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Some people have never experienced the joys of a happy relationship yet they still feel sorry for a happily childless couple

By Nina Steele 

Childless African couplesA few weeks ago, I rang a relative of mine to tell her that my husband and I would be holidaying in the Ivory Coast some time this year, and offered to meet her whilst we were there. I hadn’t spoken to her in quite a while and so understandably, she was delighted. She is in her 50s and sadly, apart from the fact that she is now a mother of two children, her life has remained pretty much the same. Her love life has been one disappointment after another. The man she was with when I still lived in the Ivory Coast never hid the fact that he didn’t fancy her and that he was in it purely for what she had to offer, namely food and money. Her kindness is legendary even though she has always struggled to make ends meet. She makes clothes for a living and until about ten years ago, she worked for a well-known designer. She has been self-employed since her former employer decided to move abroad to start a new life, and as a result, her money struggles have got worse.

Even though she has never been a big earner, her money struggles have been made worse by the fact that as part of a big family and as is customary in Africa, she is the one her other siblings without a job turn to for money. And there are quite a few of them. In addition to that, she has always dated men without proper jobs, which means that she has always been the one having to pay for everything in a relationship. As mentioned before, the man she used to date while I was still living in the Ivory Coast, never hid the fact that he was in it purely because of what she could offer him. Eventually, he dumped her for someone else. A few years later, she met the father of her children, and once again, she was the one looking after the family financially. The relationship has now ended and he has moved to another African country to start a new life, leaving her in sole charge of their children’s upbringing.

With all that in mind, on hearing that my husband and I do not have children, her first reaction was to feel sorry for us. Here was a woman with no money, and who has never experienced the joys of a loving and peaceful relationship, feeling sorry for a happy couple just because she has children and they don’t. Where is the logic in that!

Of course it is born out of ignorance and a pronatalist assumption that a person’s true worth is measured by whether they have children or not. And so I set out to educate her. When I told her that I am grateful every waking moment for the life that I have and gave her an idea of my relationship with my husband and my life in general, the penny suddenly dropped. She had never been exposed to an alternative view as far as this issue is concerned. By the time our conversation ended, she was all apologetic and agreeing with me that there is indeed more to life than having children.

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