60 – Unlearning Toxic Cultural Brainwashing with Shweta Ramkumar

Self-proclaimed and proud black sheep Shweta Ramkumar sits down with resident childfree Latina Paulette Erato to discuss the parallels between Southern Asian and Latine cultures.

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And while both cultures can be conservative, sexist, and patriarchal, both women have been fortunate to have supportive families when it comes to their childfree choices. As a staunch antinatalist, Shweta takes her childfree advocacy one step further by championing the idea that having children without consent is an act of selfishness that begets further suffering.

Key takeaways from this episode include: 

  1. Advice to other black sheep on embracing their ability to see through familial bullshit
  2. How embracing a childfree lifestyle can be empowering, but it requires deep self-awareness and clarity about personal values and priorities
  3. Where to find your childfree community if yours is nonexistent

Tune in for what is a revealing look into the commonalities of Asian and Latine cultures, from the childfree perspective.

Shout out to the fans who played LVMC Trivia on Instagram: Erik, Ryan, Amanda, and Shweta

About Shweta:
All of Shweta’s social media bios contain the following words : Educator, Foodie, Singer, Dog-Mom, Minimalist, Unconventional, Black Sheep, Childfree by Choice, Antinatalist and Egalitarian.

She’s a multitalented, multipassionate creative woman who has lived and travelled all over the world, worked in a variety of industries and is currently an up and coming entrepreneur with a business that marries up her passions, skillset, knowledge and experience. She’s a Southern Asian woman of colour and a pioneer of dismantling the oppressive norms of the conservative, sexist and patriarchal culture and society she grew up in.

As an unmarried childfree millennial woman, her life journey sets a strong example of breaking free from the shackles of disempowering cultural conformity and stand out as a proud black sheep in more ways than one. She’s an avid advocate of the childfree lifestyle and is currently based in Melbourne Australia.

Find her on Instagram as @childfreesrbuddysmum

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In this episode

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Transcript created with Descript. Learn more.


00] Paulette: Buen dia, mi gente, and welcome to La Vida Más Chévere de Childfree Latinas, the only Spanglish podcast for childfree Latinas y Latines trying to dismantle the toxic cultural brainwashing we all grew up with so that we can design our best lives instead. I’m your resident, childfree Latina and host, Paulette Erato.

[00:22] If you’re watching this on YouTube, the video of our interview will play right after this intro. I am not recording my face for it because I’ve been sick and this face is just not ready for its close up. I trust you’ll forgive and enjoy it anyway. Today, the toxic cultural bullshit we’re unlearning is that ours isn’t the only one with the bullshit.

[00:44] Okay. That’s not really true. I mean, yes, the statement is true, but that’s not the focus of today’s interview. It’s about the parallels between two very different cultures and what we can learn from each other. Because the more we recognize what we have in common as people, the less division we’re inspired to create, which therefore starts forcing the patriarchy to die.

[01:10] So on today’s program, we have Shweta Ramkumar, who is a self described black sheep of her Indian family. I really vibe with her take on what makes her the black sheep, and she’ll explain why she loves it. Actually, instead of me doing all this talking, let me just read you her bio, because if you haven’t heard about her before, it’s rather compelling.

[01:30] And I think you’ll understand why she, even though she’s not a Latina, is here today. All of Shweta’s social media bios contain the following words. Educator, foodie, singer, dog mom, minimalist, unconventional, black sheep, childfree by choice, antinatalist. and, egalitarian. She’s a multi talented, multi passionate, creative woman who has lived and traveled all over the world, worked in a variety of industries, and is currently an up and coming entrepreneur with a business that marries up her passions, skillset, knowledge, and experience.

[02:09] She’s a Southern Asian woman of color and a pioneer of dismantling the oppressive norms of the conservative, sexist, and patriarchal culture and society she grew up in. As an unmarried, childfree millennial woman, her life journey sets a strong example of breaking free from the shackles of disempowering cultural conformity and standing out as a proud black sheep in more ways than one.

[02:32] She’s an avid advocate for the childfree lifestyle and is currently based in Melbourne, Australia. Okay, so what parallels are there between Shweta and me? Well, we’re both from cultures that, as you heard, are, among other things, conservative, sexist, and patriarchal, as well as family centric, where women are generally groomed for marriage.

[02:55] If you don’t believe me, let me ask you this question. How many of you feel compelled to, or are even told to, prepare a plate for your partner before you sit down to eat? Are you getting it now? However, in our respective lives, Shweta and I both rebelled against certain cultural norms. Like me, her parents taught her to aim for independence and be a strong woman who can stand on her own.

[03:19] Surprisingly, neither one of us was the first to come out as childfree in our families. Like me, she also had other people who were childfree before her, which then led to her being childfree becoming a bit more acceptable. Same here. Finally, we both live in childfree areas of our cities and have mostly childfree friends.

[03:39] And of course, there was the whole part about the dismantling and the unshackling. And yeah, I mean, she’s pretty much the Indian Paulette or I’m the Latina Shweta. And of course, there’s also differences. For example, I’m not a A dog mom. And Shweta is an ardent antinatalist, which isn’t a philosophy I necessarily subscribe to as it relates to being childfree.

