Kgomotso Matsunyane

Tackling the motherload

2008-06-26 09:11

Kgomotso Matsunyane

Fact: Not all of us are mothers, and not all of us are fathers. Some of us probably shouldn't even be allowed to have kids if you think about it. Most of us have kids without interrogating what it really means, nor to assess whether we're actually emotionally, financially and physically up to parenting - surely the most thankless and difficult job in the world.

I'm at that age where well over 90% of my friends have children. It's so optimistic; all this breeding, seeing as our world is such a frightening place to raise kids right now. And the cost of living, well, you know the Reserve Bank is not cutting us much slack this year (thanks for nothing, Tito).

People have children for so many reasons - to "complete" themselves, to feel loved and to experience real unconditional love, to guarantee the continuation of a family lineage, or my favourite, to "trap" a partner into a long-term partnership (this applies to both genders, by the way).

In this day and age of exceptional contraception options, we don't have to have children if we don't want to. But we've shown a particular resistance to this logic, as is demonstrated by the increasing numbers of HIV and Aids infections. I suppose we all think we're rather special and that "it will never happen to me" don't we?

Existentialists were unequivocal in their criticism of having a child to fulfil some evidently "missing" part of ourselves. What they also acknowledged is that parents live their lives quite separately from that of our children - meaning that you can only blame your parents for messing you up for so long before the time comes to take full responsibility for your own life.

Dependency Theory

Human kids are the most useless offspring of all living creatures, even when born with all functioning faculties. Their dependency is what is most frightening to me, and the fact that it goes on for a very long, long time.

Honestly, I oscillate between feeling that my life is complete enough as it is, to feeling that my body is betraying me by creating an intermittent and inexplicable urge to want to experience the miracle of birth first hand.

Women friends complain that however progressive and feminist their partners may proclaim to be, when it comes to the children, women inevitably end up with the bigger share of the responsibility.

My friend Midnight commented dryly the other day that he now gets more excited at the prospect of the Baby Indaba Expo more than he does for the Sexpo. Yet another good reason to avoid the little monsters, apparently they wreak havoc on the sex life of a couple. Eish!

Some of my friends confess that they love their children, but that if they'd known then what they know now, they would have waited. On the flip side I was watching an episode of Oprah where women who had focused on their careers and delayed childbearing until they were in their late 30's were shocked to discover that their bodies were now not as cooperative as they had anticipated.

Something else we have to keep in mind in a country where countless children are abandoned everyday, is that adoption is a very real option. Watching my godson P with his mother, who adopted him at three months, is all the proof that I need that it is possible to love children that you did not give birth to.

What if?

I know most parents can't help but love their children, but what if you don't like them? What if your kids turn out to be real nasty pieces of work? Even Robert Mugabe had a mother who I'm sure while having big ambitions for her child, she could never have anticipated what a murderous, egotistical bastard she was raising.

There is such a thing as overanalysing situations, and I'm not above that. It's just that I don't think enough people think properly about what it really means to be a parent. Unlike a pair of shoes bought on an impulsive retail therapy outing, you can't take children back to the shop, and you can't reverse the decision or the carelessness that results in you having them.

I like guarantees, and kids offer you none. Maybe I'm missing out on something special and inexplicable, but my eyes are wide open either way.

Too few people think properly about whether they want to have children or not. It seems ridiculous that one needs a license to drive a car, but any imbecile can breed without so much as a second thought.

As for me, although I actually love children dearly, I just don't know if I'm cut out for this full-time parenting gig. I can't say "never", because I might just change my mind. We'll see.

In the meanwhile, the clock ticks away.

  • Kgomotso Matsunyane is a writer, producer and partner at T.O.M. Pictures, an award winning Film and TV Company in Jo'burg.

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