I recently asked Nina Steele, who is from West Africa, now lives in the UK, and runs nonparents.com, to write about her experience of what people think of childfree women in these two countries. Here is what Nina wrote:
A Foot in Two Cultures
Because I have a foot in two cultures (I am originally from the Ivory Coast, West Africa), I have first-hand experience of what people within those cultures think of the childfree.
Even though I am childless not by choice, I have now come to a stage in my life, where I quite like not having children, and am relieved and grateful that motherhood never happened for me.
Being the outspoken person that I am, I don’t hesitate to tell people that, and often, some of them cannot hide their disappointment and in some cases their anger. That’s because, I am generally expected to still be grieving for the fact that I was unable to become a mother. That I managed to free myself from the shackles of motherhood, and thoroughly enjoying my life, make many people uncomfortable and some, particularly from Africa, don’t hesitate to tell me what they think.
I am on a mission to change people’s attitude toward those without children, and have been an advocate for the childfree life since 2013, the year when my website www.nonparents.com was launched. Although the website has a global reach, I recently ran an advertising campaign on Facebook, targeted at Africans. Being of African descent, I knew how extreme the stigma of childlessness is on the continent. I was prepared for a pushback and the majority of the people who commented at first didn’t disappoint. One woman told me that I was lying to myself, because there is no such thing as coming to terms with not being able to become a parent. As far as she was concerned, life is meaningless without children. She told me to stop telling lies and to come clean.
Making Way for Understanding of Childfree Women
As extreme as her views may sound to some, they weren’t a surprise to me. Most people in Africa have never heard anyone say that you can live a happy and meaningful life without children. Having children is expected of everyone. It is the foundation on which marriages are built. Western cultures aren’t that different. But at least here in the UK, most people are familiar with the concept of choosing not to have children, whether they agree with it or not.
The initial negative response has now made way for more understanding, to the extent that some of the people who were very hostile at first, are now posting positive messages in support of what I am doing. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by BBC Africa, to take part in a series of discussions they have started on the stigma that childless women face in Africa: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04hd8hl. I was understandably pleased to be asked, and hopeful that together we can make a real difference.
Here in the UK, things have been moving along nicely as well. It helps that high profile celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston and Kim Cattrall, have chosen to be vocal on the subject of living happily without children. Whatever we think of celebrities, people tend to take notice of whatever they have to say.
Thank you, Nina! She can be found at nonparents.com