I have all types of friends on Facebook. Some go as far back as grammar school, while others I just added due to professional/networking connections. Either way, you probably can say my timeline is nothing short of diverse.
One day last week, I came across a notion that I’d witnessed both on and offline before and it was the shaming of a woman with more than two kids. One of my Facebook friends uses his profile as an advice column for different life situations (unfortunately his profile is set to private so I cannot share directly) and received the following message from a woman with seven kids:
“Dear Ced: I’m 33 years old with 7 kids, the youngest is 4. I’m educated and make $70,000 a year. Can you ask these men what they bringing to the table?”
The question was in response to another question my Facebook friend had previously received anonymously:
“Dear Ced: What else do Chicago Women bring to the table besides Alot of Kids?”
Initial reaction? Seven kids whoa s***! While we do not normally hear of people having that many children in this day and age, the shock evolved to downright mean and judgmental comments:
“I hope he bringing a condom. Sh*iid.”
“33 years old, 7 kids, youngest 4. I’m not the smartest man, but according to my calculations, that’s a thot.”
“…with seven kids you shouldn’t be thinking about a man. Those are the ones who f*** these men up.”
“When bragging goes wrong… Lmaooo”
“Nothing sis u need to gone head raise them try again in 10 years lol”
While many of those who commented on the thread took the opportunity to roast and criticize the anonymous poster, one woman who claimed to not be the one who asked the question came forth and admitted that she, too, was a mother of seven.
You know what else she admitted? That five of her children were by her first husband who tragically died and the last two were by her current man. People slowly changed their tune and instead of calling her a hoe, focused on her salary and whether or not her children’s surviving father helped out.
It’s no secret that people shame single parents, especially if you are a Black woman. And while seven kids is a whole lot of children to take care of in a relationship, referring to anyone’s child as “baggage” is problematic. Granted, everyone isn’t fit nor interested in becoming a step-parent. Some people prefer to take care of their own seeds or to date someone who is not interested in having children at all. But when used to describe children, the term “baggage” is problematic largely due to its inaccuracies.
Baggage is often a term associated with residual trauma from one’s previous relationship(s) that has yet to be dealt with. It is usually a cluster of compiled insecurities that negatively impacts their new relationship. If not tended to, baggage will continue to affect how someone relates to, engages in and interacts with a current or potential romantic partner.
Baggage is negative. Children on the other hand are not—unless they are the spawn of Satan (kidding).
Another reason why the term “baggage” is problematic when applied to children is that it makes them pay for the alleged sins of their parents. In cases of reckless promiscuity, it wasn’t them who made the decision to behave irresponsibly, so why cast a negative shadow on their existence?
Women and men who are parents to more than what is perceived as an acceptable number of children aren’t automatic “hoes.” There are many men and women—like in the case of the woman I previously highlighted—where parents of several children did not bring multiple kids into the world as a result of promiscuity. Some folks actually have multiple children by the same person. On the other hand, there are women and men who could only have two or three children, but also have two or three “baby mamas” or “baby daddies,” for lack of a better term.
The real “baggage” comes from adults who have procreated, but cannot seem to get along well enough to have a functional co-parenting relationship. It is the immaturity, ego and spitefulness that often comes with parents who are no longer together.
There’s nothing wrong with having a preference. Personally, I don’t think I could date someone with a nice amount of children. But it isn’t because I view them as baggage.
Shantell E. Jamison is a senior editor for EBONY. She moderates various events centered on love, relationships, politics and wellness and has appeared on panels throughout the country. Her book, “Drive Yourself in the Right Direction” is available now. Keep up with Shantell via her website, Facebook, Twitter @Shantell_em and Instagram @Shantell_em.