Millennials, Modernity & Children
Written By: Bianca Ilunga
On an ordinary weekday you wake up at 5:45am, maybe hit the gym, take a nice jog in the neighborhood, or ponder about what your day looks like. By 7:00am you’ve done everything necessary to get ready for work and there goes…your day has started. You spend hours in the office or at meetings, return home to make a meal and either spend time with your husband or unpack your laptop and continue to chase after deadlines.
This can be the typical life of a modern, working and married millennial woman without children. Is this the life that women truly wish for? Has the stereotype of barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen become an old wife’s tale or is it still a reality for some? Perhaps it could be a nightmare that some modern women would choose to run away from. Needless to say, this is a broad topic which can be discussed from different angles, however at this time, I will deal with it from the angle of an entrepreneurial, working, ambitious, family-loving, married, millennial woman.
My vantage point
The best way in which I will engage on this topic is to give my own experience and what I have observed from the lives of the ladies closest to me. Having grown up in the city of gold, Egoli, with very ambitious siblings, I always knew that education was paramount, making a good living and having financial freedom (in the most prudent yet fun sense) was key to my livelihood, and that one day I would have my own family, perhaps a little dog and a white picket fence – LOL – or more like a high wall in a beautiful Johannesburg suburb, with a swimming pool and a Rottweiler. Although this is not necessarily my present status, the one question that I usually get asked without a doubt at family gatherings or when meeting old friends is, “You’ve been married for 3 years, how come you don’t have children yet?” This question is expected coming from an African family; although some may find it to be quite intrusive or insensitive, I am not offended by it as my husband and I have been intentional about our decision on when to start adding another member to our beautiful family of two.
Rhythms and cycles
For some couples the decision to have children may be circumstantial in that there may be health factors to consider. Where does this leave the woman who has no adverse factors at play; a woman who has a desire to become a mother, however finds herself at crossroads between her career and desires to be a corporate success and fulfill her heart’s desire to have and raise children? Does she have to neglect one over the other?
I was chatting to a friend recently – she is married with two children and working a demanding job at a major bank. She expressed how she found herself at crossroads in her career when she had two young children who needed her time, yet her job required the same time if not more, and she left me with this: “There will always be a demand for your time and energy at home and at work, especially when you’re in the phase of making a name for yourself in your job. Life has cycles, seasons and rhythms, it is important to understand these components. Put in the work, be excellent at what you do, but ultimately make an effort to understand what season you are in, the cycle of your family and work in order to make decisions and choices that are conducive.”
The ticking clock
Having Law as my chosen career, I have come across a few women and heard of a number of married women in the legal fraternity who delayed having children and put the majority of their time and energy to climbing up the corporate legal ladder. I have much respect for those women, however what happens if you wait too long? At this point the phrase, “the biological clock is ticking” becomes a sad reality for some as one can wait too long and by the time they have “made it” in terms of their career and are ready to have children it may be difficult to conceive due to age factors.
I have seen this to be common in that a lot more women are choosing to wait to have children and first focus on their careers. I was sharing with a friend recently that, my mother at my age of 30, already had 4 children and she was a working married woman. I am also exposed to a number of women particularly at the church I attend who are married, under the age of 35 and are happy stay-at-home mothers. These women genuinely love what they believe they have been called to do.
The psychology behind it
As a person who loves to read and discover different things, I was recently reminded that what shapes a person is largely attributed to the way in which they were brought up. In a book I’ve been reading “Men who hate women and women that love them” by Susan Forward, she writes about men who are described as misogynists (men who hate women) in the context of love relationships and what influences their behavior.
What is attributed to misogynistic behavior can be an emotional, physical or mentally abusive relationship with a parent, usually the mother in this case that damages the child during their early childhood or adolescent years. More than abuse what is commonly seen is the absence of a parent during these early developmental years. Young girls can also grow up to be unstable, wounded women who accept any kind of treatment from people because of growing up without a father or father figure due to divorce or the lack of attention and love.
There are a variety of reasons, but what I am getting at here is that a childhood lived without the necessary support, love, affection and attention from one’s parent can breed a very volatile, hostile or sensitive adult that does not have the willpower to face challenges that life throws at them and could in some instances become a danger to society. What I am further saying is that when making a decision to have children one must seriously consider their ability to make time to raise those children well, especially in their developmental years, which might mean that one is in a parenting season where their career choices and decisions may need to be adjusted to suit that season. Helpers, nannies and teachers can play key roles in a child’s development; however I do not believe they should replace the presence of a parent.
Each to her own
In the last two decades, particularly in the South African context, many more opportunities have been opened up to women. Many more women have become entrepreneurs, running successful companies, heading up departments etc., many more women feel the need to have a voice and a presence in male dominated professions. I honestly cannot judge any woman for making a choice to delay having children and focus on her career, to be a stay at home mom, or even to not have children at all. I respect all these decisions equally as they all require tenacity, patience and will power. Each home needs a steady income, and each person needs to have their own personal goals achieved. The decision to have children as a young working woman does not have to mean the end of a career. For those like me who endeavor to thrive in business and their vocations, and also want to raise a fearless, grounded, respectful family, I would say take stock: Know what you’re getting yourself into, understand the different seasons in your journey, and most importantly, pray for wisdom and guidance.
- BA (Industrial Psychology and Law) – University of the Witwatersrand;
- LLB – University of the Witwatersrand;
- Admitted Attorney of the High Court of South Africa.