Social Studies: The Pressure to Procreate.

The following guest post was submitted by a reader who is struggling with balancing social and familial expectations as she tries to pursue a career and delays having children. She submitted this post seeking reader feedback from others who may have experienced this situation. She has requested to remain anonymous to maintain family peace, which is at a fragile state at the moment.

I adore children. I have a very sweet goddaughter who will be a year old next month, and I love her dearly. I also have an older goddaughter about to enter those dreaded teen years, and it's exciting to watch her navigate this portion of her life. My husband's best friend, whom we both consider a sister, just had a bouncing baby boy and I'm looking forward to hearing him call me "Aunty." And there are two beautifully pregnant women in the family currently—both cousins, one with her first child, the other with her second. So I am surrounded by babies. That said, I personally do not have any children of my own. This has largely been the result of careful planning on the part of myself and my husband. We have our own time line, but for many of our relatives the delay represents a huge social breach, and they are starting to bear down somewhat harshly.

I am a 28-year-old West Indian woman who married her childhood sweetheart, voluntarily, at the age of 18. He is Bengali. As a West Indian marrying into a Bengali family, you would think the transition would be easy to manage—we are from similar backgrounds after all. But it's been surprisingly difficult. I'm not sure how much of it is a cultural difference though and how much is a generational difference. It seems to be a fair mix though there are a fair number of young women who seem to be going the traditional route (i.e., getting married, having teh babiez, staying home, etc.) Now, you may also think to yourself, well, if you were childhood sweethearts, don't you know what you were getting into? Well, no. When I say childhood sweethearts, I mean real childhood sweethearts. He had a crush on me in the sixth grade! He brought me apple juice. We went to different high schools and reconnected in college, when we decided we wanted to get married. And we eloped, partly because we didn't want a a huge fuss made, and partly because we knew neither set of parents would agree to letting a pair of 18-year-olds get married.

Flash forward ten years later to a recent baby shower, where the aunts were clucking as per normal when they spotted me. "When are you having babies?" I was asked. "Why don't you want children?" "Don't you like children?" "Your mother-in-law wants a grandbaby!" I managed to deflect all of this with good cheer as I normally do (e.g., "[The MIL] has [the family dog] to spoil!") and for the most part my responses were met with jovial laughter. I'm a pro at this discussion, I thought. And I should be—I'm used to it.

And then one of them dropped a bomb on me: "What? Can't you have children? You're going to need a test tube baby!" she taunted. This declaration/announcement was made at the top of her lungs in front of a room of family and strangers, and I admit it stopped me in my tracks. It stopped most of the room too as a moment of somewhat uneasy silence unfolded. I wasn't sure how to respond. I know I was embarrassed and angry all at once. For the record, I have nothing against IVF. I think that if it can help a couple have a baby when they're having trouble conceiving, then they should go for it. Kate Clancy, who went through this process was actually featured on CNN a few weeks ago. Her story is amazing. However, from this aunt's tone, you could tell that you would be less of a woman if you needed a "test tube" baby. But that's not the point. What I was reacting to was the assumption that there was something wrong with me because I hadn't produced a brood of children yet at the ancient age of 28.

This is just the latest jab in the mounting pressure from all sides that feel I should have borne a child by now. My waistline is closely scrutinized, and the slightest bump is reason to be questioned. And since I'm not pregnant, I have no reason to carry any extra weight, so any extra bulges are evidence that I am just fat, and just don't care. It's become exhausting. This shouldn't bother me, and it hasn't for a long time, but what is starting to bother me is the derision that accompanies their statements. "We know you're focused on your studies," they say as a lead in to the conversation. Studies?? What studies? I've been out of school for two years. I've been working—trying to establish a career. Do any of you actually know me? Actually know what I do?

