One fine evening during dinner, I started a conversation around being childfree and everyone stopped eating. In response to my rather culturally disturbing thoughts, I was given the “what the hell is wrong with you” look.
Now, the displeasure at the table was understandable considering the fact that we were Africans, Nigerians to be specific. Therefore, we valued women as mothers first before mentioning things like reproductive rights. Leaving the table, I guess my guests wondered if I had not taken this feminism thing too far.
So what is this childfree thing that caused so much anguish at dinner? I’ll tell you. Simply put, being childfree is a state of voluntary childlessness. (emphasis on voluntary). Yes, some women sign up for not having children, African women included. Why would anyone not want children?
Well, the reasons are quite varied ranging from finance to health or simply not wanting to bring a child into a polluted world. Sometimes it is really nothing we just do not want them.
However, our boldness in choosing to exercise our reproductive rights and refusing to not make use of our ovaries is often met with disdain. Society calls us selfish, evil, and loveless monsters. We are often asked, “How can a young woman not want children?”. “Why are you adopting western ways?”. “Do you not want me to carry my grandchildren?”.
It is important to note that by being childfree we are not adopting foreign ways. Rather we as young African women have come to the conclusion that we do not have to follow the steps of our mothers. We now realise that we own our bodies and get to decide what to do with it.
Also, childfree women are neither selfish nor monsters and should not be judged for refusing to be parents. We are simply women who recognise that the decision to have children or not lies in our hands and not with parents, aunties, in-laws, pastors or imams.
Consequently, what I consider selfish is society’s constant assumption that women want children. No one bothers to ask if we do – not even our partners. They all assume we want to procreate so badly that if after a year of saying our wedding vows there is no bump, we become a prayer point. (Can people please understand that marriage is much more than for the sole purpose of replenishing the earth and ensuring the human species doesn’t die off?)
Truth be told, many African women do not want children but the pressure and fear of being judged make some of us give in to the desires of society. Therefore, we end up becoming toxic mothers. The kind of mothers no one celebrates during Mother’s Day.
Dear society, no doubt children are wonderful but not all African women want bundles of joy. So, stop pressuring and judging those who decide to find fulfilment in other things asides children. And if we happen to change our minds when our eggs are all gone there is always the option of adoption.
What do you think about African women deciding to be childfree? A taboo or a blessing?