One of the easiest ways to rile up Nigerian’s is to say that you do not want children. If you say you aren’t getting married, especially as a female, unsolicited prayers that God should remove your pride would often go up for you. But say you do not want children. This one is serious. This one means that a curse is following you, that you are using your mouth to curse yourself. Only a cursed person will refuse a special gift from God, never mind that God may end up not giving us still.
Parenting is tough and the truth is that it is not for everyone. Brash as that may sound and regardless of what society thinks of the pattern life should generally follow, know that your choice to have or not have children is always a superior argument.
Dictates of people who have nothing vested in your decision shouldn’t hold water but strangely and unfortunately, it does, in our part of the world.
I have a theory that parenting is perhaps the toughest thing anyone may ever venture into, and so it is safe to say that if you enter it out of pressure, even the slightest form, your beginning is already faulty. May not be faulty such that it is irredeemable, but faulty means faulty.
Children are cute little humans, adorable, beautiful, yummy, everything, but there are many things that children are not. And that is my main reason for writing this post. Children are humans, complete, whole humans who you put your life on hold for in other for their’s to thrive. It is what it is. If you do not yet want the enormous responsibility of that, it is your absolute right to not take it on.
Perhaps if we understood the duty of parents to fiercely protect and constantly provide, we would think well before having kids. I will try to do a follow on post on the never ending job of fiercely protecting and constantly providing but I will say this as a preamble. We live in a highly perversed world, but in all of the perversion, children need to be safe. Children need to be shielded from elements that can cause them to live with trauma for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately as a parent, you may not know what it is. I know the seemingly little things that haunt me from my childhood even now.
Parenting takes being on a near impossible 24/7 guard, being present even when you are not physically around. Providing love even when you have run out of love for your own self. If you don’t think you can do this yet, please don’t endanger a child’s life by compromising. I know a lady who doesn’t want any child until she’s sure that her anger issues have been put under check. She’s certain that when angry she can hurt her child but many people keep saying to her that she won’t. “All the anger will disappear once the child comes out” they say. Wow, you know this how?
That your parents want a grandchild is not enough reason to have one. It’s not their right. Except of course it is the grandparents who plan to raise the child, in which case you are only a surrogate, a carrier more like. Because people are reminding you how long you have been married for isn’t reason enough either. Do you not know yourself or your age? It is your duty as a couple to examine your lives going forward. Your different careers in the next couple of years, if a child can fit in seamlessly.
Children are not “the sensible next step” of your relationship – That you are now married or are in a stable, committed relationship does not mean a child is next. Children change the dynamics of everything. I have been at too many weddings where the priest declares the birth of a baby 9months after a couple say I do. I always want to understand the rationale behind that specific prayer on the wedding day. Do Pastor’s get to be briefed prior to the wedding when a couple want children and when they will start trying to have them?
Children are not just characters in a family photo, or a slice of the perfect life you are trying to project. There’s nothing perfect about living daily with a possibility that your child can be sexually assaulted by a relative and you will never know, until said child is completely damaged as an adult. There is nothing perfect about not being sure which words from your mouth or decisions you make can crush your child forever. Some children have no business being in boarding school, some others will thrive their. You make the one mistake and you may be mopping it up for the rest of your life. Children soak up everything. We mostly think they are stupid.
Ki lo mo de mo? is a popular yoruba saying that references the stupidity of children when compared to adults. However, on the day you introduce your 2year old to a new cereal – coco pops and she asks you why you are giving her dirty food because the cereal has discoloured the milk she always knows to be white, you will realise that children are smarter than we give them credit for.
Children are not toys, favourite things that excite us for a month then we dump down the toy box as we quickly move to the next toy. Forever and ever, children have to be your favourite toy. When they hurt you, when they upset you. A child is not a teddy bear that you need for comfort because your partner travels a lot. What will happen when your partner gets back then? Yes children will serve purposes in our lives. They will be there for us in old age. They will walk us through technology the way we are teaching our parents how to use whatsapp and Facebook now. They may take over our businesses and run it to success but for them to do these things, they must grow up feeling safe. They must grow up healthy. Their little minds shouldn’t have to understand why hunger is ringing in their bellies for so long. They shouldn’t have to be burdened with the (very adult) task of making excuses for you as a parent. Whatever the world suffers, children suffer it more – poverty, war, abuse etc. It follows them to adulthood because they never forget and they live it all over again.
If you decide you want a child and you are ready, you must at least be able to guarantee basic care to the fullest of your ability. A popular notion in Nigeria is that a newly married couple need not take any form of precaution to have children, as children are a guaranteed seal of marriage, a blessing. I’ve heard even medical practitioners suggest against contraceptives. “Just have all your children first, once and for all” as though children are degree’s or trophies to be earned before a next big ladder of achievement. I don’t know where this is from but it is shambolic and all shades of wrong.
A carton of diapers in today’s Nigeria cost between 20-25 thousand naira. In the first few months of a baby’s life they use between 8-12 diapers in a day because all they do is eat, sleep and poo the food out. Please do your math. Add up hospital bills, then baby formula. Clothes and socks. A cot. These are the basics. While you are at it, please add diesel cost to that too, because you can sleep in the heat and you can also swat mosquitos all night, babies can’t.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t want to be the parent who borrows money for naming ceremony party and money for school fees. If you are not ready, leave the children to enjoy themselves in heaven or wherever it is you people say they normally are before dragging them down here to come and suffer. They didn’t ask to be part of your mess.
Society is unrelenting. Society thrives on never relenting. This is why even after you have gotten married because of pressure from society, it doesn’t end there. You will be pressured to have one child, then pressured to have another because that one child needs a sibling. Then another because now you have two girls and you need a boy.
Whatever you allow becomes permissible (This is not an actual quote but I know there’s one that sounds like this, unfortunately, I can’t remember it)
Children are delicate and fragile. It would be unfair and a disservice to them to experiment with their humanity in a bit to beautify ours.