Last week I wrote a poetic article of gratitude for my mom in honor of her 50th birthday. I was privileged to have the article featured on a popular African blog and had a few people comment on it. Everyone expressed their well wishes for my mom but there was one comment though that got me thinking.
The commenter wished my mom well and said she hopes the upcoming generation can raise children while multitasking as “our” moms did. In this context, “our” moms refers to African mothers/women. For those who are not Africans and might not know about the culture, an African mother is basically EVERYTHING in the home. (This is true for 95% of African households.)
For many of those households, the woman’s place is believed to be in the kitchen but in examining it, it stretches far beyond the kitchen. The African woman/mother is considered the primary domestic; tending the laundry, doing all the household chores, she is expected to bear children and raise them properly while the man is regarded as the king of the household because he goes out to work, he brings home the bacon. There would have been nothing wrong with this scenario if many African mothers willingly chose to be home-makers, but that is rarely the case in most homes. (topic for another day, I digress).
The comment struck a nerve because it left me wondering if many women in my generation can be an all encompassing woman like “our” mothers; willing to be the brunt of the household and if they honestly “want” kids. Don’t get me wrong, personally heaven knows I love babies and kids. I was a nanny/babysitter for about five years, I grew up in a big family and I “practically” raised our last born. I am surrounded by nephews and nieces every where in my family and I have been on Godmother duties for about 3 years now. So you see, I am constantly being hedged by kids.
I am positive there are women who feel a certain nag in the gut about whether or not they want to procreate kids themselves either biologically or otherwise. From where I stand, the world we live in today is becoming very peculiar and the results from the lens with which I am observing that world looks very gloomy. If many of these women are looking at the world the way I am, I think a lot will be leaning towards the nay side of that argument and here is why:
- Will Your Partner Be Committed?
A few days back, there was an article published on this same popular site which struck a nerve with a lot of people and everyone was agreeing with it, yours truly inclusive (this post is partly inspired by the article). The article discussed the nature of the African man, his pride and ill manners and the little or almost non-existent help they offer to their partners in marriage because of the way they were raised.I am very open when it comes to dating, not limited to my African brothers alone( I am generous like that…lol) which I am sure many women are. But just in case you end up the African brother (or any man) whose thinking faculties still reside in 1980, do you really want to start a family with him? With a man who believes it is a woman’s duty to do everything in the house and raise the kids properly without any form of contribution from him except financially? A man who would be afraid to express his emotions before his kids because according to him, it makes him look weak? A man who thinks bringing home the bacon is all there is to keeping a happy home? A man who would not change diapers because he grew up knowing that it was a woman’s duty and not his? God forbids that any one ends up with such a man but if that were to be the case, I am sure you would be leaning towards the negative side of the equation about not having kids.
- Peer Pressure
We all know there is no handbook for raising kids out there and especially none on how to be the “best” parent or ” perfect” parent to your kids. (Trust me, those books out there claiming to be expert advice are only guess work). Every parent who made the conscious decision to have kids do the very best that they can to raise their children in the very best way that they know how to. Being a nanny for that many years, I know first hand that you only have that much time to shape your child’s thought process and empower them. It is those early years between the ages of 0-10. After that, you have to rely on prayers because your child would be fair game to whoever has a more convincing voice when they are not around you. You want to teach your child independence and protect them at the same time, so it becomes a bit of dilemma. I am sure if many parents had their way, they would follow their kids every step of their life and choose their friends. But we live in a realistic world where that is just not possible. If you are unfortunate to have a child who can be easily swayed, can you imagine what influence their peers would have on them? It can go either way, bad influence or good influence.? So there is that fear sometimes because God – willing, we would all do our darnedest to raise the best kids, but what about those times when they are not around us, when we cannot control what they consume emotionally, physically, and spiritually? God help us because this is a legitimate concern.
- Does he/she really want kids.
No one and I dare say no one African person (except me of course..lol) wants to believe that not everyone is cut out for having kids and that not everyone is fit to have them or that not everyone wants them in the first place. I know this is not just relegated to Africans as I stumbled on an article some months back on Yahoo about a Caucasian lady who tied her tubes at 26 because she was convinced she never wanted to have anything to do with children. The amount of backlash she received on that article was enough to send her reeling into a hole never to peep out again. The only comment I might have agreed with on the article was someone who said she should have given herself until her 30s to do that because as humans, we change our minds all the time. I don’t even want to imagine what people would have said if that same article found it’s way on this popular African site.( My African people would have helped her parents curse the day she was born albeit unsolicited). We have already established that there is no guide to parenting set in stone, but I am sure most of us have witnessed some parents in action and shook our heads in denial of those actions. There are those whom after careful observation, you can deduce that they unfit to parent? So why would all these people go ahead to have kids if they were honest with themselves in the first place? In most cases, the woman falls culprit the most and the men get off pretty easy. No one questions the man when he gets a vasectomy young or when he decides to not be a father, but it is another ball game when it comes to women. Also, the man can just become a deadbeat dad and whilst that is not acceptable, he will get away with it. But it is hard for a woman with conscience to walk away like that, which leaves us with many disgruntled parents who had kids not because they wanted them but because they were trying to conform to society.
- The World Is No Longer Safe
If you are looking to be depressed, you need not look any further than the nightly news and the local news is the worst offender. Almost every minute there is something atrocious happening somewhere in the world and it is scary. I am sure many people who consider starting a family think about these things. If you are not in the 1% of the world, then you are living every day looking over your shoulder because there is no telling where the next ill is coming from. The natural disasters have multiplied by a zillion with earthquakes, mudslides and tornadoes threatening from all angles. Air travel which used to be considered one of the safest is slowly becoming one of the worst; who would have thought that sending your kid to be an exchange student would result in them becoming a casualty on a plane ? Just staying in your house these days doesn’t seem to be a good preventive mechanism anymore as stray bullets are constantly flying in the air. There is a saying that ” it takes a village to raise a child”, well, these days, it takes the same village to kill a child. So many people taking this into consideration will decide to just ride solo.
Whether you agree with me or not, having children takes away some level of your freedom which many people are not just ready to give up yet. Even for those who can afford to employ nannies, it is not easy to just get up and go. You can’t do that anymore,not with children who depend on you. Your every move and activity revolves around those children. Even when you are able to have the night off and go on date with hubby, your mind is never off your children.I know because I was a nanny for those many years. Now imagine what it must be like for those who can’t afford a nanny/babysitter. There are people who want to earn just enough to look after themselves and having kids means working extra hard, double hours and forgoing so many things like clubbing and all which they are not ready to. For these people, having kids is not part of the equation.
These are just some of the reasons why some people may decide to not have kids and it is entirely their prerogative. I don’t think anyone should judge them for it or hold them in contempt because those who have kids also made a decision to have them. Everyone is free to live their life in the way that they see fit and I don’t think they owe anyone any explanations for those decisions or be looked down on because of them. Life is full of choices and not having kids is one of them. We have just one life to live and we deserve to live the very best version of it even if that version doesn’t include kids. Live and let live.
I’d like to know, what is your take? Hope you have a nice start to the weekend.