Now I know what the clock is actually all about. It is a giant guilt trip. It sits there quietly, waiting for me to start thinking babies (and some days, those thoughts are coming out the wazoo). Let me put it this way, I am now on my second round of friends popping babies like it is going out of style.
I have nothing really to complain about. I do not think I am the cliche that is a “woman who put her career first” or anything of the sort. But I make no bones about the fact that I have to earn a living. I know no other way of being.
I put as much emphasis on my personal life as on my career – it is just that throughout my 20s at least, the latter seemed much more stable. You could argue – even in 21st century India – that as a SINK, I am an anomaly, but I am hardly alone. At one point, of course I did try to clarify to my mother (as friends were doing everywhere, I am sure) that it is not like that we were going out of our way to not find Mr Right and plan the happily ever after.
But now, I find there is a bittersweet note creeping in, unbidden. I mean I do want children, don’t I? Most days, I think I do. Then I think of my track record with potted plants (spotty), pets (non-existent), and I look around, and see how exhausted new parents actually seem. Don't get me wrong: I am overjoyed for my friends with kids. But I am also very, very sympathetic when it comes to the indignities they have to suffer – lack of sleep being the least of it.
I hear them when they talk about the guilt they feel when they have to sneak out of the house to get to work, guilt when they just want a half-hour to themselves, guilt that they will miss the “first” moments (steps, words, etc.) and overarching guilt that they are not pulling their weight at work. How much do we internalise social conditioning, you ask?
The other side
Well, let me tell you the flip side. I feel inadequate sometimes. I feel selfish, when I think about how I need minimum eight hours of sleep to not be a Grinch, how I do not cook when I do not feel like, how I am privileged to live life mostly on my own terms, to deal with what I want to deal with. A lot of this guilt is conditioning. If you are single past a certain age (try on your early 30s for size), people presume so many things about you – that you are dysfunctional or self-centred, or just not trying hard enough.
It is not like it is easier for the DINKS. The insensitive questions range from "Are you shooting blanks?" to "Do you have some medical problem?" In which world are these acceptable questions?
I know logically, I am not beholden to anyone. I do not need to justify myself. And when that slight panic sets in at the thought of my eggs dying, I know there will be options ‒ when the time comes. The rational part of my brain should just shut down that god-awful ticking.
Read Amrita Tripathi's mother's response to these confessions here.
Amrita Tripathi (@amritat) is a writer and owner of an indestructible biological clock. Her new novel The Sibius Knot is forthcoming from HarperCollins India in December.