As a young woman, I watched my girlfriend’s closely. I watched how they ‘ooohhheedd’ & ‘aahhheed’ at any baby in the vicinity. They wanted to reach out their hands & touch the baby; tug at his cheeks, rock him to sleep. All the while trading admiring glances with the baby’s proud mother and dreaming of…
As a young woman, I watched my girlfriend’s closely. I watched how they ‘ooohhheedd’ & ‘aahhheed’ at any baby in the vicinity. They wanted to reach out their hands & touch the baby; tug at his cheeks, rock him to sleep. All the while trading admiring glances with the baby’s proud mother and dreaming of the moment they would get to have their very own bundle of joy.
And then there was me. Just standing there like a limp fish, staring coldly, admiring from a distance. Not daring to touch & dreading the one moment I would be asked by the mother, to assist her in carrying her child.
I am a smart, beautiful, almost successful; tax paying, upright Nigerian woman. But all of that is forgotten the moment I say I do not want kids.
And as you can imagine, my decision was not a popular one. Born & brought up in a society where having kids is the next logical move after being married or not married (#TeamBabymama). My decision to not procreate, became a source of worry for my family members. Some tried to convince me that my maternal instincts would kick in immediately I gave birth. So what if I have my child and the maternal instincts still don’t kick in? Is it a toy that I can return?
Growing up, I was sure that like many other girls from my side of the country, my fate was sealed. School – Graduation – NYSC/Find a husband – Get married and begin procreation 9 months from the night of the wedding. Then settle into the life of the dutiful Igbo wife: breastfeeding the baby, making Oha Soup, making Egusi, Abacha, Jollof rice on Sundays and so on. Then there would be conjugal duties, plus that miserable civil service job you had to take, so that you could be able to pick up the kids & spend time with them, since Oga closes work at 8pm. There is absolutely wrong with that life, I just vehemently refused to let it become my reality. I wanted more.
Not wanting children was my first major act of rebellion. For me, it was natural. As I got older, I realized that my maternal instincts were never going to kick in, because they were never there to start with.
The day I let it slip from my lips, during an afternoon of drinks with my girlfriends, you needed to have seen the way they looked at me. In that moment, I might as well have been Adolf Hitler or Osama Bin Laden.
How dare I decide I don’t want what thousands are begging God for daily? How dare I defy God, when he commanded that we be fruitful and multiply? These are some of the questions I was confronted with. I learned that it is easier to lie to the world, including yourself, rather than face the unpopular truth.
Maybe it is my societal or religious duty to procreate. I get that. But I’m not sure if I want to have kids. Slaughter me!
You can imagine how unpopular my view is, in a climate such as Nigeria, where being pregnant is the equivalent of getting a degree from “Oxbridge”. You are announced, celebrated, congratulated. Your parents are proud and, of course, your spouse is beyond elated. He is truly a man.
But what about you? Are you truly happy or are you simply reflecting what society has demanded that you feel?
21st century mommies, the Instagram mommies, the super mommies; have made child bearing & child rearing glam! Photos upon photos of perfectly orchestrated 1st birthdays, 1st steps, adorable smiles, taking baby to swimming lessons and French school, while still looking on fleek and maintaining a top notch career.
Then there’s the social media frenzy, known as #TeamSnapBack! What baby weight? The silent struggle to be the thinnest possible version of yourself, as quickly as possible after childbirth.
In my humble opinion, babies are cute – but only when they are someone else’s. You spend a fuss free hour with them, and gaze and aww at their curly hair and tender skin. Pick up your bag and head to your baby free apartment. The end.
What happens to the woman who is stuck with the baby 24/7? The woman who is the poster child for sleep deprivation? Constantly bathing and feeding. Constantly trying to figure out why baby is crying. Dirty diapers, spit up, child care and so on?
Forget Hollywood; the price your body pays for having a child, physically and psychologically is unbelievable. Despite all the body magic and hours in the gym, does any one actually get their pre-baby body back 100%? Puberty has left me with enough stretch marks. Thank you very much. Who needs more? Call me vain, but these things matter to me. Let us not even talk about ‘downstairs’. Does it ever stay the same?
What is the effect on your relationship with Oga; the one with whom you started? Does your love and attention move from him to the baby? What happens to your chemistry? Does it get stronger or is it a constant race to get away from the house & away from baby’s screams? What happens when you make the transition from gorgeous girlfriend & wife to Mama Bomboy?
What about the physical act of child birth? For some it is ‘miraculous’; for some it is ‘quick’ and virtually painless; but what happens to the others who don’t have a ball? What happens to those for whom it is a struggle between life and death, but are expected to make at least three more trips to the labour room?
And who even talks about post partum depression? It is very much real.
All of these are questions to which I have received, frankly unsatisfactory answers.
It is a constant game of giving and giving and giving. Then they attain the age of walking a.k.a the age of breaking shit. Oh, then there’s tuition. It goes up with every year and every new class. Is the price really worth it in the end? Is everybody meant to be a mother?
I like peace, quiet, tranquility, order, glass, a good night’s sleep, a healthy bank account, a great body (without living in the gym) all of which I don’t see happening for me in baby-ville.
I have made peace with my reality. The potential emptiness of living alone with my partner, till death do us part. The echo of our laughter, as it slithers through our half empty house. The struggle of even finding a partner in this part of the world who shares my view and would be willing to commit to it long term.
For the mothers who love motherhood, who revel in it, like my mother & many other mothers I know, I salute you. Your work is not easy. You are a superstar. You are extraordinary. I am glad my mother chose to be a mother.
Now, I beg you to consider the rest of us who refuse to bow to societal pressure. Please, let us be. If we have made peace with our choice and our reality, the rest of the world needs to make peace with it too. Doting mothers, doting aunties, nosy relatives, nosy friends – yes, you – make peace with it.
There are so many beautiful children in this world already, whom I can shower with love & affection. Do I really need to have any of my own?