I'm a successful blogger and published writer. I have an advanced degree. I've won numerous awards for academic accomplishments, been in countless science competitions, and I'm a successful professional. I help build leading websites and web tools. But none of that matters. Children to this group are a sort of cultural currency. I've been measured in public based on the bag I carry and the clothes I wear, and I am measured in private by the family by my apparent (lack of) fertility. And until I produce a child, I know I won't measure up to their expectations—hell, even when I produce the child I won't measure up. Partly because I am an outsider to their cultural background (and what will I know about raising children properly?) and partly because I plan to continue working instead of staying home and raising him or her, which is also somewhat unacceptable. (The hubby was once told that marrying a smart woman is fine, but it means the house will never be clean, that there will never be food on the table, and the children will run wild.) I feel these are personal decisions. Am I crazy?

The constant questioning adds another layer of annoyance. Will it detract from the joy when we do announce we're expecting? Will there be a sense that we got pregnant because we were told to do so? Instead of "That's wonderful!" will we get "It's about time!"? Will they take credit for the fact that we've conceived? Again, I'm trying to see this from their perspective. This is a culture where women traditionally maintain the hearth of the home by remaining in it. I realize that I am somewhat of a puzzle to them and this may be their way of fitting me into their norms and expectations. But in trying to fit me in—if that's what they're doing—they've managed to minimize everything else that I've done. And I just don't think that's cool, man.

The hubby does not buy into the traditional view. He's proud of me and my accomplishments and he deflects the baby question as often as I do. He does not think this should bother me, because at this point we both know that the family will not rest until we "prove" ourselves with a child. But I am exhausted from fielding comments and questions about my fertility. It's not anyone's business, but since it seems to be everyone's business, I'm doing an impromptu cultural/gender study: ladies are you experiencing the same thing? Is this a cultural issue? Or a gender issue? Have you been through the same? How did you survive and when did it stop?

23 responses so far

  • Dorothea says:

    As a voluntarily childless (surgically sterile, in fact) woman, I consider myself fortunate in the extreme not to have huge family issues over it. I was terrified I'd be considered a monster, and I'm hugely lucky not to be.

    I've gotten plenty of intrusive crap from total strangers, though. It's diminishing as I near middle age (I'm 38). I think quite a few people now assume I'm either a parent or infertile -- they don't feel the need to ask about it the way they did when I was younger.

    Yes, it is your and your husband's decision. I'm sorry that decision is being intruded on inappropriately.

  • Elizabeth says:

    As a child-free couple by choice we sometimes get similar pressure, though thankfully it is usually a bit more subtle. Since at this point it seems that nobody wants to listen to your reasoning, I'd just say 'That is not open for discussion' and refuse to talk about it. Maybe they will get bored eventually. I've found citing the family pets, as my husband is inclined to do as a joke, just makes people think you are filling the void with an animal and are possibly a little disturbed!

    On the flip side of things, do be careful if you think that you will want kids eventually. While this should not dominate your whole life plan, you should take into account that your fertility is likely to drop significantly after about your early thirties and science can not always remedy that (plus it is expensive!). A lot of people hear about women in their 40's having kids and assume that it will be no problem for them. They also may have relatives who had second, third, fourth, etc. kids later in life and may not realize that this was likely made possible by having a child earlier as well. So, just be sure to do the research and take this risk into account in making your plans. It might not change what you decide to do, but it will help you make a more conscious decision.

    Good luck dealing with the family!

    • S Mukherjee says:

      Look, original poster was asking for suggestions on how to deflect her relatives' annoying nosiness (which is seriously harming her peace of mind); she was NOT asking for suggestions on the best time in life to get pregnant.

  • As a voluntarily child-free 33 year-old woman I get this pressure too, from family (expected) and to a lesser extent from friends of my own age (less expected). I'm a white Brit married to a white Canadian and we get it from both sides.

    I usually deal with it by answering "why don't you have kids?" with "I'd rather have a boat". (We don't have a boat, either, but this usually gets a laugh and then the conversation moves on).

