To start, this is not me. I love kids and I totally want some. My love for kids is so bad that if there was a way I could steal my niece (and get away with it), I totally would. But there are people who do not want kids. Call them the millennials, and you may be right. There is nothing wrong with them emotionally or physically, they just don’t want kids. And that’s totally fine.
I agree that having kids is not everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve had so many women tell me that they love kids, but they don’t think they need to have children in order to validate their existence. Some go as far as saying that if you want to succeed as a career woman, don’t have kids.
In a way, I totally understand their position. Despite the high cost of living and the need for both parents to become income-earners, more and more ladies are resigning from their jobs to become stay-at-home mothers. A lot of them resigned as a result of the difficulty in juggling motherhood and a career. This is not to say that there is something bad or demeaning about stay-at-home mothers, or that it is impossible to be a successful career woman and a mother.
Deciding not to have children is not an easy decision at all. Therefore, I find it unbelievable that women who decide not to have kids are awfully criticised as being self-absorbed and/or shallow. Not only the women, men also face this criticism. I think the reason why this is criticised is because from a very young age we are brainwashed to accept that having and raising children is our fate and ultimate goal as adults. This belief is reflected all around us: in movies, in TV shows, in magazines and in our everyday lives.
In Nigeria, and I daresay in most parts of Africa, statements like “I don’t want to have kids” is rarely uttered for fear of being typecast as being under the influence of spiritual beings. In fact, once you get married, the next thing on people’s lips is “when are you having kids“. We seem to believe that life is about getting a job, getting married, having kids, working until the age of 65, and retiring.
But it’s more than that. Life is more than the number of children you have, or when you’ll retire so that your children can take care of you. So, if someone decides not to have kids, don’t punish her for it.
I’ll illustrate a typical example using a true life story. The names and location have been changed for anonymity.
Meet Esther, a young, passionate and driven corporate lawyer who works in one of the top UK law firms. Her 5 year goal – to become the youngest partner in her firm. To achieve this, she works all the time, raking in those billable hours. She knows she has to impress the partners at her firm – by being available 24/7, basically not having a life. She loves it!!
Here comes Damon. A tall and handsome bank executive who admires Esther’s drive and passion for success. It was a match made in heaven. Voila! They get married, and after a couple of years, the kids start coming.
Esther is no longer available to her superiors 24/7. She missed an important meeting with a big client because she had to take Bill, her son, to the hospital. This has suddenly become the norm for Esther. Cancelled or rescheduled meetings, missed deadlines, over compensating by working on the weekends, missing the children’s school shows, the kids don’t see her enough etc.
In all this, Damon is comfortable at work. No pressure. He helps out when he can, but the bulk of it all is on Esther.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was when Jane, her daughter, fell while playing in school and sustained a nasty injury. Damon was out of town while Esther was at a client meeting with her phone switched off. To cut the long story short, Esther voluntarily resigned. Enough was enough. Her kids were more important than work.
Unfortunately, this happens a lot in Nigeria. I know so many friends and family members who resigned from top paying jobs due to family pressure. In fact, some of them resigned at the instance of their husbands. The one that goads me the most is when women are told to resign and pick up a trade (or “open shop” in my native lingo) close to home so that the kids will be well taken care of.
I had a huge argument with a male colleague about this “women must resign” thinking. I mentioned other options that the couple could explore that does not require the wife to resign. He looked at me and said “story for the gods. Are you telling me that if Sixtus (my husband) tells you to resign, you won’t?” I looked at him and said I hope he never says that. We’ve discussed it and have agreed on a game plan which we may alter along the way.
Another reason why most men and women are not considering having kids is because children come with a huge financial responsibility. The price of baby foods and diapers alone is depressing, not to talk of school fees. I read an article where it was estimated that a middle income family in the US will spend about $245,340 (or $304,480, adjusted for projected inflation) on a child till he is 18 years. When you convert this figure to Naira, that’s about NGN 86 million. Yikes!
With this figure, you still see people having as many as 5-6 kids. One of my friends said that the best form of birth control is school fees. By the time you calculate how much you would have to be doling out every term as tuition (not including the cost of other extra-curricular activities that help to make children well grounded), you will have a rethink on whether or not to have children.
There are so many people who are genuinely afraid of having kids for fear that they may be very bad parents. Some fear that they may end up damaging the kids that they become menaces to the society. Truthfully, not all women have that maternal instinct. Some just don’t think they have the capacity to care for another being. And these are all valid reasons.
If I didn’t love kids so much, I’m sure I’ll be in this category. I saw on Instagram yesterday the story of a little boy who poured acid into his classmate’s water-bottle. Her crime – she came first in the class. How mind-boggling! This story begs a lot of questions the most important being – how did he get the acid.
We hear stories of abuse and molestation, kidnapping, bullying, racism, inequality and so much more daily. Many people are not comfortable with that and would prefer not to bring children into this messy world we live in.
Those who have struggled with one form of illness or the other are usually wary of having children especially where there is a chance that your child will inherit such ailment. With this in mind, many millennials would rather not bring the child into the world to suffer.
Other reasons for not wanting to have kids are:
I found this interview of women who do not want to become mums, very enlightening. You should read it.
At the end of the day, you do not even need a reason for not wanting to have kids. It is your body and you get to decide what you want to do with it. This is a personal choice and no woman (or a couple) should feel that she (they) has (have) to provide an explanation for this decision.