I came across this article on Childless.com.au, an Australian site. The author, Jane Blakely, is an Australian living temporarily in Malaysia. I found her experience fascinating.
While sitting in a doctor’s waiting room she got pulled into a conversation with a Malaysian man, Raj, who asked her if she had children. When she replied that she didn’t, here’s what happened:
“In my culture, it is expected a couple will have their first child within the first year of being married,” he said. Continuing the family lineage through childbirth is of utmost importance in his culture, Raj said, and the “suitability” of a wife will be called into question by the groom’s family if she hasn’t had a child within the first year of marriage.
The suitability of the wife? There are no male fertility issues in Malaysia? How very Henry VIII!
My initial thought after reading this way, “Boy, I’m glad I don’t live in a culture like that.” But to a lesser extent, I do.
When you don’t have children, you are not the norm, and while people may not openly point fingers of blame, you know they’re speculating as to where the problem lies. “Is it her?” “Is he firing blanks?” And we too often hear stories of marriages that don’t survive infertility, and of spouses who left because they needed to have a family.
Jane’s article was a really eye-opener for me – not because it educated me about other cultures, but because it caused me to take a closer look at my own.