When You’re a Black Woman Who Doesn’t Want to Have Children
A child-free life is just as rich and meaningful as anyone else’s
I love babies. Always have. I love their chubby little cheeks, the way their little hands grasp around my fingers, and the bug-eyed, unblinking way they look at you when you make any sort of unexpected sound.
Kids seem to take to me pretty well and pretty easily too. I’m among the eldest of my cousins, with the youngest being eight years old. I also taught elementary students in the earlier stages of my career. Nothing about children mystifies or confuses me. I don’t find them strange or repulsive. Most of the time, they’re pretty funny. Sticky, but funny.
Yet I have absolutely no desire to be a mother.
Motherhood is a role that society pressures all women to play, but I believe even more so for Black women who are always expected to give so much of themselves to others.
In Ain’t I a Woman, bell hooks writes about the historical demand that White slaveholders made of enslaved Black women to reproduce as frequently as possible, giving no regard to their health or well-being. They would sometimes offer financial incentives or even the promise of freedom for women who birthed a certain number of children. Ironic, given the present-day stereotypes around Black women who are accused of giving birth just for welfare checks.
I once dated someone who wanted to know what I planned to name my children, to which I responded, “I dunno. Maybe I can just number them?”
Like many women, I grew up with the idea that children were an inevitable part of my future. Whenever I would have conversations with older women, they’d use the phrase “when you have kids” rather than “if.” I understood that baby dolls (and later, babysitting) were meant to be practice for parenting, and part of my early lessons in cooking and cleaning were in preparation to run a full household.
Despite my certainty that kids were a prescribed part of womanhood, I wasn’t very invested in the idea of a future with them. I once dated someone who wanted to know what I planned to name my children, to…