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Cultural Traditions and Procreation

July 16, 2012

I’m not the first one to discover that the love of pregnancies and children is near boundless in the workplace. Women can look forward to leisurely pregnancies and early childcare due to generous maternity leave benefits, while men are also allowed time off work during this time period. Having one or two new births in the workplace is normal, as people who work full-time are able to support their family so choose it as a time to add a new addition.

I’m all gung-ho when someone announces a pregnancy or birth. If it makes the person happy, well so be it. A card of congratulations, a pat on the back and I’m back to my regular work. But at work in the last 2 weeks, two colleagues I’m close with announced a birth, and a pregnancy respectively and got me thinking. These are fun-loving, crazily hilarious, freedom-loving guys who are both 30. One is from India (Manny*) and the other from China (Lee). With the arrival of Manny’s son, he cut his awesome long black hair and his goatee and came to work looking completely different. Then, he left work and went to a new second job to support his new family. I have not said more than “Hi” or “Bye” to him in two weeks, though I’m curious to how he’s holding up.

I wonder if the pressure to marry and have kids at age 30 is something Lee and Manny really wanted for themselves or if it was forced upon them by familial and cultural traditions that is deeply rooted in their identities and spans back thousands of years. When asking Lee how he felt about having kids, his anwers lack enthusiasm. It sounds like he doesn’t have much choice. And it got me to thinking about how much culture and family traditions affect a person’s choice to procreate. Manny loved his job as sous chef, and I suspect he’s none too happy about driving across town to a second job until 10:00pm at night.

I found in an article online that read “Marriage in Hinduism is not just a mutual contract between two individuals or a relationship of convenience but a social contract and moral expediency, in which the couple agree to live together and share their lives, doing their respective duties to keep the divine order and the institution of family intact. In traditional Hinduism, some common obligations include 1) participate in the creation of progeny 2) work for the welfare of the family 3)Respect the Hindu dharma and family traditions by performing the obligatory duties, various samskars and rituals.”

While we enjoy the freedom to make the choice of being childfree without family alienation and extreme cultural stigma, people from other cultures do not and it helps to be sensitive to the fact. While we are starting our own traditions different from our foremothers; others are choosing to honour older ones. And as there is countless reasons not to reproduce, there are also many reasons that compel others  to do so. Whether for religious or cultural duties, some people may honour this above personal opinion and choice.

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