  • Marcus says:

    I don't think you're alone in this. People seems to vary wildly in regards to how procreation is treated: a personal decision or a public obligation. Clearly you and some of your family differ in this regard. I'm guessing this happens to a lot of people, though maybe in a less extreme way. I've certainly heard many stories of relatives making comments to any child-free woman over the age of 25.

  • Karen says:

    My husband and I are now in our 50s, and are childfree by choice. We're both white west-coast Americans. My in-laws accepted our choosing not to have children, but my own mother never did. I endured constant nagging until I was well into my late 30's about it. What finally got her to stop was a conversation in which I didn't attempt to parry her nagging as usual, but just shut up and gave her the meanest look I could manage. It rendered her speechless, and she shut up about having grandchildren. But it took nearly two decades of putting up with her BS before I finally got to that point.

    My bet is, when the original writer finally does have children, she'll get a lot of "it's about time!"

  • KBHC says:

    I'm the Kate Clancy referenced in this post -- I happen to be a regular reader of Dr. Free-Ride and a huge fan.

    And I am so glad that this anonymous poster decided to write this. It's such an important piece! I was attacked mercilessly in the comments thread of the CNN.com piece for my decision to have a baby via IVF, and ended up writing a four-part series to explain my IVF story (from a personal as well as anthropological perspective) on my blog.

    Why am I explaining all this? Because the attacks this writer has experienced are just like all the attacks all women receive at some point in their lives -- our reproductive choices are not seen as our own. It doesn't matter if we've decided to have children or not, or how we choose to have them. Sexism, both external and internalized, causes people to place judgment on women's choices. It causes them to undervalue men's contributions to these decisions, it causes them to pathologize the female body, and to place their own set of assumptions on a woman's decisions and her physiology.

    To answer the rest of your questions: My guess is that this issue transcends culture, to some extent, only because I would posit that all cultures are at least partly patriarchal. Maybe none of my (European background, white, American) cousins would have yelled "You're going to need a test tube baby!" at me in the same situation as you. But they would likely have made friendly jokes about my biological clock.

    I thought all of this would stop when I had my one child, but now I'm getting questions about having another, and comments on how to do birth spacing correctly. So I'm guessing it never really stops. I survive by remembering that it's not the fault of people asking these questions that they think my decisions are for public consumption, that there are cultural/institutional/systemic issues at play.

    Again, thanks so much for writing this.

  • At a certain point you need to be able to say something along the lines of, “You know, this is really annoying to me. This is my private business. Please stop.” Right now the burden is being put on you to keep the peace. Your beloved husband is telling you that it’s up to you not to be bothered. You are asking the internet to tell you that it will stop and it shouldn’t bother you. But you can’t take on the entire burden of keeping the peace within the family. This is a burden you need to figure out how to share. If you politely make it clear that you are going to hold other people accountable for keeping the peace you might be able to maintain boundaries better.

    As you rightly point out, this isn’t going to stop if/when you have babies. You are going to continue to need the ability to set a boundary. You might as well start now figuring out how to do that, and you will need your husband’s support. He will need to say things like “You heard her. That’s right, she doesn’t want to talk about it. No, neither do I. Now tell me about your new sofa, I love the colours.”

    No, I was never harassed. I am white, my family has professional women on both sides, and I was an out lesbian during my prime reproductive years. If people asked me about kids it was with genuine curiosity and they were interested in my answers.

