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I find it hard to understand why some people assume that having children will only bring them joy

By Nina Steele 

Childless Indian womanTime and time again I keep hearing some people, generally women, tell me how they will never be happy because they are not parents. The assumption being that having children only leads to one thing, happiness. Yes, I can see some of you shaking your heads in disagreement, including parents of troubled kids, who now wish they had never had children in the first place. Every so often, I meet very honest mothers, who tell me that I am lucky for not having children and that, if they had to do it all over again, they would choose a different path. Of course parenthood brings a lot of joy to a lot of people, however, it matters that we are also honest about all those unhappy stories out there. That is the only way to shatter the myth about parenthood that is causing so much pain for so many people.

In the series of discussions that the BBC started on the stigma that women in Africa suffer for not having children, one of the participants, who chose not to have children, mentioned a facebook group for women who regret having children. The point she was trying to make was that, because society forces motherhood down our throats, many people, particularly women, are choosing paths that aren’t authentic, just so they can be part of the mainstream. And of course, living a life that isn’t authentic only leads to one thing, unhappiness.

I find it hard to understand why people assume that having children will only bring them joy. You only need to look at society, to see how much of a fallacy this picture perfect idea of parenthood is. Stories after stories keep reminding us that being a parent today is more challenging than ever before. Girls are highly sexualised at a very young age, with a great number of boys now addicted to extreme porn, the list goes on. Whenever my husband and I hear all those stories, we breathe a sigh of relief for not being parents.

The thought of having to constantly monitor a child’s activities online to ensure that they are not putting themselves in harm’s way. Then there is the bullying, both online and in schools. The list goes on. As if this wasn’t bad enough, a parent also has to worry about competing with other parents. One of my former colleagues hated school gate politics so much so that she stopped walking her children to the school gate and instead, she would stay in her car and watch them walk the short distance by themselves.

That’s some of the realities of being a parent today, and frankly, I am immensely grateful for not being part of it.

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