By Bunmi Sofola
“As a young girl, having a family was something I dreamed of and assumed would happen. But then the education system swallowed me up, and nothing in it tells you that having a baby any time soon is a good idea,” says Anita now in her 40s and a successful entrepreneur. “My parents’ divorce put me off too. I became anxious of being betrayed during every relationship until I finally met someone I could reasonably trust at the age of 38. He was a divorced father of four, and wasn’t really keen on starting another family at 43. But he was willing to give it a go so I could have a child of my own.
“It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be,for a start, age wasn’t on my side. I spent a lot of money on fertility treatment, even going as far as faith healing, but in the end I realised I no longer had the energy to be a mother. Especially when the last specialist I saw abroad told me that at my age, I wasn’t producing healthy eggs and my chances of getting pregnant naturally were slim. Even the chance that IVF would work was also thin.
“Not so long ago, women without children were pitied. But now the world has caught on to the fact that, on the surface at least, they don’t have such a hard time. I could take as many holidays as I want, sleep for hours if I want to, eat meals in bed and stay reading well after lunch time. I couldn’t be bothered to cook as my husband is not a fussy eater. What’s more, his first daughter brings us cooked meals from time to time.
“Some months back, I smiled whilst some three women discussed motherhood at a seminar I attended. One of them in her late 30s claimed she was wilfully and joyfully child free. That she was one of a growing number of women who believe having It all means not having a baby. Another hurriedly admitted she was a single mother of one and happy with her lot. The childless one reminded us that in the 60s, about one in 15 women remained childless at 45, and were considered rather peculiar, but that figure is now about one in ten. That for women with a university education like her, the figure rises. She then reminded us of examples in the realms of the super-successful from Oprah Winfrey to local examples.
“She bragged she never wanted kids because it would get in the way of her career. I told her she was mad. While a child-free life looks fun on the pages of magazines, no number of career highs, foreign travels, weekends away or adult pleasures can disguise the fact that it feels—there is no other word—empty.
“Sadly, statistics do not reveal whether the percentage of educated women who are childless are so by choice or by circumstances, but I believe motherhood deniers rooting for childless life are in the minority. Like one of them recently observed, ‘You look at families all the time and you see there’s something there that you don’t have.’ According to her; ‘If I could mentor a class of teenage girls about the importance of having a baby while you’ve still got the energy and fresh eggs in your ovaries, I would. When I was young, my mother kept saying to me, ‘Have a baby as soon as you can.’ When she died, mixed up with all the other grief was that realisation that I was the end of the line.
“While women who don’t have kids often think of how wonderful it is to have so much time on their hands, I can’t help noticing it’s the women with kids who get the most done. My sister-in-law runs a successful events centre with all the mod cons, has three kids and much bigger home than me. Let’s face it, the parent/child bond is the commonest and most reliable form of giving unconditional love. I have never met a woman who regretted having children. She surely exists, but not in my experience. I have met, however, older people who lamented never having kids, for whatever reasons, and I’m sure those now rooting for the childless life will soon join them. We all know for sure that nephews and nieces are not in the business of dedicating their lives to maiden aunts.”
Coping with the pitfalls of being a modern teenager
Recently, Annabel Cole, a renowned children’s psychologists offered a few advice to help guide her daughter through the pitfalls of being a modern teenager. She said she came up with the idea because of the vast pressure that young people are under today when it comes to sex, relationships and the internet. Here are some of the advice based on her own experience you could find useful:
Keep private things private: Your private life should be private, not splashed over the internet. To us oldies, it’s beggars’ belief that teens might send pictures of their private parts over the phone; or share their intimate feelings with several hundred so-called ‘friends’ on Facebook. In a world where these activities are often seen as ‘normal,’ it’s easy to forget that you do have a choice. Would you let someone read your diary? Why should your attitude to the internet be different? Posting something intimate online might seem like a good idea, but it has the potential to go from private to public at the press of a button. The potential consequences of this are at best embarrassing, at worst very damaging. A good rule of thumb is: If you wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing this with the whole school, then don’t share it electronically.
Porn is not real life: There seems to be quite a lot of confusion about this among young people like you at the moment. Porn is a form (if you like, and many people don’t) of ‘entertainment’. The people in porn films are paid actors. The danger is, teenagers—particularly boys—don’t always get this—and they can develop some pretty unrealistic expectations of what real-life sex will be. An inexperienced boy who has watched a porn film will have about as accurate an idea of what real-life sex is like as a viewer of reality shows will have of day-to-day family life. Sex doesn’t have to involve theatrical groaning and volcanic orgasms; it generally doesn’t take place within two seconds of coming within sight of a man. Some of the most intimate moments are far removed from these artificial scenarios.
Dates aren’t fairy tales: Dating can be a very grisly business, particularly when you’re new to it, and often when you’re not. The best preparation for dating is to abandon fairy tale fantasies and prepare yourself for awkwardness, nervous chatting, deadly silence and possibly clumsy fumbling. First kisses are generally not the earth-shattering experiences you might imagine. It could end up being a nasty mess of clashing teeth, blackheads and saliva flavoured with cheap cans of cola.
Don’t be fooled by ‘big talk’ from your peer group. No teenager really knows what they’re doing, although many people will try to convince you that they do. And don’t lie to get a guy. “Yes, I love football; no better way to spend a Saturday afternoon,” The Matrix—my favourite movie. What a coincidence!? Rejection will happen. It is awful and you will feel as if the world has ended. My first love left me to go back to his ex. Even now, it hurts and I still feel a little bit indignant—how could he prefer her to me? If you like someone, a little bit of them will stay with you forever.
Not everyone is doing it: It’s OK to wait and absolutely OK to say ‘no.’ There is so much talk about sex among teens that you think you are the only one on the planet who isn’t bed-hopping on a nightly basis. You are not. Experience has taught me that those who boast, the loudest about sexual encounters, generally aren’t doing it at all. Nobody likes to feel left out, but it is your body and you should be in charge of what you do with it and whom you share it with.
When I lost my virginity at 17, it was with a mixture of pleasure but more than that, relief. Box ticked. Could I have waited longer? Yes. Was it with the right person? I thought so at the time. Did I feel more grown up? Not really. I still had to go home afterwards and finish my homework.
The first time might not be special: As with first kisses, your first sexual experience may not be the stuff of your wildest fantasies. Sex takes practice and it’s best with someone you love and who loves you.