I don’t know why that title feels somehow offensive to me and yet it is so true. I come from an African background where the pressure to have kids is astronomical. Questions are asked when a woman of a certain age (unmarried or single) has no children.
“Why won´t you have kids?”
“She could at least have one.”
“Is she barren?” they ask behind your back.
“Just two kids? Have another?”
When you are brave enough to say that it is not financially viable, the answer is quick to be delivered.
“God feeds kids, you just have a baby and God will do the rest.”
If you are dumb enough to listen to all those relatives and friends, you go on to have number 3. And yes, as promised, everybody comes in the first month. They bring gifts of pampers, clothes, money and many many congratulations and of course the inevitable question.
“3 girls? Your job is not done here. You need to have a boy.”
And on and on and on until the gifts stop in a month or 2 and THEN YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN. Yes, on your own with 3 mouths you can hardly feed while contemplating number 4. And that is what boggles the mind.
Is life just about keeping children alive or should we stop and think about the quality of life?
When I was pregnant, I was so sure that I wanted only one child but as my bump grew, I found myself think more and more about my own childhood. We were 10 kids and I was number 9. I don´t remember ever being lonely and I always had someone to complain to and give me a sympathetic ear when I felt my parents were being unfair. So what would become of my child? I quickly changed my tune and 8 months after my daughter was born I started trying for number 2.
2 years later nothing had happened, I was still not pregnant. I consulted a doctor and started taking fertility medication. Given my age, (early 40s) this was not going to be easy. When my daughter was 3 years, I gave up on getting pregnant and decided for adoption. My husband and I were in a good financial position, my daughter was in a private kindergarten that cost a small fortune and the future looked bright. We would soon adopt a 3-year old girl.
And then Shit!!!! Our financial situation changed overnight. While the future was not so bleak, it became obvious that to support 2 kids, we would have downgrade our entire life. My daughter would have to go to a government school with standards that were not desirable, at least to me. She would learn in a language I did not understand and pick up values that I neither supported nor understood. Our cushy life would now be just above the breadline. Is that what I wanted?
The answer was a clear no. I wanted quality of life for all my family. I wanted my kid to stay in private school, I wanted to have enough for simple holidays, I wanted Christmas to be magic without choosing between good food and good presents. In fact, I wanted every day to be Christmas. I did not want magic in 20 years, I wanted it now and I had it. My small family was living the dream and we were not going to change that so we could increase the number. While I grew up in a big family, my husband was an only child as was his daddy before and I can honestly say, there is nothing wrong with my man… I did after all, marry him. Today, thanks to a difficult but wise decision, we are where we should be. Our kid is happy, she has friends, she has us and most importantly she has quality of life.
On the other side of the world is a relative who sometimes asked me for money to feed his family of 3 kids and a wife. Last year that family was struggling so much that when one child got sick, they had to sell household items to cover hospital bills. They were just above the water and the next meal was a challenge. So can you imagine my shock when he called with me with the good news. “My wife is pregnant he said happily”
This is where I say, feel free to call me a bastard but I had to ask something.
With all the diplomacy I could gather I said, “Congratulations.” And after a decent pause I continued. “I hate to rain on your parade but… are condoms not cheaper than pampers?
He was upset to say the least but that did not stop him from calling me God. That is right. He said God would provide… however, I am the person he calls to say “we have no food, please help us” so I can only imagine that I am God. It was on that day that I decided to stop being God and to revert to my human role. I stopped sending money to him.
So here is what I do not understand. Why do people have kids that they know they cannot afford? Just because you are married does not mean that you are ready to have kids. Kids are not teddy bears and they are not pets. While pets need to be fed, you can always take them to the animal shelters. Kids, not so easy. They need you for the 1st , 18 and sometimes to 25 years. They not only need you financially but they need you emotionally. I came from a big family and yes I had the best of everything that money could buy but I never had my mum.
10 kids, she worked like a donkey to give me and my siblings the good life. But she did not know me. She never knew my favourite colour or if I had a boyfriend or what made me happy etc. And how could she? I was one of many.
She worked day and night with little support from her solala husband, my father, so that I could have the best of what money could buy.
As kids, we had chefs, babysitters and cleaners but our parents were visibly absent. So even with a lot of money you still have to question the quality of life you can give to a bunch of kids. Will you have time for each and every child?
My conclusion is that with or without money, when it comes to kids, less is more. If you cannot afford kids don’t have them. And just because you can afford kids does not mean you should have 10. Kids need so much more than just staying alive.