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Rewrite the Script
By: Kerry Bell
Where is it written that by the time a woman of colour — black women specifically — turns 25, she must have bared a child, or two, or ten? When exactly did that particular societal conditioning make its debut? Generally speaking, most women don't even fully know who they are before the age of 30. Your thirties are when you are wise enough to impart acquired knowledge to your children, when you apply the lessons you learnt from making mistakes in your twenties. When the emotional maturity actually needed to raise children kicks in.
I remember my twenties well. Twenty-somethings are likely just landing the job they want, or still hoping to. They might still be paying off student loans. Our twenties is a time of growth. It’s the metamorphosis into a better self, a catalyst that is meant to groom us into the future mothers, fathers, and caregivers we were meant to become.
Twenty-somethings with goals and dreams and their entire lives ahead of them should not get the pressuring question, “How come you’re in your twenties and don't have any children yet? What are you waiting for?”
I mean, can we agree to finally retire that tired archaic question? Alarmingly, this sort of question mostly comes from black women who are single mothers themselves, struggling to make ends meet. The second group of people this sort of question tends to come from are deadbeat dads or every other weekend dads who still, in 2021, think the woman should take on the heavier load and responsibility to raise their children (#ItTakesTwoToMakeBabies). A long time friend from high school once asked me that wretched “how come no kids yet” question, to which I responded, “How much is in your child's college fund?” Her bewildered expression was my answer. She never breached the subject again. She must have realised that she, like so many, had subconsciously recycled the cycle — or curse — of the poor single black mother saga.
Little girls who grow up without a father-figure are more likely to suffer from low self esteem, social awkwardness and subconscious incessant feelings of not good enough. Little boys who grow up without a dad, often are simply ill-equipped to take on the emotional and financial responsibility that comes with raising a child. However, they are likely to father children at a young age themselves, and shun responsibility for said children as a result of their unpreparedness. When people far too young become parents, they discover the unforgiving abyss called adulthood, and the many permutations that come along with it. They freeze, they panic, and they struggle. They wish they could turn back time (#DoOverPlease).
Whenever I get asked the dreaded question now, I answer in one of the following ways:
“Tell me, have you done the things you want to do with your life yet?"
“Have you travelled, explored, seen this masterpiece God calls the world, a world he created with the intention that we expand our horizons?”
“Do you get to indulge in the hobbies that make you happy? Do you even have hobbies?”
“Do you know the pleasure of simple things like, I don’t know, sitting on your balcony, or nestling into your reading nook and escaping into a novel undisturbed?”
I have lived an exciting life of globe trotting and goal setting and fulfilling my life’s purpose. I don’t feel empty or as though I’m missing something by not having children. Perhaps they’re in the cards, perhaps not. Either way I intend to keep living a fulfilling life doing and experiencing the things I love. And, to magnify my point, the richer experiences I have, and the more fulfilled I become, then the better parent I will be.
We have the power to break the vicious cycle of poor, unaccomplished single black motherhood. I mean, aren’t we tired of that raggedy old stereotype anyway? I dream of the day when we collectively as black folk, can groom, raise and equip our children with the tools necessary to navigate this harsh world, instead of subconsciously passing on our struggles, strife, and outmoded hard knock life philosophies we inherited from the generations before us. We can and should give them the best versions of ourselves including a solid family unit. What could be better than parents that are their children’s role models, parents who’ve accomplished their goals and dreams, or at the very least are well on their way. We have the power to effect real change in this world, and it starts with us rewriting the script.