[04:03] Don’t worry if you’ve never heard that term or have any idea what antinatalism is. Shweta is going to define it for us and even describe how it works out for her and her partner. So, let’s jump into this story of cycle breaking, trailblazing, and black sheeping.

[04:18] Oops. Wait. And before we get to that, I forgot to mention some fans of the show who played trivia on Instagram last week. Uh, Erik, our guest. Ryan, my husband, Amanda, the host of Six Degrees of Cats, such a great podcast. Oh, I didn’t even realize Shweta herself played along. Awesome.

[04:37] So, if you want to play future rounds of that game, please follow me on Instagram and also get on the Substack. That is the best way to find out about new episodes coming up, behind the scenes for episodes and all kinds of other great stuff. All of these links are in the show notes. And now let’s get to the story.

[04:57] Shweta, how are you? Hello.

[04:59] Shweta: Hola, amigo. I’m very well. How are you?

[05:01] Paulette: I love that. I love that. Thank you for learning a little bit of Spanish for us.

[05:06] Shweta: I know literally 10 words and I use every opportunity I can to actually put them into practice because I don’t have anyone around me who speaks Spanish.

[05:15] Paulette: Well, you can call me anytime.

[05:16] Shweta: Mm hmm. Absolutely. Yeah.

[05:18] Paulette: We can practice. No, nobody’s ever surprised me quite like that. I love it. So, Shweta’s on the program today because our cultures, while very different, she comes from a different part of the world, are very similar in that the family unit is really the heart of our culture. And she and I have discussed this before, but unfortunately we lost those files.

[05:40] So we’re recording this again. Shweta was gracious enough to give me more of her time. And we’re going to talk about what it’s like to be a childfree person in a Southern Asian culture. So Shweta, give it to me. What, what’s it like?

[05:55] Shweta: For me personally, and by no means is this everyone’s story, so let’s not generalize, I have found it relatively easy. The reason being because I’m not the first childfree person in my family. So they did all the hard work for me, for the people who were my predecessors who’ve been there, done that. And when I told my parents, and this was when I was like six or seven years old, when I told them that I never want to get married or have children, they were very accepting.

[06:25] And they were like, yeah, it’s your choice completely what you want to do with your life. And so yeah, I think they have always encouraged me more than actually how people in my culture are groomed, women in particular, are groomed to be is like a slave for every man. That’s how I put it.

[06:41] You have to be the perfect wife. You have to be the perfect daughter in law, because that’s how we’re indoctrinated from a young age that that is going to be our fate at some point. Whereas I had a very different upbringing in that my parents always taught me that your financial independence is much more important. And they always taught me that you have to be able to stand on your own two feet, you should have your own identity and things like that.

[07:05] So, yeah, so for them, when I told them that I don’t want to have children or get married, they didn’t take it very negatively whatsoever. So, my mum actually works with a lot of childfree people. In fact, the first, when we moved to Australia, the very first boss that she was working with, Jewish woman, she and her husband were also childfree.

[07:23] So for her, she doesn’t find my choice unusual. And I think the other thing that I always say to them, and I have actually raised this point in some of the child forums that I’m a part of, is that now my parents have worked extremely hard to get to where they are in life now. They’ve really given it blood, sweat, and tears to where they are in life now, in terms to live the life that they want now.

[07:46] And now they want nothing more than a life that is free of any stress and responsibility. So while their friends are giving up their retirement years to install car seats and provide free child care for their grandchildren, The only responsibility mine get is every three or four months, they look after their four legged fur child, grandchild.

[08:05] So, and they love it. They still get to have their own life. They can’t travel as much, but they get to have their own life. My dad can go and play tennis. My mom can still go to work. They can go for doctor’s appointments. So their life is not as put on hold as their friends are because their, their grandchild has very different needs.

[08:23] And he makes things a little bit easier for them than the others.

[08:27] Paulette: Their grandchild being Buddy, your dog.

[08:29] Shweta: The dog, yeah.

[08:31] Paulette: So you’re an only child?

[08:32] Shweta: Yes.

[08:33] Paulette: Ah, okay. That’s very interesting. How many people generationally before you didn’t have children, if you don’t mind me asking?

[08:42] Shweta: I mean, I don’t know about other families, but I know that in my family there were at least two or three people who didn’t have children before I came along. So for us, as a result, it’s just not an unusual occurrence to see a woman or a man making this choice. And the only difference I would say is that those people, they made the choice because they wanted to focus on their career. And by no means is there anything wrong in doing that.

[09:10] My reasons have nothing to do with that, however. And that’s what a lot of people in my extended family, they really struggle to understand. So if I’m not career driven, if I’m not striving towards doing well in my career, what am I doing with my life, really? And for me, it’s because I want to be able to live a life that is free and flexible.

[09:32] I place a lot of value and emphasis on travel, for example. So like, not even in two weeks from now, I’ll be heading to Sri Lanka for two weeks on a holiday with fellow childfree women, believe it or not. Yeah, just having more options with what I want to do with my time, where I want to live, how I want to earn a living.

