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Women under pressure: how society encourages baby factories and toxic mothers

By Adebisi Adewusi

The pressure on African women to procreateDuring the weekend, I watched a few episodes of Hulu’s The Hand Maid’s Tale. The Hand Maid’s Tale is an adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel of the same title. Normally, I would read the book first as I have done in the case of Game of Thrones. However, the comments on Twitter made me skip the words and head for the screen. From the first episode, I observed the series explore themes relating to women rights and subjugation. Watching, I wondered how some folks would enjoy a world where women owned nothing and were simply baby makers.

I also thought about how society teaches us as women to want children at all costs. Encouraging us consciously or unconsciously to be bothered and sad when we don’t have babies sucking our breasts. While, I don’t live in a world where women wear red dresses and white hats, I live in a world where women are groomed to see motherhood as the greatest accomplishment of all. Therefore, we are pressured to fulfill our biological destinies regardless of what we want for ourselves.

For those of us who happen to be ambitious and know too much, we are often warned about how useless our accomplishments are without children. We are reminded of how menopause comes early these days whenever we have no answers to questions regarding what sex we would prefer. Boy or girl? Many assume these questions and pressure is from a place of love. I don’t think it is. To me, its society fitting us in a box and refusing to acknowledge that we reserve the right to decide if we want children.

This constant pressure from friends, family and strangers to have babies makes the whole business of childbearing much like African politics. You see, African politics is a do or die affair. Our politicians do a lot of desperate things to win elections. Similarly, having children is a must for us as African women. However, in our case death comes for us in more ways than one. Death is being subjected to constant humiliation, thrown out from our matrimonial homes, having a co-wife, among other not very pleasant things.

To avoid the death sentence, we take desperate measures. For instance, some women who can’t conceive buy babies in order to fulfill society’s bloodsucking thirst for children. According to a 2006 report from the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, Nigeria has one of the highest numbers of baby factories in the world. While individuals purchase babies for various reasons, the societal and cultural disapproval associated with not having children creates a demand for baby factories. These factories ensure women like us are forced into becoming bio-services providers.

For those of us who can conceive we’ll probably end up raising children who will never know a mother’s love. We become toxic mothers, the kind of mothers who constantly reject their children. In return, our children grow up to expect nothing from us as we have grown to hate them for making our lives miserable. Therefore, we will never be used as display pictures in celebration of Mother’s Day. Would it not have been better if we were left alone to make our own choices concerning having children? Save everyone a lot of misery.

These thoughts however unconventional for an African woman regarding motherhood, has led me to the conclusion that one’s sanity and happiness is of utmost importance to living a fulfilled life. So, when I come across women who whisper they aren’t ready or don’t want to have children, I don’t ask why, I don’t judge. Instead I remember Orna Donath’s argument, in her work Regretting Motherhood: A Sociopolitical Analysis. In it she says: “While motherhood may be a font of personal fulfillment, pleasure, love, pride, contentment and joy, it may simultaneously be a realm of distress, helplessness, frustration, hostility and disappointment, as well as an arena of oppression and subordination”

P.S Last week, I bumped into an old friend and after hugs and pleasantries he asked: “So how many children do you have?”

Adebisi Adewusi is a freelance writer. She writes on issues relating to gender, feminism and social justice. Her writings have appeared in The Huffington Post, SheLeadsAfrica, Okay Africa among others. She is a permanent writer for African Feminism. She blogs on issues affecting African women at thefemaleorator.com. You can find her on twitter @biswag

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