, that is a recipe for people making decisions that are not the best decisions for them or their lives.

Mohita: I don’t think anyone is trying to, is having their best interest for women, at any point in time. Who is looking to women and telling them you know, “This isn’t good for you, or this is good for you”. No one is doing that. At least not 95% of the population. In my country, no one is doing that. So you got to look out for your own best interests, you got to make decisions that are good for you. It shouldn’t come from anyone else. If you keep on waiting for anyone else, they will make the decisions that are good for them, not for you. And you will just get, you will get caught in the cycle.

Zoë: So then what about the younger generations, Mohita, in India, you know, your nieces? How do they feel? Do you know how they feel about having kids? Or is it kind of, they’re indoctrinated into this? You know, this is their path? Is it really going to be still difficult for younger generations to break out of this cycle?

Mohita: Yes, it will be difficult still, I think it will take at least two more generations before this starts to change in my country. Because even my generation doesn’t understand that back in my country. So my friends now, nobody gets it. They will complain to me that they are just having the worst of days, with their body changing with the, you know, not able to sleep and everything. But when you tell them “I don’t want children”, the next sentence that comes is, “Oh, come on, you got to do it. It’s a wonderful experience”. Really? Should I just tell you what, should I show you the history of the chat we have? What happened there? So when my generation doesn’t understand that, how can I expect the next generation to? It has to be at least a considerable number of women in my generation to be able to make some impact on the next.

Zoë: Yeah, it’s gonna take time, isn’t it?

Mohita: It’s gonna take time.

Zoë: It’s a slow process, even looking at gender equality, that’s this ridiculously slow process. We still haven’t got it, and we’re talking about 2021, we are still not being paid the same as men, we still don’t have the same opportunities, we’re still expected to clean the house. And, you know –

Mohita: It’s so much expectations. It doesn’t end, everywhere it doesn’t end. It’s everywhere. It’s in big things. It’s in tiny things. It’s in everyone’s head, sometimes even our own head – we don’t even realise, but it’s so ingrained in us that we might be, you know, contributing to it in some way or the other. You might not realise it, although we are all trying to do this right thing most of the times. But it’s just, it’s the way we have been taught, we have seen things. And we are who we see, experience you know, or do. We are from our experiences. If we don’t meet people who think differently, then how are we supposed to change? Only a few of us change on our own. Most people look at someone and then they change.

Zoë: That’s why I think, you know, this project is important because we just need to see more representation of other options for women. It’s not about it’s not about saying that this is what you know, all women have to not have children. That’s not it at all. It’s about making a decision that is coming from you thinking about what you want, and what is it, what’s right for you. And instead of just “Oh, this is the way we do it. We’re not even going to question it”. And I want people to question everything, because you know, society will tell women that we should just be doing this. There’s no question it –

Mohita: Yeah, society will tell women things that are good for society.

Zoë: Mmm hmm, yes, exactly.

Mohita: And what’s good for you? You got to ask that question. What’s good for you? What’s good for me? And women force women to go down the wrong path. Women force women. It’s not just men doing that. Why do you think my mum keeps on telling me? Because it’s in our head – “Oh, she is supposed to do that”. That’s the hold of patriarchy in our society. In our brains.

Zoë: I mean that that’s the thing when women are shocked by my decision, and they’ll give me a weird comment or a quote, you know, questioning about why I’m making this decision. I’m just thinking, I thought we should all be supporting each other, you know, we should all be kind of sticking together. Because –

Mohita: I know, but that’s not the case. Sadly, that’s not the case. I’ve had people tell me, I hope you become pregnant by accident. I’m like, “What?”

Zoë: Seriously? Who was that? Someone in India?

Mohita: Yes, someone here but an Indian?

Zoë: Oh, my god.

Mohita: It’s just so sad, like, “Oh, my god, really?” Well, I’ve had people offer me, “I’ll raise your baby”. I’m like, “I’m having no baby. You gotta have to raise no one”.

Zoë: I mean, what is, what’s going on in their head? Why would they think that would be good for you? Or a child? If you had a baby by accident, that you didn’t want? Why on earth? It doesn’t make my sense!

Mohita: That’s my point – no one has your best interest in mind, in their mind. That’s the point.

Zoë: No, no, no. You have to really, really stay strong. And do not listen to any other voices around you. Because they do not know what is best for you.

