By Talal Mohammed
I come from a big family, your typical Arab family. I have ten aunts and uncles from my father’s side, and seven from my mom’s. When combined, I have over 100 first cousins. Growing up, my cousins and I would joke and say, who needs friends when we have 100 cousins?
I love being around my family. They’re fun. They’re supportive, and unlike many young people, I actually love spending time with them. I would choose spending time with my cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents, over my friends any time of the week. My parents are happily married. So, I was always surrounded by great familial role models and familial love.
But when it comes to having children of my own I just can’t picture it. I’m happily married to the love of my life. She’s smart, beautiful and my best friend. But the idea of having children doesn’t attract me or her. I wouldn’t be physically pregnant with them, and I wouldn’t endure half of the pain that my wife would if we were to have children, so you may wonder what it is that I’m actually scared of or why I am so reluctant. I just don’t think it’s my cup of tea. I always saw myself as the fun uncle, never a father.
When I discussed this topic with my parents, who after four years of marriage started wondering, as any Arab parent would, why my wife and I never mentioned kids, I put it on the table then and there and said that we just don’t see it. My mother blamed it on my fear of taking responsibility. “You young people don’t want to take on responsibility. You want to travel, have fun, and forget your true human purpose, which is to have kids.” I can’t say that I was shocked by her response. Heck, the idea of not procreating would scare any Arab parent. But I am responsible. I successfully run 4 companies ever since I was in my early 20s. I’m financially stable. I already bought a beautiful large house, and have zero debts.
The other day my mother in law asked me if there was anything wrong, whether we would want to see a doctor, or talk to someone about our “issue” as she saw it. I smiled and shook my head. I knew that I would never win that argument with her.
My cousins always try to psycho-analyse me. “There must be a reason” they would argue. But there isn’t. I just don’t see it, and neither does my wife. We don’t need reasons. We don’t need to be traumatized by something that happened in our childhood. And we don’t need to be coming from broken homes, or be irresponsible, to reject the idea altogether.
As humans, and especially as Arabs, we always try to dig deeper beneath the surface. If someone doesn’t want to get married, for instance, we always assume that they had been assaulted, or that they went through a bad break up. But not everything in life requires an explanation. Sometimes we just don’t like a certain food, or taste, or visiting certain places, and we don’t need a psychological evaluation to back our preferences. Some things are just the way they are and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The more I discuss my life choice with people, the more I appreciate and respect the idea of honouring people’s wishes, and not guilting them, or pressuring them, to make different decisions. After all, how fair would it be to someone to have them end up doing something just to please others, or fit into a mould predesigned for them regardless of their wishes? My wife and I are pretty stubborn, and no one can pressure us. But how many people out there were pressured to get married, to have kids, or to follow certain decisions in their life?
When it comes to personal decisions, I ask you to put yourself and your happiness first. No one will live your life except you. Next time, before you decide to undertake a big life decision, think thoroughly if this is something you truly want to do. If it is, then dive in!
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Talal Mohammed is a full-time Emirati entrepreneur and a part-time contemplator. This is his first published article.