  • 28 and a PhD says:

    Oh my! Why is it that no matter how many years pass, women, and in some cases, men, ask and like to intrude in our lives and the decisions we take? I cannot begin to understand it. I'm 29, doing a postdoc and living with my BF. Sometimes when we go home we get the questions .. when are guys getting married? any bun in the oven yet? you're "living in sin", so might as well seal the deal. Ugh, it is annoying to say the least. It greatly upsets me that women, men, and couples are put in this position by "well meaning" family members and friends. I just want to punch them, and since I can't, I try to work in snarky responses whenever I can. Since I worked with radiation at one point (was super careful all the time) I tell them that until I know I'm radiation free I will not have a child (they usually go away with this). I also tell them that I do not want to be barefoot and pregant like they are/were (has scared a few people for good) .. or simply that it is none of their business, and that unless they are willing and able to do the house chores for me, nurse me back to health when I'm sick, or otherwise have the child for me ... I will not have a child for the time being. Plus, it is easy to be swayed by the pressure than stand your ground proudly and say that you are trying to be a well rounded professional, and you want your child to be the same, you are getting ready for that, and when it happens, they will be among the first ones to know ... till then, bugger off. So sorry this is happening to you. It's hard, but it can be done ... you know, deflecting the attention/questions and learning to ignore them. As long as you and hubs are OK with your decisions/timing and life, no one else matters. Good luck!

  • Zuska says:

    I don't know if this would work, but it might be worth considering. Is there one most influential matriarch in the clan? Or one older woman that can influence the others, that you feel a little closer to? Pick a time when you and she could sit down alone for a little chat. Tell her you know that the family is very interested and concerned about you and spouse's future plans for having children, and that you know this interest and concern comes out of a place of love, and is a sign of the importance and value that the family places on children. That you and spouse value children too, and think they are important, but you just have a different timetable than other couples in the extended family, because in some ways your lives are a little bit different. You know that when your time does come to have a child, you can count on the family to rejoice with you, and that will be an extra source of joy. Tell her that she can bet that the second you both know you are pregnant, you will be talking off everyone's ears to share the good news. But the repeated questions about your fertility status every time you visit are wearying. You know that the family will rejoice with you when you have good news to share, and you hope that they would be equally supportive of you if, god forbid, the two of you should discover that one of you has a fertility problem or you weren't able to carry a baby to term. What you and spouse most want is to visit the family, enjoy your time with everyone, and not play 20 Questions about when your baby might be coming. Rest assured they will know IMMEDIATELY as soon as you do!!!

    Then hug warmly and thank elder matriarch for being such a good listener and so supportive and understanding and always making you feel so welcome in the family, etc.

    If there's no one in the family that you feel close enough to, to try this with, then I guess go with the mean stare.

  • FrauTech says:

    Well it could be people are just concerned for you. I'm child-free by choice, and have never faced any significant pressure (besides a joking, teasing kind, which is fine) from any of my family. Versus my sister who plans to have kids at some point faces a lot more pressure from everyone. I think because even though there's no longer a "wall" of infertility when you turn 30, SO many women who really wanted to have kids went through very painful fertility issues. And they will tell you that if you want to have kids you should not wait. They say that coming from a place of pain, loss and not wanting you to have to go through the same thing. There is some planning involved with wanting kids, and if your family thinks you want them eventually I think they come from a good place in wanting you to make sure you will do it in time and not put it off or have regrets. You can have every other aspect if your life in order; job, school, etc but with the kids it is something you won't know how to deal with until you get there. I'm sure there are also plenty of mothers who would chuckle at your assertion that you'll be going back to work (you never know!) So I guess I'd say try to recognize even if these people are incredibly rude, misguided etc they're probably TRYING to come from a place of love for you. I'm sure if you had a friend who was saying they wanted to go to grad school, but didn't seem to be doing anything to get there, you'd probably be giving them advice on what to do or what they should start. Similarly family with experience with kids might be thinking the same thing.

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bora Zivkovic, Janet D. Stemwedel and Cath Ennis, ScientopiaBlogs. ScientopiaBlogs said: Social Studies: The Pressure to Procreate. http://dlvr.it/7PRcc [...]

