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Child-Free: Right or Privilege? by Terri Ley, Guest Blogger

The pressure for women to have children transcends cultural, ethnic, and racial lines. Terms like legacy, fruitfulness, family unit, matriarchy, and even the opposing connotations like barrenness and the dreaded patriarchy are easily understood in every culture. The translation and application may be different, but the message is clear: Women should have children to progress humanity. Even with discussions about overpopulation, poverty, and cultural conflicts, women are still expected to gratefully accept some man’s sperm into her body and produce at least one baby. Depending on your living situation, a child represents your life insurance policy, estate planning, and your retirement plan.

As a Black woman, I have no doubt felt the pressure to have children. Whether it is because I should promote my culture and pass along traditions and history or because I should be afraid of dying alone, children are expected. Over the years, I have gone back and forth on the desire to have children, because as a whole human being I can change my mind. At this point in my life, I have settled on remaining child-free with a few options to be explored later.

Reasons?

Often when I am talking about MY decision to be child-free, I am often met with the assumption that I am placing my career above family or that I am just ambitious and selfish. While neither of these assumptions are offensive to me nor do I find anything wrong with them, the reality is very different. My ambition and career choices are set up to allow me to live whatever life I choose including if I decide to have a family later. (In case, you are confused. Autonomy and the ability to make decisions are the point here.)

“If my career isn’t the deciding factor, what is?” Well, anonymous person, I have a few reasons that are more prominent. Here are the Top 5:

5. Having a Black child comes with its own set of stress.

Yes, RACISM is a major issue. No, I don’t anticipate an enormous amount of progress before I reach menopausal age. Even if I decided to have a child with a man of another race, at the end of the day, I will have a melanated child. Unlike what pro-lifers tell you, for me as a Black parent, that means something different. My children are automatically born into a different set of rules. I wouldn’t have the luxury to raise my children as everyone else. There are talks and conversations that I have to prepare for.

I would have to prepare my children for a world that sees them as less than human. I would have to prepare them for a world that sees them as worthy of harsher punishments, discrimination, and abuse just because of the hue of their skin. In all of that, I am still responsible for ensuring that my children have some sort of self-esteem and pride in themselves in spite of the difficulties they will face. I am speaking from experience because that is how my parents had to raise me because the world did not progress enough with regards to Black people before I was born.

4. Being a Black mother comes with it’s own set of stress.

You would think being a Black mother and having a melanated child would have the same level of stress. NOPE. There is a difference. The challenges of becoming a Black mother start at conception. Even if I was the type to consider an abortion, there are enough pressures in this world to dissuade me from it including financial disparity. Then, once settled on keeping and giving birth to a child, prenatal care is different and often more difficult to attain for Black women especially if they are within low-income communities. Thanks to the defunding of Planned Parenthood and the closing of certain clinics, prenatal care can be more difficult.

Then, even if we can afford prenatal care, hospital care, and have all of the insurance and financial capabilities in the world, there is still medical racism. Thanks to the research by Dr. J. Marion Sims, the father of modern gynecology, Black women are assumed to be more tolerant of pain. Also, Black women struggle to have medical professionals believe them even if they are medical professionals themselves, just ask Dr. Susan Moore. (Wait…we can’t). Between that and the biased testing, why are we surprised that mortality of Black mothers is extremely high.

Don’t worry. Even if I do survive, I have to live with the possibility of losing my son or daughter on a daily basis due to a rule that we had no part in creating. I get to wipe my hypothetical child’s eyes when they come to the realization that the world is worse just because his/her/their skin is dark.

3. Economics of having a child.

Having children is expensive. It doesn’t matter what race or ethnicity we are. Raising an entire human being and supporting them while they grow and develop emotionally, spiritually, and physically is expensive. From hospital bills, to education, to just basic needs, it all costs money and time. Depending on a woman’s financial situation, there are increased chances that something will fall through the cracks.

2. The increased possibility of being a single parent or leaving an orphan.

Let’s be frank, in case you haven’t caught on yet, being a Black woman in the U.S. comes with its own challenges. The greatest of these is the fear of perceived justified murder. At the end of the day, having a child with a Black father means possibly losing the child’s father to prison or death. Now, could I eliminate one of those issues by picking the “right” guy, sure. However, that only eliminates one issue and ONLY if I have the ability and opportunity to measure up to those aspirations.

1. I JUST DON’T WANT CHILDREN!!!!

At the end of the day, there are people in this world that just don’t want children. As of today, I am one of them. People like me are found in every ethnic group, culture, race, community, whatever. They are the ones that hold children at a distance when you force your “sweet” baby onto them. They are the ones that babysit for reasons other than “practicing for their own.” They are amazing aunts and uncles, but would make terrible parents, or would make great parents but have no interest in becoming them. Radical idea: just because you are good at something doesn’t mean you should do it.

