Institute for Social and Economic Change

Working Paper: 390

Womanhood beyond Motherhood: Exploring Experiences
of Voluntary Childless Women

Chandni Bhambhani
Anand Inbanathan



Reproduction constitutes the core of a woman's identity in pronatalist Indian society. Defying the social script of attaining motherhood post-marriage, there is a drift towards choosing childlessness among urban Indian women. Using a grounded theory approach, this study attempts to explore the emerging issue among women in Indian cities who voluntarily chose to be childless, with an emphasis on the reasons accorded for opting out of motherhood. Findings of the study are presented by analysing participants’ narration, and Schick's Decision Theory is used to discuss the reasons and rationale expressed by voluntary childless women. The six major emergent themes that illustrate participants’ motives, values, beliefs and purposes are: Confronting selfish reasons for having children, Manifesting foster instinct, Questioning the sanctity of motherhood, Unwillingness to Bear a Lifetime Commitment of Children, Freedom of following own pursuits, and Specific attributes for the choice of childlessness. While the first three themes mainly emphasise the justification grasped from others’ experiences of being mothers, the last three concentrate on personal experiences as reasons to remain childless.


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