On episode 2, Doreen Yomoah shared her insights about being an African woman who has chosen not to have children. She also shared stories of how rejecting motherhood was just one way of rejecting patriarchal expectations that are placed on the shoulders of African women. Returning for a deeper dive into the childfree-by-choice life, she uses this episode to explain why she believes more African women are not vocal about not wanting children. She also further connects the assumption that women are just natural caregivers to socialization by explaining how her day job involves researching these assumptions about gender and what it biologically predetermines. She talks about how most people do not notice the intense pronatalist propaganda in their communities because they see the adulthood = parenthood narrative as just the default. A discussion about Michelle Obama’s wildly successful memoir also sparks an analysis of how attached many cultures are to the expectation that women do the heavy lifting of parenting. “Aside from the stigma of if you are a woman, you must have a child, we need to address the other stigma of if you are a man, you are just supposed to be the breadwinner and taking care of children is not your role,” Doreen says. “Both narratives are different sides of the same coin.”
Creator of the internationally recognized Nonparents.com, Nina Steele remembers the exact day when she accepted she would not be a mother. She and her husband had been trying to conceive for years. After another failed attempt, an acute understanding of the reality of this situation washed over her. She was clear that her inability to conceive was not a sad situation over which she should grieve. “I am so lucky this has not happened for me,” she said to no one in particular. In this episode, Nina talks about how she grew up seeing the impact of unquestioned pronatalism on the lives of women. From a poor village in Ivory Coast, she witnessed many women giving birth to babies they could not feed because it was just tradition for African women to keep having babies as long as their bodies were able to produce them. She talks about how her own attempts to conceive a child were not really rooted in any concrete reason for wanting to be a mother. “I was married so I figured I should have a baby.” Though she and her husband live a comfortable life in England and could afford to raise a child, Nina is unapologetic when stating their infertility issue has granted them the freedom of expendable income and the chance to work on their own personal growth and creative pursuits. Through Nonparents.com, she has encountered other women who are childless by circumstance. She admits that she had to learn to be more compassionate towards those who did not come to acceptance of their non-motherhood as quickly and wholly as she did. Initially, it annoyed Nina when western women who had been born into lives of so much abundance, so much privilege droned on about how incomplete they felt because they had everything else – except children. She learned to be more compassionate towards them because she understood how not coming from a place of rampant poverty informed their view of the world. “My experiences growing up in Ivory Coast taught me to be grateful for whatever I had,” Nina explains. “I operate from a place of gratitude in every part of my life. It is why I am so grateful that I know I can live a fulfilling and joyful life without having children.”
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When 35-year-old Ebony Murphy-Root reflects on her childhood and young adulthood, she can not recall a moment when motherhood was a role she desired. What does remain prominent in her mind are memories of her father’s sister who was unmarried with no children. A homeowner with a good job and a full social calendar, Ebony’s aunt was always laughing and off to do something that looked fun and exciting. It left an impression on young Ebony who relished the time she spent with her auntie. In this episode, Ebony challenges the myth that no man will marry a woman who does not want to have his children. She met her husband when she was 26-years-old and they found common ground on wanting a childfree life early into their courtship. Even before meeting Mr. Murphy-Root, Ebony says dating did not present her with anymore challenges than the usual ones for young women. She dated across racial lines and was never one to present herself as someone she was not. As a result, she was not short of gentlemen callers. Ebony also shares her perspective on why black women, particularly, are met with pushback and judgment when they are vocal about having no desire to mother. “In black communities, the belief that a woman’s resources – her time, her energy, her money – are community property is much more pronounced than it is in mainstream culture,” Ebony explains. “So when you say you are opting out of the biggest way to suck up all of a woman’s resources, people definitely will feel a certain type of way. Especially since many believe black women are not even entitled to have choices in the first place.” Ebony remains unbothered by people’s feelings, of course. She knows she is not the first black woman to live a life many believe she has no right to live. Nor will she be the last.
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Creater of the blog, The Childfree African, Doreen Yomoah shares her journey to non-motherhood. At 23, she realized that she did not want what a good Ghanaian girl was supposed to want: children. Though she only spent the first year of her life in Ghana, Doreen was well aware of the cultural pressure African women experienced to give their husbands babies. This pressure did not escape any African woman regardless of where she lived throughout the diaspora. She speaks about creating the blog as a way to connect with other young African women who felt as she did and to bring awareness of the African voice to the Childfree blogosphere – a world that remains overwhelmingly white. Doreen shares anecdotes of aunties and uncles demanding she have babies and potential suitors telling her she had no right to decide she would not have children without first having a husband. She connects these encounters to other patriarchal expectations she flouted when she chose to go back to Ghana as an adult. “I will not concern myself with who African patriarchy believes I should be,” Doreen says. “I will just be me.”
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