Every time I go back to the Eastern Cape, I am reminded of how much time has passed. In 2016 I went back to East London and the first question of every conversation I had with people I hadn’t seen for years was, “Awumdala, awunamntana nangoku?” which means, “You older, do you still not have a child?”

Somehow, somewhere it was decided that a woman in her early 20s should have at least one child.

It didn’t matter to them that I passed my matric, graduated university and am currently the breadwinner at home. It didn’t matter that my dreams for my 20s is to build my mom a house, take my sister to the best school and travel the world. You see to society it seems my value is only as important as how many children I have or might have.

I remember during my matric year, I had a very complicated relationship with my first ever boyfriend. I met him in grade 10; he was and still is the most handsome boy/man I have ever seen. He was sitting in the front, with the most beautiful dark skin, a smile that I knew would break my heart one day and eyes that drew me in while also chasing away all my doubts about him. It took a long year of courting through Mxit for us to finally talk to each other. He was painfully shy, so I had to take the initiative with most of our relationship. I didn’t mind as I knew I was an alpha female.

We dated during grade 11 but dreams and aspirations were always number one in my heart. Unfortunately, he wasn’t driven as I was, he bunked school most of the time and failed most of his subjects, but you couldn’t tell me nothing. I was in love, to me he was a bad boy I felt I could tame. When the relationship progressed, he gave me an ultimatum to sleep with him to prove my love or break up. And guess what? We broke up.

During our relationship, he was obsessed with the idea of having children and what we would name them. Mind you, we were only 17 years old. When we broke up my friends at the time were shocked that I would leave the relationship, because surely if a handsome boy says we must sleep together, as the girl I should be honoured. However, that has never been my mind-set. In a way I feel like I was too driven, my dreams were too important to me. Later that same year two of my closest friends had kids and I moved to Cape Town.

In Cape Town it’s different but still the same struggle. The first question men ask during the talking stage is, “How many kids do you have?” To some extent, this is fair, because you can’t assume that people don’t have children. What bothers me is their follow up question after I say I don’t have children. They say, “Haibo njani ungabinabo mos umdala,” which means, “How? You are old enough to have them,” It is as if they can’t possibly comprehend why I don’t have them.

My choice to not have children now is not a political statement, and it’s not like I don’t want them because I do. However, women shouldn’t have to explain why the do or don’t want children.

A single mom raised me and as a first born you see the struggles of you parents the most, you even bear some of them. In addition, people forget that just because a person is a woman doesn’t mean they want to have children. I have many friends who don’t ever want to have children. Some people may not even be able to have children; I also have some close friends that have struggled to a point where they have given up. The problem here is society has made a box for us that seems to have a time limit as well. At a certain age you are expected to have had at least one child, it doesn’t matter what we see for ourselves what matters, it seems, is what society sees for us.

I’m here to tell you to not let anyone tell you what to do with your body. I am an educated 24-year-old, I have a job and maybe a million steps closer to my dreams but every day I wake and choose to live my life the way I want. We are more than our ability to produce generations; we are more than sisters, mothers, daughters or girlfriends. We are people with dreams and if we have to remind society every August to stop stereotyping us, that’s what we will do. Happy Women’s month Queens.


This piece is part of a special collection of essays and poems called Women in the World. Click here to browse more stimulating reads.

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