  • Guest Author says:

    Hi everyone. I'm the author of this post, and I'd like to thank you all for your responses. I was writing from a position of extreme frustration, and I am really glad I had the opportunity to share this with you all. My strategy has always been to laugh off this questions and deflect, change the subject, etc. Elizabeth, you make a good point about the pets, and I think I might stop using the family dog as a buffer. However, for those of you suggesting I need to be more direct and/or establish firmer boundaries, your cultural experiences are different from my own. Culturally, these women feel that it is their business when and if we choose to have children. And while I can continue to deflect, the questions will continue. This is not a boundary that they would understand or respect, and pushing it and/or trying to enforce it will cause major rifts in the family.

    Allison, my husband and I do currently share the burden of keeping the peace--he has been asked directly if the plumbing works properly. And we both share the role of deflecting. He probably gets asked more frequently than I do because they are his aunts and they're probably more comfortable being personal with him. The reason he has suggested that I let it roll off is that he knows that getting angry will not change the situation. Getting angry actually places me at a disadvantage. They will not understand the anger. And I will be marked as argumentative and avoided. Culturally, this would create issues for everyone around me--the inlaws, my husband, my own parents. There is no way to change this. It is the social norm in this culture.

    He is not suggesting that I not get angry--only that I not direct it at those giving me the third degree. I turned to the Internet looking for other women who have experienced similar pressures. I don't think that it will ever stop in truth. As Kate points out, when I have a child, the question will become when am I having another, and so on. But as supportive as he is, he is still my husband, and as such cannot understand how I might feel as a woman being questioned in this way. The issue is that our decisions are being questioned. And I'm struggling a bit with it.

    As a matter of fact, we do want children. And Elizabeth and Frautech, I hear you that they may be speaking from a position of concern and experience. But they know that we want children. They feel that we should have children on their time table, in terms of what they feel is an acceptable period for having children. We're not planning on waiting very much longer, but constant questioning makes me feel that they are going to try and claim responsibility for pushing us in the "right" direction. There are also serious cultural differences that I have not been able to explain fully here that will come into play when we do have children.

    In any event, I know I cannot change these people. And I can only control myself. Which means going back to the deflections. But I really want to thank you all for sharing your thoughts with me. And for allowing me to share my experience with you.

  • Guest Author says:

    One other note. Cath@VWXYNot?, we both really liked the suggestion of the boat. We had a laugh at that, and I think we both needed it.

  • Christine says:

    My mother in law did this. A lot. I deflected things politely for a while and one day after I had had as much as I could take, I told my husband that he really needed to speak to his mother and make her stop because if he waited until I lost my temper it would not be pretty. I don't know what he said to her, but she mostly stopped and when she would ask him to translate things about children into English he didn't. I think it was clear it wasn't cute or funny and it would result in a nasty fight if it continued.

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    Yea! Zuska. What she said.

    I was thinking on a more negative note, that the constant inquisition might get to the point of avoiding family. Which would be a damn shame.

    FWIW IMHO patriarchy has little to do with it; the whole "descendants" thing is pretty fundamental biology for both sexes. A species that invented menopause has apparently cooked grandbabies into our natures at a very deep level.

    --

    DCS, who has kids your age and no grandchildren; my kids'll get around to babymaking (or not) in their own good time and in the meanwhile my tongue can stand some mastication.

  • Outsider perspective says:

    I have a new idea about this since finally having a child (in my mid-thirties). This may or may not apply to the guest blogger's situation, but in my case, as a bookish geographical outsider living in a conservative rural place (where my husband is more of an insider), I find that fertility, pregnancy, childbirth, child-raising are the only topics that people have conversed about enthusiastically with me in the 5 years I've lived here. Rather than the annoyance I used to feel about such questioning (and yes, now the question is, "when will you have the next one"), I feel grateful that there is such a topic, that thaws otherwise awkward connections. This is not to diminish anyone's suffering at the interminable "when will you reproduce?" But perhaps it's worth considering that the speaker may have difficulty coming up with any other topic, yet still wants to connect.

