Yolande’s Story: Looking after other people’s children has meant that I haven’t missed not having my own

Childless African womanMy husband and I met in 1991 and were married within a year. I am 52, he 70. We didn’t choose not to have children, it just didn’t happen. Being from a large family, I ended up raising some of my siblings’ children. Two of my nieces lived with us for many years, while others came and went. I have also financially supported many other relatives through the years. It is the African way. Not having our own children hasn’t been an issue for us as a couple and certainly not something that others have used against us.

In Africa, unless you absolutely want a biological child of your own, there will always be other people’s children to look after. The family structure is different to that of the West. Here when you refer to the family, you are referring to your extended family as well, not just your immediate one. And as having lots of children is considered the norm, you often end up with so many family members that you lose count.

I have to point out that I am married to a European and there is no doubt that it made a difference in the way that my life as a childless woman has played out. I very much doubt that I would have had such an easy ride, had I been married to an African. I know a few women whose lives were made unbearable by their in-laws when they were unable to conceive. Often what you get is women so desperate that they have affairs and end up conceiving that way. It goes without saying that had I been married to an African, my husband’s family would have automatically blamed me for us not having children. As it currently stands, we don’t know which one of us is infertile, and we would rather not know.

For a good few years now, it has been just the two of us. I think it’s fair to say that we have done our fair share of looking after others. We thought it was time for us to enjoy a peaceful existence without having people coming and going all the time. The only other person in the house is the maid. She does not live with us. She comes in early in the morning and is gone by 6pm.

Years of political instability here in the Ivory Coast has made us seriously consider going to live in France where my husband is originally from. We are hoping that it will never come to that. However, if we do end up moving, it will only be temporary. Africa is where we belong and intend to end our days.

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Childless African woman


  1. Hi Yolande, thanks for sharing your story. I wished many people saw things the way you do. As you so rightly said: “In Africa, there will always be other people’s children to look after”. It is a shame that Africans still overwhelmingly believe that you are not a mother until you have actually given birth. This belief has caused a lot of pain for far too many women and is the reason why adoption is still considered a no go for most people. People would rather spend the rest of their lives feeling sorry for themselves for not having a biological child than adopt some of the many children that are already here.

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