Choosing to birth while the world’s in chaos

Choosing to birth while the world’s in chaos

I feel sad for Mary, a close friend who recently gave birth to a son. Childbirth in the time of COVID, she cries. She wishes for others to be more aware of their choices and all the pros and cons before their lives change forever; change in unimaginable ways. And putting further strain on a world in crisis. People need to be more aware of their surroundings, she unequivocally states, honest with themselves first, and then with others, accepting nothing less in return.

Mary encouraged me to write this blog post to help other women who may still end up in a similar position.

She dated her partner for almost five years before they tied the knot. They both desired to get married. Before marriage, they discussed having two children. A year later, her husband brought up starting a family. Feeling undecided, working through her secret fears, she said she wanted to wait. He felt hurt; dejected by her request. His mother wanted more grandchildren. He was the only one left in his family that didn’t have children. All his friends were having babies. Mary tried to understand his needs to have children. She pointed out how it would impact their lives, mostly change for her and that she wasn’t quite ready for it.

They both had demanding jobs. Her career as a solicitor came with high demands, and she didn’t feel ready to take on additional responsibilities. He promised her he would share the responsibilities and also help more with the household chores. He suggested getting in a nanny for further help. She gave in.

Sadly, reality didn’t turn out as promised. Mary’s fears soon started becoming her reality. With C-19 restrictions, she was able to work from home while her husband travelled to the office. He was out most days while she ended up attending to all of their child’s needs, in addition to doing her work and the household chores. She soon started to feel overwhelmed and plagued with feelings of despondency.

Mary says, ‘Should a woman want children, she needs to understand her reasons and desires. She owes it to herself and her future child to honestly face all the pros and cons in minute detail. A child will change her, and not always for the better. Which of course, no one admits. On top of all this, consider the experiences the child or children will endure in a chaotic world. Not the current state due to C-19 but the pandemic this world faces due to us, the human race, destroying the natural world.’

She emphatically expresses herself, her passion palpable. I dare not interrupt her flow. In need of a purge, she explains and then apologises.

‘If a woman,’ Mary resumes, ‘can accept that the father’s life will hardly change. And mostly, the responsibilities that come with running the home and raising the children will be left to her then all could be well. Unless she’s found a partner that believes in equality between genders and is already in a balanced relationship.’

We each spoke about the people we know who are living, breathing feminists. Unfortunately, the majority of men are not, and their partners accept this fact. The wife still does mostly everything when it comes to the running of the home and raising children. Something they silently protest about yet do not change.

A man I know wanted children more than his partner, and he followed through with his promises. He finishes work early three times a week to collect their daughter from after school care. The mother works until 7pm on those nights. After the father fetches the child, he makes her dinner, baths, gets her ready for bed and reads her a bedtime story. The two other days a week, the mother doesn’t work and takes care of the child.

Mary confirms she also only knows one couple who equally share responsibilities. Both work fulltime. Both mother and father take turns to drop off and collect their children to and from school. They take turns for all the rest: homework, bathing, feeding, reading, etc.

Thinking about the people I know with adult children (my parents included), and how exhausted they still are despite their children having fled the nest. The issues are endless. “The bigger the children, the bigger the problems,” parents often repeat. And then they have children. History, without thought, on life’s treadmill, repeats.

Imagine if you thought you wanted children. Realised soon after birthing, it was a mistake. Your grandfather spills the beans. Your grandmother, less senile than grandpops confirms this fact. She didn’t want all boys. She possibly didn’t want children in the first place. She kept on wanting to please her husband and popped out boy after boy and then he blames her for not giving him a daughter… And then his firstborn has children, thinking this is what he must do next, after marriage. What else, right? His father didn’t want his own and so, do you think he desired grandchildren? Do children ever consider their parents, and the responsibility they put on them to be “ideal” grandparents and woe betide that is unfulfilled? Automatic entitlement, their birthright. After all, no one asked to be born. Mostly, parents choose to have children, which then means they have to accept the next generation.

Every woman who chooses to have children, despite having a husband or partner, needs to answer the following vital question: Are you prepared to bring up a child on your own? Also, it is imperative to radically accept that no matter what the father may claim, his life and body will hardly change. It will be nothing compared to what a woman will endure. Only once a woman can radically accept both these facts, then all shall be well.

Mary also adds, ‘I am not sure I needed to bring another being into this world. Are we inherently selfish?’

Her words remind me of David Attenborough’s witness statement: : “A Life On Our Planet”

“‎Using his burgeoning intelligence, this most successful of all mammals has exploited the environment to produce food for an ever-increasing population. Instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of the population, perhaps it’s time we controlled the population to allow the survival of the environment.”

Perhaps it is time we all paid attention to nature rather than our selfish needs. Instead of birthing your child, causing further destruction to an already exploited Earth, we take in abandoned children who do not have a “forever family”?

The low fertility in Japan is something the Western World could learn from, published by Honolulu: East-West Center. Japanese women are still choosing not to have children, despite the government’s incentives. These women intelligently consider all factors, which include the declining employment rate, temporary jobs, heavy obligations on women for household maintenance and childcare. Apart from household tasks, parenting in Japan tends to be particularly intensive, and it is overwhelmingly the mother who is responsible for looking after children’s daily needs and making sure they succeed in a highly competitive education system. Women all over the world spend more time on housework and childcare than men, but the differences in Japan are extreme.

“Woman only rests when she’s dead.”

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