[09:51] I’m not saying that you can’t do these things with children because I know parents will come at us and say, Oh, we can do all these things with our children too. I’m not saying that it’s not possible, but it’s infinitely harder when you do it with children.

[10:01] Paulette: Oh yeah.

[10:02] Shweta: And I have that freedom. And for me, being childfree is the basic form of self care for me and for me to really take care of my mental health. It’s mental health, I have to say, is one of the top three reasons why I’m childfree. I do not want to pass down the curse of my father’s side of the family with mental health problems. I don’t want to pass that down to a child. Because I have it, so I don’t want that cycle to continue.

[10:28] And till I made my issues with mental health much more visible, no one really talked about it, even though it was so prevalent in my father’s side of the family, generational trauma and all that. So when I started to speak out about it was when people really recognized that, okay, this is a thing that we should not ever brush under the carpet anymore.

[10:48] It’s about time we become aware and we become more conscious of what to do and how this can impact us and things like that. So in many ways, I have been the trailblazer and broken the cycle in many ways in my father’s side of the family.

[11:03] Paulette: Congratulations. That takes a lot of guts. It sounds like your parents were very supportive of all of that though.

[11:08] Shweta: Yeah, yeah, 100%, yeah, definitely. I think with the mental health, they still don’t fully understand what exactly to do. They don’t really understand what exactly I need. But, it’s not as tabooed or stigmatized as it used to be during their time, so yeah.

[11:24] Paulette: Yeah, those leaps and bounds we can make in a generation.

[11:26] Shweta: Yes.

[11:26] Paulette: And it does take someone having guts, like us, who take a stand and stick to our guns. We’ve made a choice. Yes. And it’s a boundary.

[11:36] Shweta: Yes.

[11:36] Paulette: It’s just a boundary.

[11:37] Shweta: For sure.

[11:37] Paulette: And boundaries can be hard, especially when you’re not supported by the people around you, which in the, some of the questions you sent to me, you talked about how you can be perceived as a black sheep. But luckily you do have that core community for you in your parents and in those that came before you that do support you being a nonconformist.

[11:59] Shweta: Oh, look, for me, I do not have a problem with people perceiving me as a black sheep because I am. So, where’s the lie? They’re not, there’s nothing wrong in that. And I, and I feel that I was chosen to be the black sheep, because in a, in very simple terms, the black sheep is the one that sees through all the bullshit that is there in, in the family, in the, in the, in the family dynamic, really.

[12:21] And really is vocal about it and really takes that conscious effort to break those cycles of dysfunction and trauma and toxicity. So if anything, I take a lot of pride in being chosen for this role. So, and I fulfill it to the best of my ability.

[12:35] Paulette: I love that you said, I was chosen to do this hard thing, but like, you don’t know any different. That’s your thing!

[12:42] Shweta: Absolutely.

[12:43] Paulette: That’s the thing you’re going to do. You came out to be that person. You said you were six or seven when you told your parents that. So it sounds like you knew really early what your path in life was going to be.

[12:54] Shweta: Yeah, very, very early. I think I would say the second I came into this world, I came out of my mom’s womb, I knew that I did not want to do what she was doing, which was, well, they don’t want to do two things that she was doing.

[13:07] First, to not pursue medicine. That, obviously, that took me, took me a while to understand that, that, what medicine entails and all that. So I learned from her, don’t pursue medicine, don’t have children, so, and I’ve stuck to both of them. Yeah. So I’ve known, like, literally from the second I came into this world that I do, I do not want kids.

[13:24] Paulette: It’s almost simpler when you just know these things about yourself.

[13:27] Shweta: Yes.

[13:28] Paulette: Like, I know that I am right handed. I know that I have curly hair. And I know that I’m childfree. These are things that, for me, and probably for you as well, are biological.

[13:37] Shweta: Totally.

[13:38] Paulette: I am biologically this way.

[13:39] Shweta: Yeah.

[13:39] Paulette: And I’m not going to fight my biology.

[13:41] Shweta: Yeah, absolutely. So, yeah, people always say, oh, the most natural thing for every woman to do is to want to be a mother, want to be a human mother.

[13:49] Paulette: Mm hmm.

[13:50] Shweta: For me, my most natural thing to, for me, is to be a dog mom. So, that’s what I’ve always wanted to be. I’ve always wanted to have dogs, growing up, or as an adult. I’ve fulfilled that now, and I couldn’t be happier. I think being a dog mom, to me, is my biggest blessing in life and the greatest privilege.

[14:08] Paulette: How old is Buddy? And what kind of dog is Buddy?

[14:10] Shweta: He’s a multi shih tzu, so one of those little white fluffy ones. And actually on Thursday will be his four years with us, so it will be his fourth uh, gotcha anniversary. So he’s almost eight now.

[14:21] Paulette: Oh wow. Will you be adding a brother or a sister for Buddy?

[14:26] Shweta: No, I don’t think so. I think for him he is, uh, quite, what can I say? He likes his own company. Let’s just put it that way. So he likes his own company. He likes to be on his own. He likes to do his own thing.