  • josie says:

    I totally sympathize with you. I'm of east Asian descent and understand how intrusive families can be. And by custom, there is just nothing you can do. I'm single (and according to a report, I have more chances of being killed by a terrorist attack than getting married) and you can just imagine the questions I get at every family gathering. In some ways, I'm glad that they're mostly on the other side of the globe now. I'd like to relate a story regarding my cousin which hopefully you’ll take as consolation for not being alone in a difficult situation. Many years ago, after a couple of years being married, my cousin and his wife were "still" having trouble conceiving and so they had the requisite fertility tests. Findings were low sperm count for my cousin. After that, at just every family gathering, you'd hear "his low sperm count" as the topic of conversation. I clearly remember one occasion when I was talking to my cousin and his wife and just happened to hear "low sperm count" coming from the elders' table. He gave me a grin and just slowly shook his head, at which point, the three of us just pretended we didn't hear anything. My cousin took everything in stride and continued attending gatherings, but you can just imagine how he must have felt. I'm glad to say they now have two lovely girls.

  • Blue says:

    Is there any way that your husband, well-versed in his own culture, can talk to his family and put a stop to the nagging?

    I don't think it is unique as a cultural experience at all--hubby and I both got the Spanish Inquisition for many years about having kids, from both sides (American of European descent on my side, British on his). Eventually when my cousins gave birth to Great Grandchild #6, they reckoned I was off the hook for carrying on the family DNA/name. Being a rude American, I made some extremely snotty remarks, as that seemed to be the only way to shut them up even temporarily when polite deflections didn't work. "We must be doing it wrong! You think I should put his wee-wee...WHERE?!?!?!?" and "I'm going to stop talking to you now, because you make me drink too much" got traded with "Your husband's going to leave you for a gay man" and "I guess it's a good thing you don't have children *dramatic sigh* because you'd be a lousy parent." It did degrade relations to the point that we simply did not talk to our extended families at all for years on end.

    My family, and his mother, figured out that if they wanted us to hang out, they needed to be civil to us, but his dad insists on being difficult about the subject to this day. Father-in-law has now not spoken to me in 10 years, because I am an Unwoman. Despite all the health issues that go along with being 75, father-in-law still speaks of nothing, nothing to his balding, greying sons except their failure to sire a child. It's sad for them, they can't even have a simple conversation. Last time Spouse called his dad, his dad was crying about how he'd never go fishing with a grandson. Spouse said, if you are nice you could go fishing with Blue, she enjoys fishing. Father-in-law said, "I don't want to go fishing with Blue." Spouse: Well, we could go fishing with [Brother], I wouldn't mind renting a small boat for a weekend. "I don't want to go fishing with you."

    I guess this is not such good news, huh? The rule Spouse and I follow, which has worked for decades of happy marriage, is "you deal with YOUR family." We have a sort of organized travel rotation, but when it comes to relationships, we keep our extended family out of our marriage. It has really saved our marriage in many ways, especially considering that women usually get stuck with elder care at my age--emphasizing that men are also capable of dealing with elder care and traditionally female tasks has helped us maintain both household and career parity.

    Good luck to you.

  • As a south asian woman, who is a professional and married into a very traditional family I totally get the pressure, the frustration and the anger.

    You're not going to like what I have to say, nor is your husband.

    You need to get over it.
    His family will never ever stop. You're not living the life they want you to live and they will nag and harass you because of it. Some of it is because they love you and they don't honestly believe you are happy in your choices. They don't understand your choices. I know this as I have been through it. I dealt with it by telling my husbands Grandmother that he didn't want kids. As a Good Indian Wife, I could not go against his wishes. Yes I played that card and but it got them off my back. Now that we have had monkey, everyone is just grateful that I convinced Mr.SM to have one that they don't harass us about more. But that is only his side of the family. My side still nags and wonders. It wasn't enough that I got married, am successful and a good mother to 1 child. My parents have failed in life because I don't have more children and my brother is single.

