I Chose To See It Differently

In my cultural setting, manhood or womanhood is validated by having biological children. People who do not have none are looked at with some suspicion. If there are posts images or videos of someone who is cruel to children on social media, the comments that follow suggest that aforementioned person is barren or impotent. The words used to describe the involuntarily childless denote the cultural worldview of the phenomenon. The most affected gender is feminine. As a man living in it, “I may be excused” by the society because the belief is that men are not infertile.

In a study that I did, participants revealed that life without a child in a pronatalist society makes them feel like outcasts. They saw themselves as not being able to fit in the company of those who have children. Speaking about social rejection, one interviewee protested, “The situation of not having a child is like being a leper in the Bible times. When those who have children relate with you, you see yourself as an outcast that is supposed to shout, ‘unclean, unclean!!’” In concurrence, the other said: Putdowns from those who are supposed to be giving hope, make me realise that I am not socially accepted. Even when I do something great, they always tell me that there is one more thing left. Being childless in my African society makes me hide in my cocoon and fear to receive insensitive comments from people that are blessed with children.

With all this social rejection that communicates that I am not man enough, I could cringe away from the pressure and hide in my pride-cased nest. I would be justified to invite people to join my pity-party as I bury my head in the sand. None would blame me for accepting that I am nothing without a child. Living in a script that the world has written for me was not only going to be tolerated but celebrated. The moment I discovered that I may not have a child, I decided to see it differently. I elevated love to be the pillar of my home. When the society saw my wife as one to be rejected, I chose to endear her unconditionally. When you selflessly and unconditionally love your spouse, happiness in marriage is the product and childlessness becomes a prolonged honeymoon. As you muse on the words of my newly written poem, choose to see childlessness differently.

I Chose to see it Differently

The horizon that muttered the advent of a tomb
With the dark clouds of anguish, pain and gloom
Sending an atmosphere tainted with doom
All the place around me became a darkroom
Of impossibilities I could not undo
I chose to see it differently

When they saw a man that is lame
Failing to extend the family name
With words that wound and maim
Never having walked in my terrain
I may never rise to have fame
I chose to see it differently

They laughed “you take none to school”
And parenting can’t do you good
It is for us who us who play it cool
I looked like one who was a fool
But love became the prevailing rule
That sees good in a castaway tool
My eyes saw an extended honeymoon
Truly, I chose to see it differently.

Editor - Sikhumbuzo Dube