[14:37] Paulette: Yeah.

[14:38] Shweta: So if I get him a brother or sister, it will mainly be for me more than him, because he will, he will just not bother with playing with the other dogs. So he’ll, he’s just one of, he, he prefers people.

[14:49] Paulette: So like you are an only child, so is Buddy.

[14:53] Shweta: So is Buddy, exactly.

[14:54] Paulette: So one of the words that you said is always in your bio is that you’re an antinatalist. Can you define for the audience and me what that is, and how you got to that point?

[15:05] Shweta: So, antinatalism, if I have to really put it in very simple terms, is to reduce the amount of suffering in the world. That’s our main mission. We don’t want to cause harm or suffering to any sentient being. Now, there’s a lot of misconceptions about antinatalists.

[15:25] People think that antinatalists want the human race to die out. We want to commit mass genocide against humans, like what people are doing in Palestine right now. So there’s a lot of misconceptions and they want life for all, all life on earth to end. And that’s, there are a group of people who do that.

[15:41] There are a group of antinatalists who do that, but that’s not everybody. The common theme that all antinatalists share is that they collectively want to not compound the level of suffering in this world. And they do that mainly by minimizing the harm to the planet as much as possible. And the other thing with antinatalism is that what they really are big on is the concept of consent.

[16:08] Let’s look at it from a healthcare perspective because a lot of my work actually involves in healthcare. Let’s use a simple example. When I got my COVID vaccine, and you’re talking about four years ago, but they made us read a, we read a four page document about the side effects of this and that, and they got our consent and then I had to sign that and then they’re like, yeah, you can give me the COVID vaccine.

[16:30] There is no such thing of system that we have for when we bring another life into this world. So what they, antinatalism says is that you cannot get consent from someone or something that doesn’t exist. So essentially, because of your selfish needs, you’re forcing something that doesn’t exist to come into this world, for your own selfish reasons.

[16:53] And because of the world that exists the way it is, because of what’s going on in Palestine, that’s one thing, but many, many other things, the world that we live in at the moment, it is going to end up leading to inevitable suffering, that the one who first didn’t even ask to be born is going to be subject to, when they didn’t ask for it.

[17:15] And that’s the main principle, that they do not want to perpetuate this cycle. Because a lot of parents also are antinatalists. Because they learnt about it much later. And even I, myself, I learnt about it in 2020, actually. So a lot of my, the blog posts and video interviews that I was doing, people from India saw it and they started to reach out to me.

[17:35] And they were all saying collectively, the people from India, is that we don’t want to cause any more suffering. And I got really curious about it. I was like, well, can you elaborate on that? This is what they told me. And I can understand because in a place like India, that’s already overpopulated, where really, anyone that comes into this world has no future in that country.

[17:55] So that’s how, that’s how they saw it. And looking back at it, even as a child, and this is what I asked my parents when I was a child. Why are so many people having biological children when there are so many orphans in this world? Orphans that don’t have, that don’t have parents. Why aren’t more people adopting?

[18:13] And I always said to myself, when I grow up, if I do ever change my mind about having children, the only thing I would do is adopt. Adopt or foster. Not that I have any plans on doing that now, but as a child, looking back at it, I felt naturally, as you put it, I was also an antinatalist. I simply didn’t know about what it was till 2020.

[18:32] But when I learned about it, I was like, this makes absolute sense. And yeah, that’s how, that’s literally how I became. And that’s why, as a result of that, a lot of childfree people look, they are very supportive of their friends and family members having children. And that’s fine if they want to do that. I personally will never condone to that.

[18:49] So that’s the, as a result of that, I never attend baby showers. I never attend gender reveals.

[18:54] Paulette: Do they do that in Australia?

[18:56] Shweta: Yeah, yeah, baby showers are a huge thing, yeah, in Australia.

[18:59] Paulette: No, no, no, not baby showers, gender reveals, they do that?

[19:01] Shweta: Gender reveals, the few friends that I have who have children, they didn’t do it. Or if they did it, they kept, they kept very quiet about it. They’ll just, whoever attended the baby shower, they just tell them, we’re having a boy or a girl. Very simple. So they, they didn’t make a big deal about it. My friends, fortunately, are very decent. The one, the few parent friends that I have. Like, I did not even know that they were pregnant till they, till they actually had their kid.

[19:24] So, yeah, so even in some cases when the kid was like two years old, I had no idea that they were pregnant. And they’re very, very selective about what they post about their children. So they’ll post like

[19:33] Paulette: Which is safer.

[19:34] Shweta: Yeah. Yeah. They’ll post about their birthday, first year, first day of school. That’s it. No, no daily updates, especially.

[19:40] Paulette: Yeah. It’s not their whole identity.

[19:42] Shweta: Oh, God, no.

[19:42] Paulette: Online.

[19:43] Shweta: That’s, that’s why my, my parents, friends that I have, the very few of them I have, they’re very decent and they all fully support my choice. They’re like, yeah, we get it. We, we, this is bloody hard. We know exactly why, why you don’t want to do this.

