When we first got married, Mr. Rocque and I said we’d give ourselves at least two years to enjoy each other before seriously giving children a thought. It was in part because we wanted to set a solid foundation with each other before bringing other lives into the fray, but also because we were both still undecided about whether we actually wanted children. It’s a major responsibility that a lot of people seem to take lightly or regard as obligatory, but not us.
At the time we had that conversation, I thought that by this point in our marriage my mind would change, and my ambivalence would be replaced with the desire to become a mom. But at a year and a half in, I feel even less motivated to have children than I had before. And when I speak this to people, I feel like there’s a record scratching in the distance and folks silently judge… because that’s what people do: get married and have babies. Right? (Or the 2013 amended version: just have babies.)
My theory that this sort of judgment actually exists was confirmed when I was watching an episode of The Wendy Williams Show a few weeks ago. During Wendy’s Hot Topics panel—where she gathers media personalities to speak on various topics—the subject came up because of a celebrity who said she didn’t want children.
Wendy said she judges women who say such things, because she thinks they’re selfish. And loosely stated, what kind of
monster woman doesn’t want kids? Ninety percent of the people on the panel agreed. Last weekend, I went to a bachelorette party and the lady of honor mentioned she and her husband-to-be already knew when they’d start trying to conceive. She then asked me when my babies were coming, and so did other women at the party—some married with kids, some on their way down that road eventually.
Actually, I get asked this question a lot. It usually goes something like, “How’s Chicago?” followed by, “How’s the married life?” and then the grand finale, “So when are you going to have kids?” As trite as each question is, the latter annoys me the most because I always sense the letdown in people’s auras or sometimes see it in their faces when I tell them I’m undecided but starting to lean more toward a no.
Initially, my indecisiveness about having children was more about the Mr. and I being selfish because we enjoy being able to do what we want when we want. But admittedly, we rehashed this conversation when the Zimmerman verdict was read. The general consensus was that we’re both not excited about the world we live in and not in a rush to expose an innocent life to such madness. Especially because we could possibly have a boy, and I don’t want to subject him to the ugliness of a world where it’s open season on Black lives.
Do millions of Black children grow up to be perfectly fine, happy and safe? Absolutely. I am aware that living life in fear isn’t the best way to go about being here. I’m also aware that there are many pros to having children. But I’d rather be all the way committed to dealing with something—the good, bad and ugly—before taking the plunge. And as long as I vacillate between the two extremes, my womb remains closed.
At 31, I hear that my clock is ticking. I’m told that I don’t want to get too old to reproduce, and have to live with the regret of not having children. These are valid points, but I’ve made peace with the fact that I may never become a mother (biologically or adoptive). Children can be a blessing, but not always. Parents can also either be a gift or a curse, because there’s a lot of power in giving someone life and being responsible for who that person becomes in the world.
I’m human, so I reserve the right to change my mind. Maybe Mr. Rocque and I will have child(ren) one day, but for now it’s better to keep them nonexistent until the light bulb goes off… or not. My life. My responsibility. My womb. Stop clocking.
Mr. and Mrs. Rocque are the couple formerly known as Anslem Samuel and Starrene Rhett, journalists who found love in between bylines. Follow the newlyweds’ musings of a marriage in progress here, on Twitter and via their joint blog.