    You will not be able to stop them or change them. You can however change / control how you react to the comments. I would just ignore the questions. I have walked away from aunts for asking, I have pretended not here and continued with a different conversation and sometimes I just look at them at smile. What matters is that your husband supports you and that you are a partnership.

  • Jude says:

    I have three children. I had my oldest, my daughter when I was 26 (the age my mother was when she had me, her youngest). I had my sons when I was 37 and 39. It was much more difficult to be pregnant at those ages. I wasn't crazy about children until I gave birth to one, and I still don't get excited by looking at other peoples' babies, but I'm glad I have my three children. Anyway, it's up to you when and whether and if. This almost makes me glad that I have no close family members to hassle me.

  • fizzchick says:

    I like Zuska's idea. Also, after you have informed them that the topic is not up for discussion (say, once per visit), can you try just not engaging at all? I.e., the model would be something like:
    Relative: Intrusive question/comment 1
    You: Auntie, we've been through this before, and it hurts my feelings when you continue to talk about it when I've asked you not to (or, that topic is between me and my husband and not open for discussion, or however you choose to phrase it).
    R: I q/c 2
    You: *blank stare* So how about them Yankees? (or local alternative)
    R: I q/c 3
    You: Get up and leave the room/join another conversation/head to the kitchen/go for a walk/whatever.

    This is the technique recommended by many advice-types (e.g., Carolyn Hax). I think it has a couple of advantages: you're not giving them any excuses to argue with (i.e., they could tell you to sell/give away the boat/pet, quit your job, etc.), your exposure is limited, so you're not as likely to get angry, because you won't be exposed to the nth comment, only the 3rd. And finally, you aren't presenting them with anything to argue about in terms of angry/rude behavior, so there isn't something for them to turn back on you as your fault.

    On preview, this is basically what ScientistMother said, with more relevant cultural experience. But perhaps the model will help. If/when you get pregnant, you can switch from blank stares to "We're thrilled about the baby", presented with a smile each and every time.

    As for my experience, I'm fortunate that both sets of parents figured out relatively quickly that it wasn't a topic we were opening for discussion. For friends/relatives we see more infrequently, a "when we're ready" or "when we're living in the same state" usually does the trick, and so far, no one's asked often enough to drive me nuts. Slight advantages of a long-distance marriage 😛

  • AnotherIndianWoman says:

    I second everything ScientistMother said. I too come from pretty much the same kind of culture that the OP married into. I am under no pressure to procreate purely because I haven't given in to the pressure to get married. And as infuriating as the extended family can be, I am fond of them, and my parents have to see them a lot more often than I have to, so being rude to your elders, or even politely telling them too mind their own business is not an option. Unfortunately, as a culture, we have no conception of privacy. So you will never escape their questions, comments, and well-meaning advice at _any_ stage in your life. And you do want to remain on good terms with them, if not for your sake, then for your husband's, or his immediate family's, or something like that. Well, I had a couple of suggestions to add to SM's advice to "Get over it."

    1. Try crying. Turning on the waterworks when the interrogation gets to be too much can help. The women in the family will take this as a sign that you are not some heartless monster whose feminine feelings have been destroyed by an education and career. Don't explain anything, and let them draw their own conclusions. Chances are they will stop discussing the subject around you. Insincere, I know. But they will never understand you, so why bother being yourself?

    2. Turn to the sisterhood. There is a better chance that at least some of the women of your generation will understand your plans and priorities. Try having a heart-to-heart with each of them. If they are anything like some of my cousins, they will know how to tell their mothers that their nagging is causing real pain.

    Anyway, don't worry too much about these things. It may be a bit hard for you, not having grown up with the constant interference of the extended Indian family, but they usually mean well, and as a commenter pointed out, they are probably only making conversation. Ignore the pressure as well as you can, and stick to your plans. And when you go ahead and have that child, and they think it was because of their prodding, you'll be too happy or busy or both to even care.

    Good luck!