It wasn’t overnight. Two years ago, I was in a very different place. I literally ached at the sight of every sweet cherubic brown face. I even made a Tumblr dedicated to just photos of cute black babies. I can’t point out a day on the calendar when it all changed. I suppose it came upon me as gradually as the spring has come this year. Little by little, then all at once.
I travel pretty frequently. Sometimes, I road trip, more often I fly. There’s always a family on the flight; sometimes with small children who are quietly amused by the iPad, sometimes with snuggly infants who will be sure to capture the attention of many passengers, occasionally with snarky teenagers embarrassed to be seen with their parents. On occasion I am amused by the small humans, at other times I am annoyed by them. Inevitably though, the same thought runs through my head every time: “thank God I don’t have any”.
Pause. I know what you’re thinking. How “Sex & the City” of her. How feminist, how selfish, how un-Christlike. Ok, let’s unpack that a little. Saying that you do not want to have children isn’t the same as saying you don’t want to love, serve, obey, or sacrifice. There are several major characters in the Bible who were obedient to the Spirit of God and had no children. You may have heard of Jesus. We have no way to tell if Jesus had any desire to father children but we do know that he had a purpose and he fulfilled it. Same with Paul. Having a family was just not practical for him, and he provided sound reasoning. For me, while I have a deep desire to love and serve God, I don’t necessarily believe that bearing children is best conduit for me to accomplish those goals.
To be very candid, I think of children as expensive, time-consuming, and sticky. I love spending time with the tiniest new members of my family or cuddling with a sleepy toddler when the need arises. But I don’t feel the need to provide child care on a permanent basis. Yes, I value my freedom. But its deeper than that. While some people are blessed with nurturing skills from jump, I’m not sure I was. I often struggle in my interactions with children. I don’t know much about Peppa Pig and they don’t want to discuss the finer points of Paul Ryan’s budget proposal so we come to an impasse. I would be lying if I said there weren’t some underlying fears about not being a good mother or bringing another brown baby into a hostile world, but those aren’t the foundation of my decision, just the beams that support the structure.
The scariest part of making such a counter cultural decision for me is the reaction of my family. At 30, I‘ve heard enough questions and hints about starting a family to last a lifetime. I’ve always been the gold standard, the exceptional one, the one who did everything my parents wanted. So for me to not only not yet have a husband and children, but now to decide that I don’t want children, will devastate some members of my family. Because let’s face it: black girls don’t make a decision like this. Popular television shows depict women like myself who, like me, single in their 30s, decide to stop waiting for the man to come along and conceive via technology. Most of the women in my family started having children in their teenage years. A friend of mine, also black, has never wanted children. I remember her telling me her mother’s response: “Well, you better marry a white man, cuz black men want kids.”
The church also makes it difficult. All those stories of couples who struggled for years to conceive, often experiencing painful miscarriages. The ubiquitous adoption pressure. The birth control debate. The abortion issue. And of course the old “be fruitful and multiply” mandate. How could someone who has the ability to have children make a decision to not do so? This is more than a guilt trip. It’s an expedition of dishonor and shame. Luckily I’m not married so this isn’t as big of an issue, but what if I was? I’ve never met a believing woman who was married and didn’t want children…
Which brings me to the next issue: how will I find a partner if I don’t want to have children? Well, this is where I have to trust God. Either to sustain me as a single woman, to change my mind, or to bring the man into my life that feels content with amazing friends and family, lots of travel, cultural interest, perhaps a pet, and loving the people of God in the way we were made to do.
So, with all of that said, I reserve the right to change my mind. Who knows, maybe a year from now I’ll have the yearning again. But as of now, this is where I stand. My only certain desire is to serve the way I know how. And right now that is with college students. The way I love and serve them will be my legacy. And I can do that without getting stretch marks.