[19:54] Paulette: Just before I interviewed you again, I interviewed my little brother who has two children, who I adore, by the way.

[20:00] Shweta: Okay.

[20:01] Paulette: I am training them to be strong, independent men with compassion. And I mean, I’m not the only one training them. We as a village, uh, you know, I got them invested in the stock market and generational wealth is what I’d really love for them to have because we didn’t.

[20:15] And he was talking about how it’s not for everybody. It’s like, this is hard. And if you don’t want this responsibility, geez, why are we judging? Which is really great to hear from parents. And I love that my brothers are that way as well. We would have a very different relationship if they did not understand that biologically I just don’t want to do it.

[20:39] It’s like I would have to force myself to learn to write left handed. That sounds really hard. You want me to raise a kid on top of that? No. No, no, no. You know what’s really interesting? I don’t know if this is happening for you too. The algorithm has been feeding me a lot more of like honest parent stories on either TikTok or Instagram. And it’s just parents being really, really honest and candid about how difficult their lives are. It’s, it’s like a backlash to this picture perfect lifestyle that has been the trend for the last several years. And it’s refreshing.

[21:15] Shweta: Mm hmm.

[21:15] Paulette: And I will absolutely welcome that because I think that it needs to be told. Just like our stories as childfree women of color need to be told, the stories of people who are suffering, like you said, you know, you’re trying to end mental illness in your bloodline. Stop perpetuating these ideas that it’ll work out. What if it doesn’t? Why make things harder? And at least give people all of the information they can have before they go making these life altering decisions.

[21:44] Having a child is not something you get to take back. That is one of those rare decisions that is permanent. It is a life sentence.

[21:53] Shweta: Absolutely. Yeah.

[21:54] Paulette: I’m like, yes, I’m going to share these things because it just pretty much solidifies our decisions and validates them.

[22:02] Shweta: Yes. 100%.

[22:03] Paulette: So you emigrated from India to Australia as a young child, but you’ve lived all over the world, haven’t you? You’ve traveled extensively.

[22:11] Shweta: Just in India, but then I also spent a little bit of time in the UK and in Thailand, so yeah, on my own accord, yeah. For the time being, I’m happy living here, living where I am, but in the future, you never know. I might actually return to Thailand, just depending on if my partner actually wants to reduce his, you know, the amount of work that he’s doing or do something different.

[22:32] We might go to Thailand. We might go to Bali. Yeah. So set up a home base there. At this point, I’m pretty happy living here. The main reason being also a big perk over here is that where I live one in three people are childfree. So here it’s very common and normal to be childfree. And I have a big community of friends who are childfree too.

[22:51] So it, it makes a huge difference and it’s easier to live here for that reason.

[22:54] Paulette: Yes, having the support of your community, again, like you were saying, with your family, is a game changer. It really makes life so much easier. And we just came back from Puerto Rico. I’m sure you heard that episode where we were talking about all the things that brought us back home, sickness and finances being the two things.

[23:14] But what is very interesting is that I feel like I just bring childfree people into my orbit. I attract them. The people that we became friends with on the island, all childfree.

[23:28] Shweta: Oh, wow.

[23:29] Paulette: Which was really freaking cool because Puerto Rico, being a Latin American culture, being a very conservative culture, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, that was so refreshing to find other people just like us.

[23:44] Shweta: And especially when you hear these kind of cultures, people from these kind of cultures being childfree, that’s even more eye opening. I mean, like, if you look at the childfree community that I’m a part of, I am one of you’re talking about six or seven women, because it’s only for women, in the group who’s a person of color.

[24:01] Everyone else is white. Not that I have a problem with it, but yeah, so that’s the norm. So people like me, and there’s a couple of ladies who are Filipinos, that again is a culture that’s very conservative, very sexist, whatever else. So again, people in that culture who are childfree? Very much like that. It’s very unusual.

[24:18] Other than that, there are just two or three people, a handful of people from Southeast Asia. But yeah, and what I found interesting about your experience with Puerto Rico is that you tried it and you took that risk, in other words, and it didn’t work out and you came back when you had your reasons for it, obviously.

[24:36] However, when it comes to a human child, that’s a risk that you take, not just with your finances, but you’re risking another life. That’s how I see it. I’m like, I’m, I am all about taking calculated risks, but not when it comes to somebody’s life. So I’m very big on that also, because when you have a child, you do not know what the child is going to turn out to be. Whether the child is going to have a disability. Whether the child is going to be terminally ill. And I have heard from one of my friend’s brothers has a terminally ill child. So they found out about it just a year ago.

[25:11] So that child is about, what, three years now? He’s not going to live for another year or two. So you take that gamble when you have a child that you don’t know how their quality of life is going to be. And you have to live with the consequences of that risk. You can’t chop and change. You can’t put the child back to where it came from. And like you guys could easily could move back to LA.

[25:31] You can’t do that when it comes to having a child. Like you said, it’s a permanent, irreversible life choice. Anything in your life you can change, you can modify as much as like if you change, you can change careers, you can change where you’re living. You can change your diet, you can change your circle of friends, but yeah, once you become a parent, you will be a parent till either one of you takes your last breath, no matter what your relationship is. So that, that will not change in any way, shape, or form.

