For most of my life, I have assumed that I would be a mother one day. I have a wonderful mother, and wonderful grandmothers, one of whom I was particularly close to. Virtually all the women I admire most are mothers, and for well-educated and "successful" BW, there is always the implicit message that it is especially important that we reproduce: that not only our own families, but our community and our people NEED the children that we would rear.
Certainly, too many black children grow up in poverty and with a lack of opportunity; and when one has been blessed with both material good fortune, and a loving, healthy, and supportive family background, it seems that all the crucial ingredients are there to provide a perfect foundation for successful parenting. Indeed at our wedding, both sides of our families cheerfully prodded us for information on when they could expect to see a baby--when my husband stoutly suggested no time soon, everyone laughed and assured him that it wasn't up to him. The assumption was that (1) it was up to me, and (2) I, of course, wanted a baby.
Except, I don't. One of the biggest obstacles I had to overcome in seriously dating before I met my husband was the number of men that I met who were committed to being fathers. This is perfectly natural and to be expected--I certainly don't fault the marriage-minded men I met whose own biological clocks were ticking. It's just that my clock never started. And there is a part of me that will always feel a little guilty for that.
It's not just the "Talented Tenth" pressure to have babies for the Race. It's not just the generalized assumption that all normal women want to be mothers, and that there is something wrong with any woman who doesn't. It's not even that I am an only child, and I know that my mother would love to have grandchildren. It is also the part of me that sees so much need among the young, and realizes that I have much to offer a child(ren) as a mother, including all the wonderful qualities in my husband that our child won't have the chance to experience. I wonder, are we simply selfish?
But then I have to remember that no matter what you have to offer a child, materially or emotionally, what children need above all is to be wanted--passionately. I like kids, but I've never been one of the women at the office who drops everything to coo at a co-worker's baby. They make me smile, in the same way that I prefer cute kittens and cats, and even dogs, to their grown human owners--they're usually so much more pleasant. But that intense, overwhelming longing for a baby that so many women describe--that I have never experienced. Meeting a man that I was compatible with who felt pretty much the same way felt like a miracle for me.
Selfishness, in our eyes, would be to have children simply because we can and because it is expected of us. I see enough children around me being raised almost indifferently by au pairs and nannies because their fathers work 100 hours a week and their mothers, who supposedly "stay home," spend most of their time tanning and shopping, to know that a child can be an accessory, and that money can't make such a childhood "good." I assume that the people I describe "love" their children, just as reporters always insist that Britney Spears "loves" her children. But in my mind, love is action, not just something you feel or don't feel. If I can't know, right now, before I even contemplate pregnancy, that I deeply want to be a mother, then I have no right to bring a child into the world.
To be childless by choice, especially in the black community, feels like the last taboo. The last thing I want is to retreat into a bubble of self-interest, to ignore all those young faces in need. But I've had to recognize that what I have to give must be shared in a role other than mother. And I think that facing that fact honestly, with myself and others, is probably the greatest gift I could give any potential child.