“Really, no plans for a family!” exclaimed my friend whom I had met after 5 years since his daughter was born. “It’s our lifestyle choice”, I answered hesitantly, while waiting for a response that would probably link how we broke our parents’ hearts by not allowing them to be grandparents OR search for good fertility clinics with our lifestyle choice. Instead, he remarked, “This does not make any sense. My wife and I work harder every day because we need to care for ours and our five-year old daughter’s future. And, that is how our work makes sense.”
Before I get into my argument for and/or against my friend’s remark, which is the crux of this blog, let me first introduce our lifestyle choice to you dear readers. We, as in my husband and I, follow what Census India calls as the “DINK” lifestyle or Double-Income-No-Kids lifestyle. And, (we) urbanites following DINK constitute to about 26% of total households with working persons. Surprisingly, DINK lifestyle is more popular in rural India which comprise 35% of total households with working persons probably suggesting their aspirations to be more towards a cosmopolitan lifestyle than us urbanite DINKs.
So is my friend right about DINK lifestyle not making any sense? I suddenly wished for the presence of dead/alive economists and probable theories, which could have easily rescued me in this conversation. And, the wish came true! The ghosts of the past economists joined our conversation but these ghosts were hardly of any help to me!
Thomas Malthus’s ghost agreed with my friend by pointing us to his essay on Principle of Population that indicated if an individual’s levels of subsistence increased then they tend to multiply causing an increase in population. But critics of Malthus countered him by linking rising population with depletion and scarcity of resources.
Joseph Schumpeter’s ghost added to my friend’s remark, “DINKs are these disintegrating-bourgeois couples…breaking all traditional rules, causing a decline of the family as a social, economic and reproductive institution.” Thorstein Veblen’s ghost didn’t help either who slyly said, “You DINKs must be some elite club members now directing your life only in luxury, health and fitness which is this latest fashion among YOU elite. Or you must be owning a Jaguar or Rolex watches eh?” Now, how did Thor know about the club membership and watches, I thought creating a bubble around my head, when Ernst Engel entered the scene and popped my thought bubble with his pompously sounding answer, “Because of my law!…Rise in incomes will lead you to spend more money on conspicuous goods/services rather than on necessities”. And all ghosts laughingly agreed to each other, mockingly calling me a DINK…DINKY and laboriously teased me. One random ghost also predicted alienation and polarization of DINKS making me wish for my disappearance from the conversation, the city, the society, the world!
But my good friend, who intently listened to all economist-ghosts mocking me, opportunely snapped a question that changed the tone of the conversation. He curiously asked, “Don’t you get the time to spend among yourselves where both of you could do anything together …like travelling, movies, plays/theatres?” To which I added affirmatively, “Books, concerts, adventures, and most of all pursuing the kind of work we really loved and are passionate about”. My friend sadly exclaimed, “I wish I had not fallen into this trap if you would have met my wife 5 years ago and explained what loving your work (including fun) really meant!”. Suddenly, all economist-ghosts hastily exited the scene leaving me (alone) with my friend who now continuously ranted about how he juggled between his work-life, personal life, his family’s multiplying needs, and repairs/maintenance of his Honda car!
Bhakti Joshi is a teaching assistant at Meghnad Desai Academy of Economics, Mumbai.