[25:55] Paulette: Yeah. And what’s interesting is that you and I, as women who don’t have children, recognize all of that.

[26:02] Shweta: Yes.

[26:02] Paulette: Like, we’re not Ignorant of these very real life consequences. And yet people will still try to bingo women who have made these conscientious choices. Well, but you just don’t know. Yes, we do know. We do know. We have watched other people do it.

[26:23] Shweta: Yes. I mean, you have to literally be living under a rock to not know these things. I don’t know, I’ve never got that. I don’t think I’ve ever, no one, anyone has ever said to me that, apart from internet trolls, we’re not going to comment, but no one amongst my friends and family has ever said, oh, you just don’t understand, or you don’t know. Because once I tell them why I have made this choice, they’re like, Yeah, you have a good understanding, probably a better understanding than we do about what bringing a new life into this world entails. And that this is not, not just going to be a baby, because everyone will say that we are having a baby. But they don’t understand that the baby will not remain a baby for the rest of its life.

[27:02] It’ll be become a toddler, a preteen, teenager, and, and, and an adult just like you and I. And we know that we, we are aware of that, and we have really weighed the pros and cons of what this is going to involve. What bringing another life into this world, not just parenthood, forget about parenthood, that’s a different conversation itself.

[27:22] But the consequences of bringing another life, human life, into this world that we’re living in, the consequences of that, we’re aware of that. And that’s why we are choosing not to do it. This part, you may have completely different reasons, but that’s one of the reasons why we’re choosing not to do it.

[27:40] Paulette: Yeah, like I said, my reason is I just never wanted to, so I don’t do things I don’t want to do.

[27:46] Shweta: Totally.

[27:46] Paulette: And the older I get, the less I do.

[27:48] Shweta: Yeah, we don’t owe anyone an explanation about why we want to or don’t want to do something. Yeah, you don’t want to. No is a complete sentence.

[27:56] Paulette: No is a complete sentence. Learning that when I did was a game changer, and it really helped me mentor other women knowing that that was true. Because, oh man, there’s so many, there are so many toxic messages we receive as women, motherhood being one of them, that motherhood’s the only path is being one of them, that, oh god, I mean, that’s what really fuels this podcast.

[28:23] I am never going to run out of material with trying to unlearn the toxic cultural brainwashing and the indoctrination like you mentioned, because it’s constant. It’s constant. And for every person that finally has the wool removed from their eyes and can see themselves more clearly, despite and in spite all of this weird indoctrination we go through, there are scores of other people who haven’t yet gotten there.

[28:49] Shweta: Absolutely.

[28:49] Paulette: And may never. May never, but people like you and I are here to just stand as examples of a life option that is pretty damn rad and fulfilling, and we’re happy. And we didn’t have to follow those paths, and that’s why I really appreciate connecting with women like you, because we’re not like everyone else, and that’s our superpower, that’s what makes us great. So, I really appreciate that you’re part of my circle in that as well, that life is great.

[29:22] Shweta: Yes.

[29:22] Paulette: Even if it’s not conforming.

[29:24] Shweta: Oh, totally. Yeah, had I conformed, I would have been miserable. So, so it all worked out for the best.

[29:29] Paulette: Oh yeah. My husband and I, I don’t know if you and your partner do this, but my husband and I will sometimes just creep up to the line of curiosity and discuss, if we had a kid, what would things be like?

[29:41] Especially during lockdown, when everybody was going crazy, trying to accommodate their children’s home learning and all of that. We’re like, That sounds freaking awful. We want no part of that. I mean, so more often than not, it’s not like, what if? It’s more like, oh, thank God.

[29:56] Shweta: Yeah. I mean, for the two of us, like, even this weekend, when I suggested to my partner, let’s go to the beach because it’s a nice day. But he said, I don’t want to come to the beach now because there’s going to be too many children. And now that we’re actually going to be moving to a different place in the near future, one of the main things that we were very keen on was moving to an area where it’s not family friendly. So you don’t have children.

[30:16] In many ways we are similar, but also in many ways we are different. Like he’s not an antinatalist like me. He doesn’t understand it. So that’s fine. And next year when he’s going to be turning 40, for example, he’s made it very clear that he’s not going to allow anyone to bring their children to his party. Yeah, so in many ways we are similar, but there are also in many ways where we’re different as well.

[30:36] Paulette: That keeps it interesting. Do you have advice to give for people who maybe don’t have as supportive a community as you came from, who still cannot stand the idea of conforming to those cultural norms?

[30:50] Shweta: Well, the first thing I would say is that you need to be very, very self aware and really shut out the noise that you’re getting from the community, your extended family and all that, because they will try to brainwash you. So just sort of keeping that aside and really being clear, if it helps, you might want to write this down, or whatever, and be clear about what it is that you stand for, who it is that you want to be, what is it that you want from your life, and what is it that you don’t want from your life.

