I am one of the lucky ones. Not having children is still a choice for me, as far as I know. At twenty-nine, I have decided for now to hold out on having children until the time is right, not only for me but, for the kids that I have only conceived in my mind. I am waiting to have more stability in my life. Like most decent human beings, I would want my kids to have a better life than I have had. We hear a bit about children and the environment and people having more than one kid and the environmental consequences. Yet, most discussions about childfree women and the decision to have kids or not – often don’t take into account things like geography, cultural differences, poverty, education, and wider social issues. Discussions about the childfree can often err towards parenthood as an a-political choice. I wanted to share with you some of my personal thoughts and experiences on the topic.
We hear a bit about children and the environment and people having more than one kid and the environmental consequences. Yet, most discussions about childfree women and the decision to have kids or not – often don’t take into account things like geography, cultural differences, poverty, education, and wider social issues. Discussions about the childfree can often err towards parenthood as an A-political choice.
I wanted to share with you some of my personal thoughts and experiences on the topic.
Not everyone, but some people seem to expect children to grow like trees; with a little rain, some wind and a little bit of mud. However, children demand a lot more than that. It takes financial planning to raise a child well. Food is not free. Education is not free. Clothes are not free. Healthcare is not free. Where I live in South Africa, nothing is free. My government seems to think that it is feasible to raise a child on 400 South African Rand a month. That R400 child grant is the equivalent to 24.64 pounds a month. Elsewhere, that is someone’s daily wage. Most people, in fact, pay that much for a single meal. In reality, it costs 28.44 pounds to raise a child in the UK per day according to this article. Essentially, it boils down to this: I do not want my child to grow up poor.
When I used to earn enough money, I did consider having a kid. Nevertheless, when I had money, I did not even have time to have a boyfriend, much less the time to raise a kid. To be truly rich, I think you need an abundance of both money and time.
In my imaginings, I did consider hiring a live-in nanny to help me look after my bundle of joy while I was out making that cheddar. However, I when it comes down to it I don’t feel, personally, I could trust another person with my children. Whereas I am sure there are very good and caring nannies out there, in my culture, I too often have heard stories about how nannies abuse their position. Besides, I have my own special way in which I would want to discipline and teach my child. However, each to their own and good luck to parents who make the choice to bring in outside help.
2. Moral Ambiguities
I could have chosen to trap a wealthy financial manager. If only life were that simple. Do I really want to travel to the family court; put my child through DNA testing; plead my case in front of a judge and walk away with a measly amount of money on which to feed, clothe and educate a child? The worst part would be for my child to grow up knowing that he or she was unwanted by their father. I do not want to bring an unwanted baby into this world. Rejection by just one parent has emotional and psychological consequences.
In my experience there are women out there who use kids as an income generator; and that is morally wrong. I wonder how can a person can bring a baby in this world as something to hold ransom for child support, social aid or charity? It is sickening – the lengths that some women would go through, just to boost their income or avoid getting a job. Generally, there is consensus to blame men for everything bad that women and children go through. You don’t often hear of responsibility of child welfare put into the hands of the women who make the choices to bring lives into this world. However, most of us know how babies are made and supposedly education about birth control – statistically is on the increase. (This doesn’t always mean there is access to it though)! Something isn’t working.
By default, most of the western society believes that a woman is always the victim. We feel sympathy towards a woman when she carries a baby. We forget that sometimes women are the ones with the last say, in many, cases ultimately being the ones deciding to make choices for the men in their lives to become fathers. This can happen without the father’s consent to fatherhood. Then, we feel and show concern and sympathy in our societies for these women, ‘stuck ‘with babies’. Children who are missing out on education for instance so that they may have a better life – a life for which so many feminists had to march, stand up and speak up.
My wish is for any woman is to be strong and have a purpose. When we women begin to live differently, this world becomes different. Education is key here.
On a more extreme note, people have the power to bring lives into the world that bad people can exploit for their own and evil selfish purposes. We also have the power to change the world. Let us not increase the population of child soldiers, miners and gangster and drug dealers. Child labour is a real problem in South Africa and one in four children live without parents, according to this report.
3. I worry about the future
Motherhood is a lifelong commitment. Women have to protect children to greater and lesser extents the whole of their lives. This is daunting especially given unemployment and drugs that plague the youth in my country. I wonder do I really want to navigate these things for more or less 21 years, plus college years, plus those years when the recession brings them right back to my house? It is just too much! When do people grow up and take responsibility for themselves? Truth be told, the idea that really turns me off from having children is that they might never become proper adults! Kids are hard work, but they are cute and adorable. You cannot help but love them and feel protective of them. Nevertheless, I hear horror stories where some grown-up children end up being a bad deal, and parents end up paying for the rest of their life, essentially sacrificing their own. South Africa has many social issues well documented in the press.
In addition, there is always plenty of advice for mothers with babies and how to books and communities about navigating relationships with children and child psychology, but what about when children get older? Where are the help and advice then?!
Society has told us in the past that the absolute sacrifice of a parent is normal and good. Yet childfree people who think otherwise are described as selfish and self-obsessed. But I am not so sure? Actually, it takes a lot of careful thought to make the decision not to have children or hold off because of what is going on in the world.
4. I believe there is more to my body than my womb
A woman’s purpose should not be limited to lending her body to another human being. A woman should have goals that are far beyond cleaning up after someone else and making sure, that someone else has had their breakfast. A woman should have desires that go beyond watching another human being grow while her own life goes by.
My life is precious too. I might not be cute and cuddly, but my future is important too. I might be approaching the mid-years of my life, but I still have dreams to pursue. I still want to attend college, do sport, travel and have a good time. That is why I have not rushed into motherhood, just yet. Before I experience the joys of motherhood, I want to enjoy my womanhood. Motherhood will be much more fulfilling when I have no regrets about not living enough. I see far too many mothers who resent the very existence of their children because they have so many unfulfilled dreams.
I want to lead my life in ways that will make my kids (in the very distant future) feel proud of me. My kids will learn from me that there is more to life than procreation.
I am twenty-nine years old, and I am still enjoying the child in me. Yeah, sure, I have always wanted to be a mother, but I am waiting for the right circumstances and trying to think through all these points. Yes, I might regret waiting too long. However, I would rather have no children than bring human beings into the world who might possibly lead a life of suffering all because I had not thought things through and considered the bigger picture.