A friend texted me the other day regarding my last blog post, which talked about my pregnancy and my decision to keep the, now baby, growing inside of me. She told me that she also envisioned herself having a kid, without the father or a partner by her side. That for some reason, she pictures herself pregnant with her belly out and that’s it.
Texting with her about her thoughts and sharing mine made me think more about how society expects people to have children and to have them a certain way. We’re lowkey taught that babies come out of love and out of marriage. I mean, we were singing on the playground “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in a baby carriage.” Most people do not envision having children until they are married. And I get it because we are taught that. I get it because children are looked at as two people’s legacies. I get it, because the idea of marriage brings about an idea of stability, which is important for babies and children growing up. With marriage, one can assume you would have someone to make decisions with, to lean on, and to help take care of and raise the children. Regardless of my understanding of this thinking, I think society needs to shift its mindset behind it.
For one, not every person with a uterus wants to have children. That, like most ideas regarding children and marriage, comes from a traditional way of thinking. Women were expected to stay home, raise a family, and take care of their husbands back in the day. Hell, some men still expect that now, whether they are aware of it or not, when it is not reality. It should’ve never been the reality, but you know, misogyny. Women are people with their own goals, feelings, thoughts, and lives. Surprise, surprise. Some people with uteruses do not see babies or raising children fitting into their life plan. What’s the problem with that?
And on the topic of tradition, let me just mention real quick that people, mainly women, weren’t really supposed to have sex outside of marriage. Doing so would strip them of their “purity.” They would become “whores” and “harlots,” unwanted by a man they could’ve married for soiling their name. Back then, marriage was a woman’s main role. The concept of virginity was just another attempt by men, and upheld socially by both men and women, to control women and their actions because of their “inferiority.” Effects of this still exist today, including but not limited to, the concept of slut shaming, for example.
There’s still the pushing of people, mainly woman, to just get married and have children already. For why, though? Why rush them into lifelong commitments with a partner or with children? Why rush married people into having children? What if they can’t have or afford children? What is societies need of focusing and controlling other people’s lives?
Don’t get me wrong, I still envision getting married and having more kids one day. Even though it is a want, it isn’t a need. As I said in that previous post, I have always wanted to be a mother more than a wife. Over the years, I began to view children, for what they are: people who come about because of sex. I grew out of the mindset that children were products of love or a relationship. Yes, consensual sex sometimes occurs out of love, but that is not the reality for everyone. Yes, consensual marriage tends to come out of love, and married people tend to have sex, but in the long term some marriages lead to divorce. Some people fall out of love. Some people begin loving someone else. I didn’t and don’t want to feel stuck to someone solely because of another person, even if it is our child. I didn’t and don’t want to stay in a relationship because of a child. I don’t want to rush a relationship because of a child. It’s why I didn’t move in with my baby’s “father” when he suggested it after we found out I was pregnant. I don’t want to have an abortion if I feel ready and am able to raise a child, even if the other person isn’t on board. And ultimately I didn’t have an abortion because I didn’t want one, could adjust my life to raise a child, and I don’t view children as products of a relationship or of love.
When I found out I was pregnant, I wanted to co-parent, especially because I was worried about having a boy. Co-parenting simply put, is two people raising a child together who are not in a serious romantic relationship. From my viewpoint, boys tend to take not having a father around more personally than girls; I only say this because, when girls grow up, they tend to understand the situation because of their own interactions with men. Co-parenting can be just as productive as a married couple or a couple in a relationship raising a child together. What matters is that kids feel loved, understood, and supported. What matters is that both parties are mature, can communicate effectively, are on the same page, and support one another. These concepts can be achieved, challenging, or seemingly impossible while co-parenting. It can be achieved, challenging, or seemingly impossible in marriages and among couples in relationships. Living under the same roof makes raising children easier, but it’s not necessary, especially if you give your child the tools to understand the situation without judgement when they’re older. Why can’t someone choose a specific person to co-parent with? Why can’t two people who know they want children do so platonically without judgement?
As time went on, I realized, with this person, I didn’t want to co-parent. I wanted it because society says children need both parents to thrive. I wanted it because he said he would be there. I wanted it because society looks at people who stray away from tradition differently. Though she may not be the only one, for now at least, she’ll be a girl without a father on Father’s Day. I wanted it because growing up, at least for now, my daughter will think something is missing because society will continuously tell her that, even if she doesn’t feel that way at first.
I changed my mind about co-parenting because I realized the tools I stated earlier that are needed for it to be successful aren’t there. He also isn’t ready for the responsibility, regardless of what he told himself in the beginning. Forcing that to work would only harm her more in the long run. Regardless of what the laws say, regardless of what society says, having both parents in a child’s life is not always the best option, even in non extreme circumstances. People who think their parents should get divorced can understand this. People who have seen children used as pawns or ways for parents to feel control and power can understand this. People who get along with one parent and not the other can understand this. The knowledge of this, however, will not change how a child feels about it growing up, but hopefully with honest communication and the tools needed for understanding, they will come to understand and accept it, without it affecting them negatively.
Another example, to wrap this up, I was watching Insecure on HBO by Issa Rae months ago. I was around two months pregnant. Spoiler alert, one of the side characters ends up pregnant. Of course she’s pregnant by the man the protagonist is trying to get back together with. She tells him she’s pregnant, tells him she was ready to have a baby, and tells him he doesn’t have to help. After all of that, when the episode aired, people were commenting on Twitter that her choice was selfish. That is was weird she was ready to have a child with a man she wasn’t in a relationship with when she had gotten an abortion in a previous, more serious, relationship. That she was messing up his current relationship because she knew he would stick around to help her with the baby.
All of the blame regarding the situation went to her and people questioned her intentions, but no one said anything about the man who got her pregnant. No one said that he should be around because he is also responsible for her pregnancy. No one thought it could work out successfully through co-parenting and the protagonist being understanding of the awkward but workable situation. The new season isn’t out, so it’s unclear what her intentions actually are. Still the fact people’s first response was that she was having the baby to trap him is ridiculous. I’m not saying people don’t do that. I’m saying that we are so conditioned to view children as products of a relationship and of love that even when a fictional woman chooses to keep a baby, even if it means she will be a single mom, people assume it’s to keep a man close by. People are pro-choice when it comes to having an abortion, and rightly so, but when it comes to choosing to have a baby with or without the partner present, then people start acting weird, calling the decision selfish. I can’t tell you how much guilt I was made to feel for making the decision that was best for me.
I always pictured having my first child without a partner. Although I was content with it when it was just an idea, and I am content with it as my reality, it does not change how society views it. It doesn’t change the few people who were surprised I said I was going to continue with the pregnancy, even though the relationship wasn’t serious. It can be hard to ignore the stigma around single moms, especially black ones. It doesn’t change people’s thoughts that a woman would have a child just to keep a man around. It can be hard not to feel a type of way when people say on social media that women should “choose better men” or “not open their legs for bums.” And tell me how a lack of responsibility on the man’s part leads to judgement of a woman?
All of this just made me think, what’s wrong with a person with a uterus choosing to have a child alone? Why must it be a product of a relationship or of love? Why would it be more acceptable if I chose to have a baby for and with a man versus for myself?