[31:22] And that in itself is really hard because you have the noise of external forces really trying to deter you one way or the other. So, if you have done that, that itself is 50 percent of the battle won. And nowadays, thanks to social media and the internet, you have so many communities now, virtually, at least, if not in person, where your choice will be validated.

[31:46] I mean, you go on Facebook and just type in childfree. There are so many groups that you can join, and you can just share your story, and there will be people who will be on your side, 100%. And, if anything, they may have a very similar journey to you, they may not have the same cultural background as you, even though, like, for me, when I first joined all these childfree groups that I’m now a part of, I wasn’t aware that people from other, like, even Caucasian backgrounds, they can sometimes have the same challenges as you and I do, because of what our culture is teaching us.

[32:18] Because maybe for them it was their religion that dictated the fact that us women, all of you, have to become mothers, whatever. So in many ways, you might actually share, like, a common bond. Participate in these forums as much as possible, and depending on where you live, you might want to host a meetup.

[32:35] Now that’s a pain in the ass, doing that, because I hate organizing events and hosting events. So if you want to do that, by all means, uh, but also don’t expect everyone to turn up, don’t expect everyone to attend and things like that. But you might try that, but establishing that clarity is very, very important.

[32:50] If you are really struggling with that, there are so many coaches, uh, as well that, that specialize in this field. And a lot of them are not just childfree, but also help you establish that clarity. So there are so many communities and groups that are out there now, which actually offer programs that for people who are unclear about their life choices, and they’re not sure whether to embark upon parenthood and or remain childfree.

[33:16] So even though they’re going to cost you a little bit, it will be very beneficial to see what this entails. And again, because of social media, you can now have access to people who have, who are probably much older than you, and they have the life experience of what it is like living as a childfree person.

[33:33] Really finding your community, it is going to be extra hard to do that because you’re doing it with a very specific purpose. As adults, I’m sure you and I know that it’s very hard to make friendships. It’s very hard to make friends and maintain friendships. This will add another layer of complexity, but you have to put yourself out there if you really want that support and validation for your life choices.

[33:55] Paulette: And Shweta’s right. There are so many online communities dedicated to childfree this, that, and the other thing. I’m in a group that’s for childfree and pet free people. Because unlike Shweta, I don’t want pets. But that doesn’t mean that we hate pets. That doesn’t mean that at all. It just means that we have different hobbies, we have different preferences, and that’s okay. That doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.

[34:18] But maybe you really like mixology. There’s childfree groups for people who are really into craft cocktails. There’s childfree groups for people who are really into sewing. Pick a hobby, and there’s probably a childfree group explicitly for that. A lot of them are on Facebook. Some are on Reddit. They’re on Instagram. They’re everywhere.

[34:40] And I think this is really great especially for introverts. I love connecting with people. Like, this is why I have a podcast. I get to talk to people. Lockdown was hard for me not being able to be like, physically in the same room with people. But I get that for people who aren’t like me, online groups are great and real friendships can be made online. I have a ton of friends I have never met in real life, but I know that I can connect with them over a Zoom call, if nothing else, and I have their support, and I have their backing, and vice versa, you know, when they need help. That is what friendship is, is having each other’s backs, and if you can do that in real life as well, that’s wonderful, too.

[35:26] Like Shweta, I also live in a community which is mostly childfree. And it’s part of the reason I live where I live in the building that I live in. We moved back into our building. We moved back into our exact same condo. And part of the appeal is that there are so few children here. One is we’re in a downtown core. People don’t want to raise families here, which is great. So it makes for a quieter experience. It’s not a family focused experience. There’s a lot of dogs.

[35:54] Shweta: Oh, lovely.

[35:54] Paulette: Yeah. We have some great dog neighbors. They’re really great.

[35:57] Shweta: You probably remember the name, know the names of the dogs, but not the names of the neighbors.

[36:00] Paulette: That is true.

[36:02] Shweta: Yeah, I’m like that too, but when I see a dog, like, apart from my friends who have dogs, my childfree friends who have dogs, when I see a dog in public, I want to get to know the dog and everything, so I’ll always ask what the dog’s name is, and I’ll ask everything, but I’ll consciously forget what the owner’s name is. I don’t care about them, so, yeah, so that’s where the appeal is.

[36:18] Paulette: Well, and see, here’s the funny thing. I don’t want to have my own pet, like, I would not have a Buddy. That’s the name of your dog. Not that I wouldn’t have a buddy. I’m saying I wouldn’t have a dog. But I like other people’s dogs. I get so excited when I see another husky, for example, like huskies are my favorite dogs.

[36:34] That is a dog I definitely could never put up with because of the amount of hair.

[36:37] Shweta: Oh, absolutely not. I agree with you. They’re good to look at. But having a husky is like having a permanent teenager living with you.

[36:45] Paulette: I’ve learned that they’re escape artists. We used to have one that lived across the hall and he would get out of his locked condo and just wander the building.

[36:53] Shweta: Yeah.

[36:53] Paulette: That was so funny. And he was a really good boy. He’s a really good boy, but there is no way that I’m gonna take animals that size into my home.

