Now everyone’s up my uterus

2014-06-05 10:00

It’s becoming the most frequently asked question in my life: “When are you going to have babies?”

Often, they are statements. “Wait till you have your own…” “When you have your child…” “Oh, you’re going to have such tall babies.”

Two sound vaguely like threats: “Come look [at the newborn in the group]. This is going to be you one day.”

And: “You should have them now,” my friend tells me literally every time I see her. “You don’t want to be an old parent.”

Apparently older parents are bad because they can’t play with their kids. Not kicking a ball with my child in the playground is the thin line between him being Nelson Mandela or Jeffrey Dahmer.

This is coming at me from all angles, including Facebook.

Friends from university with whom I’d never even discussed politics are now posting concerns about the neglected state of my ovaries. I know why, of course. I got married a few months back. Now everyone’s all up in my uterus.

Added to that is that I’m in my mid-30s. At such a ripe old age, people don’t waste time asking you: “Are you going to have kids?” Like ticktock, my sister.

Now I’m just waiting for a call from President Jacob Zuma, asking me earnestly: “Listen, are you going to have those kids or what? You know they give you extra training to be a woman.”

What is this thing about parenthood, motherhood especially, as a foregone conclusion? Something like eating or sleeping, which must be done, no questions asked.

I’m bothered by the maternal onslaught on women. The fearmongering about your dying eggs, the lack of men, old mothers. The myth about women being maternal.

I have friends who say they’ve never felt a maternal nudge, let alone any definitive kick from Mother Nature. I myself am never sure if I’m actually broody or having a bout of PMS.

I’m uncomfortable with parenthood’s assumed superior moral standing, to the point where those who can’t have children have their identity shaken – am I woman/man enough? To those who talk about parenthood like it’s some Holy Grail, I say watch Khumbul’ekhaya.

Not to judge parents who abandon their kids, but to see that parenthood, having children and raising them, is about choices and circumstances.

What we should be asking is why? That’s what I find most intriguing. There’s nothing noble about having kids.

I know a husband and wife who had one more to save their marriage; more women than I like to admit had a child to keep a man. There are those who say they had a second child so that their first-born could have someone to play with – sort of like the book My Sister’s Keeper, only less creepy.

But there’s nothing wrong with not having them. A schizophrenic man told me he decided not to have them because he feared passing on his mental illness. Someone else avoided parenthood because losing her mother was so traumatic. She did not want the same for her children.

The first time I questioned parenthood, I was in my 20s. In a faux feminist moment I declared (more for shock value than anything else) that I might not have kids. I was told I was being selfish.

That hurt me, probably because there was truth to it. I am selfish: with my time, my work and relationship. And as yet, I’ve had no definitive proof that life has less joy without my own children.

If this changes, please ask me why I’ve decided to have children. I do believe some introspection might help make me a better parent.

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