Personally, I believe we would have less deadbeat parents if people were honest about their desire to NOT have children. There would be less cases of child abuse and neglect. There would be less children abandoned by parents that just could not handle it. Everyone doesn’t want children, and the pressure to do so creates terrible environments for children that did not ask to be here.

Are there still men that believe in blessing women with their seed as a right of passage out of their lives? Yes! They are also disgusting and according to an episode of Law and Order, reproductive rapists.

Right or Privilege?
There are some people that may read this and automatically determine that being child-free is a right. If you were to ask me, I would say, “Biologically it is a right, but successful execution is a privilege.”

For low-income minorities without access to appropriate healthcare, sexual education, and the financial capabilities to pick a gynecologist that won’t refuse to help you stay child-free and examine all of those options, being child-free is a privilege. I recall watching documentaries about teen pregnancy in low-income communities and hearing my peers comment that those girls should just not have sex. The level of privilege in that statement alone says a lot.

In middle or high-income communities, no one just tells people not to have sex. In fact, the assumption is that everyone is going to have sex but should be educated about it. The men and women in that community are educated about their option for birth control and what to do if things don’t go as planned. Abortion and adoption are options discussed as casually as which car to drive. Birth control options are discussed in excess by clinics where the patients can afford to have options other than just the pill and a male-condom.

Low-income communities that have a high population of minorities do not have these “luxuries.” The educational system is already sub-par, so conversations about improved sexual education are not even had or seen as a “some day” project. If there is a clinic within the community, the clinics are high-volume, understaffed, and underfunded. Also, the clinics are more than likely receiving some sort of assistance from Planned Parenthood because regardless of the initial intentions of the organization there is a benefit to them. This makes the defunding of Planned Parenthood more of a controversial issue among these communities.

How does this affect me?
Lack of sexual education -  check, Limited reproductive healthcare services - check, Limited finances - check.

How am I able to do this? How am I able to be child-free? My mother calls it being methodical. I tend to agree with her. To be honest, I have had my own struggles with it. I have had my moments of being grateful for receiving my period on time because of a slip-up. I’ve also ran into the guys that wanted to get me pregnant (eww) and ran in the opposite direction. It comes from being highly selective and fortunate. As far as I know, I don’t suffer from any fertility issues and wouldn’t be concerned if I did as long as the rest of me is healthy.

Being child-free with all of these challenges requires a lot of discipline and a level of boldness. For example, when people ask me about the possibility of changing my mind, my response is this:

“I am allowed to change my mind about anything without anyone’s input or permission. Also, the concern of me changing my mind is no one’s business other than my own because it is my mind. It only matters if I decide to execute those thought processes which would require the consent of a partner or the deposit of a donor. Either way, it does not require a general consensus.”

With regards to my family, we have had to have these discussions. I have been fortunate and very privileged to be a part of a family that has come to respect many of my decisions. Also, I understand the importance of boundaries, so even if they didn’t respect my decision, I can handle that. My mother already has grandchildren, so there is no pressure there. My father passed away over 10 years ago, so I’m sure he isn’t concerned about grandchildren either.

When it comes to my culture and the progression of Black people as a whole, I am not the only Black woman left, fortunately. In spite of the efforts of dehumanization and elimination, Black people are not in danger of extinction. There are Black women that see all of the same issues that I do and still want children. I applaud them, support them, and will root for them in every corner. I have discovered that I am the perfect auntie and enjoy that.

Medically, I am very healthy with every intention of remaining that way. My health is no one else’s concern but my own considering that I have to inhabit this body. Personally, I welcome terms like selfish, ambitious, etc because I don’t see them as terrible things. Selfishness only becomes a problem if it comes at the detriment of another person. As far as I am concerned, there are a lot of “acceptable” people that have this problem including parents. I refuse to live that life regardless of what that means. I am more partial to mentoring the people that are already here to live full and decent lives.

All of these systemic issues are very personal for me because they have all affected me PERSONALLY. I’ve experienced medical racism and seen it happen to others I am close to. I’ve had to deal with the anxiety of seeing young people that are very similar to my relatives die horribly. I’ve also had relatives that have been victims of police brutality. These aren’t news banners for me. This is real life. Also, even if these systemic issues were to magically disappear, or we have a great wave of progress, I still don’t want children, and that is OK.

At the end of the day, my decision to remain child-free belongs to me. Regardless of the privilege of people involved in “the movement,” women across all cultures and throughout time have been making this decision without the permission of the society around them. I am grateful to be counted among them.

We would like to thank Terry Ley for her contribution.  You can contact her on Instagram @authorterriley or tbuckley9891@gmail.com.  Please leave us a comment below about this blog post. Short or long - we want to hear from you!  Sharing is caring, so please send this blog post to a friend!  Follow us at Instagram.com/nobibsburpsbottles and visit our website at www.nobibsburpsbottles.com! 

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