[37:01] Shweta: Oh, me too, me too. I’m a, like, for me, even, like, for me, I consciously chose a dog that is low maintenance for that reason. In a perfect world, if I could really be bothered keeping the house, cleaning the house constantly, keeping up with their very high needs, I would, 100%, I would get a golden retriever. Because they’re my favorite dogs, but I absolutely wouldn’t, I would be miserable taking care of one permanently.

[37:25] It’s one thing, like, when I do dog sitting, if I have to look after them for a week or two, that’s not a problem. And because it’s not in my house, fine. So if they shed hair everywhere and they make a mess at your place, that’s not my problem. But, yeah, for me, I was particular that I wanted a dog that was low maintenance.

[37:41] Which is exactly what I have now. I want to make my life, and this may sound lazy for some people that I don’t care, but I want to make my life as stress free and easy as possible. And, and obviously one of the choices I’ve made to do that is by being childfree, but the other one is also being selective about what type of dog that uh, you want to have.

[37:59] And now you have that option when you’re getting a pet, you can always get a pet that is going to suit your lifestyle and your needs. Whereas with a child, no, you don’t, you really don’t have that, have that choice. You just have to take whatever you’re given. You don’t, you can’t sort of pick and choose what is going to be there.

[38:13] Paulette: Yeah. That’s one of life’s huge gambles.

[38:16] Shweta: Yeah, exactly.

[38:16] Paulette: You are the South Asian childfree woman.

[38:20] Shweta: Yeah, very much. I’ve been very much the person who’s been much more vocal more than others. I’m really pleased that I am hearing stories from communities that are different to me culturally, but also not so different, like, you know, you guys.

[38:33] And I was also on a podcast for black women, the childfree African American women last year, so I’m glad that my story is being shared with the guise of having that common ground with other cultures, so that’s, that’s very, very pleasing to hear that. So yeah, so we are different, but so similar in many ways, so I’m very happy to hear that.

[38:52] Paulette: So similar. I feel like so much of what we experience as childfree people can also be translated, not just cross culturally, Southern Asian, Latina, but also just the stigma of being different, the boundary creating, like those things are universal.

[39:11] Shweta: Yes.

[39:11] Paulette: And that’s why I enjoy my, doing my podcast as I do and inviting people like yourself on, because again, so much of what we experience as childfree women or as childfree people, translates to so many other battles that other people are fighting.

[39:30] Shweta: Yes.

[39:30] Paulette: And so while my show is for childfree people, it is also for people who are fighting a battle.

[39:37] Shweta: Mm hmm. Yes.

[39:38] Paulette: Shweta and I don’t fight. Like we, we, we just exist and enjoy our lives.

[39:44] Shweta: Yeah.

[39:44] Paulette: And I hope that for the people who feel like they are fighting battles, they see us as lights at the end of their tunnels. Because life can be great when you find your community and you are comfortable in your own skin and you are aware of your own limitations and what you can and can’t push past and just design this beautiful life on your terms.

[40:09] Shweta: Of course, yeah.

[40:11] Paulette: And we’re just proof that it’s possible.

[40:13] Shweta: Yes.

[40:13] Paulette: Absolutely possible..

[40:15] Shweta: And going back to what you said about fighting, yeah, I mean, for us, obviously, because we, I’m sure you had this sort of pressure, even though you may have had a supportive family, yeah, it may, you may have had your own battles really dismantling that cultural toxic narrative that you were brought up with. Because even though, I mean, yes, for, in terms of being childfree and not getting married, that’s where, you know, we had the support of our parents. But I have had my struggles with generational gap and cultural gap with my parents, and I’ve spoken about this in many podcasts that I’ve been a part of.

[40:49] So, yeah, so just because that again, people just assume that people who are childfree, they have such easy lives. No, we don’t. Yeah. So we

[40:56] Paulette: It’s easier in some respects, but it’s not necessarily easy.

[40:59] Shweta: Easy. Yeah. It’s easier. It would have just been made infinitely harder if we had children. So yeah. So I always say life is inherently hard. Everything about life is hard. Just choose your hard.

[41:10] Paulette: Choose your hard. Oh, I love that. I think I might title this episode that, Choose Your hard.

[41:14] Shweta: Go ahead.

[41:15] Paulette: Or at least subtitle. Well, Shweta, thank you so much for your time. I always enjoy chatting with you. You always bring a really great fresh perspective to what I’m doing here, and I really appreciate your time again. All right, so you know how we end the show.

[41:28] Shweta: Yeah, that’s a burrito.

[41:29] Paulette: Do you got something to say about this week’s episode? DM me on Instagram at Paulette Erato. And if you’d like to be a guest on La Vida Más Chévere, check out the guest form on my website at pauletteerato.com. All of these links are in the show notes.

[41:44] While you’re at it, can I ask you a favor? I’d really appreciate your helping spread awareness about the podcast, so could you please share it on your socials or even send it to a friend? New episodes come out every other Tuesday. You can enjoy them with tacos or burritos. Muchísimas gracias for your support, y hasta la próxima vez, cuídate bien.

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