Mohita: That’s why I’ve made my voice so strong, that only my voice is there when I’m talking. Or we are having a conversation. It’s me talking. So I know who I should be listening to. You have to be very careful about who you listen to. Who makes an impact on you. You have to choose those people very carefully.

Zoë: Absolutely. So let’s talk a little bit about legacy, Mohita. Because you are an atheist. And I’m interested to know… you know, this is something that’s thrown at childfree women a lot – that, you know, what’s going to be left behind when you’re gone? So yeah, I’m interested to know your thoughts on that.

Mohita: Legacy, we all leave a legacy in our own ways. Yeah, I would want to leave a legacy of people who understand that we as a human species are not the best thing that happened to this planet. So we got a cut ourselves down slowly, slowly. And even if I leave 20 people in my lifetime, who understand that, that means that I made an impact, that’s my legacy. You don’t have to, like, change the world before you go. And after you go, come on, you have left – just be gone. Who cares what’s happening? So, what you believe in, if you are able to convince a few people in a lifetime, that’s fine, you should do it this way. Because this is the right thing to do. I think that’s legacy enough for anyone. Because not everyone gets to do that.

Zoë: I love it, Mohita, I love it. Yeah, I’m nodding furiously. I mean, that’s it – if you can impact other people’s lives in a way that’s positive, what an incredible legacy that is. It doesn’t have to be a biological legacy. Let’s get away from this idea that legacy has to be biological. We can nurture in other ways, whether that’s through friendships, or our community, or our work or our passion, or ourselves. You know, there’s so many different ways.

Mohita: It’s about leaving an impact on people. It’s not about leaving people. You don’t need to create your own people and leave them, you know, to be able to, just figure out your own legacy and just keep on going. What are we doing? Rather than thinking about when you’re gone, how about you focus on yourself now? Do something for yourself now. And for most people, it’s the hardest thing to do. And that’s also one of the reasons people have kids, that they don’t want anyone else to tell them what else they can do with their life. “I have kids, I’m done. You can tell me now, what to do. That’s my whole time, whole full-time job”. And it’s a full time job. I don’t disagree. But you chose it. Because now you don’t want to do anything else. And I’m pissed off at people who haven’t figured out their own lives – they don’t know what to do, they don’t have anything to actually pass on to the kids, they don’t have any learnings in life, but they still have kids. So who are the kids supposed to look up to, and learn? You’re still figuring out – you’re not a model of success yet. So why are you having this kid who will see your struggles and it might not be the best thing for them growing up. First, achieve something, first make something out of yourself. Then pass it on, if you want to. I don’t know what percentage of people in the entire world is having kids for the right reasons. I just don’t know that. I think 95% or so are having them just because you know, everyone is having them, they were told to do so, or they just, it happened.

Zoë: Yeah, it’s interesting that no one questions when people have kids. But yet when we don’t want kids, then there’s the questions, then it’s the, “Why, what’s wrong you?”

Mohita: It’s the end of the world. You are just making God unhappy. Who?

Zoë: Oh yes. So then, Mohita, what would you tell any women, who are listening? Who, you know, they’re feeling that pressure to conform, that they’re getting it, whether it’s from their friends, their family, their country? You know, what can you tell them to give them some hope?

Mohita: Well, I would want to tell them that, first of all, you need to think about yourself – that’s very important. Because if you don’t do that, no one else will do it for you. And when you are in that mess, when you have a kid, let’s just say that you have a kid, no one is gonna come and help you, daily basis, 24/7. It’s all up to you. And if you’re confused that you know will you be a good mom or not? Will you be able to handle it? How about just borrow someone’s kid for a full week or a full month? Try it out for yourself, you will see the challenges that come along the way. And it’s very important for women in today’s generation, to actually realise their worth, what you are here for, what do you want to do with your life, rather than just having a life and not knowing, or just having that life of raising them as confused as even you are. So don’t create an army of people who don’t know their purpose, or they’re just here for procreation. Think about yourself. Just put yourself in the driver’s seat of your own life. And take your decisions, what’s good for you. No one else is gonna do that for you.

Zoë: Mohita, thank you for that – and thank you for such a wonderful conversation.

Mohita: Thanks, Zoë. Thanks for giving me the platform to talk about it.

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