As the Clock Ticks Down...

Like millions of others, I’ve been completely engrossed in the madness that is the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament; watching as many of the contests come down to the final seconds and desperate attempts are made to keep dream seasons alive. As coaches and players have dealt with the thrill of victory and agony of defeat on the court, on three occasions I’ve spoken with women who seem to be dribbling against a clock of their own, their biological clock. It seems as if these women are facing pressure, internally and externally, to produce children, in spite of the fact that not one of them is married. These women have advanced degrees, are climbing career ladders and are homeowners, but they all feel a void in the area of motherhood. In the 90-plus minutes of conversation held, only one mentioned marriage and that seemed to be a fleeting thought, so I was left to wonder, is having a child the sum of a woman’s existence?

Sunday was National Black Marriage Day (no, it’s not on your calendar), a day activists and marriage enthusiasts attempt to use to strengthen and promote healthy relationships in our community that lead to successful marriages. I know it sounds like bullshit to cynics, but there are folks out there that still believe in the institution of marriage for more than the sake of tax breaks and having children, some people actually fall and remain in love before they jump the broom. What happens after is a completely different subject, the kind of conversation that was being held at these Black Marriage Day events across the country through film, activity and discourse.

One startling number jumped out at me while perusing the material for the weekend; 78% of African-American women giving birth in 2008 were unwed. I initially thought it was a typo, then I invariably harkened back to those conversations I had and realized while that number may be overblown, I can see its feasibility. Maybe it was all that “House” they played as little girls or it could’ve been the caring for Cabbage Patch Kids, but somewhere along the line the “mommy” gene gets really strong and takes precedence. However, only that staggering number was thrown out there, it doesn’t say how many of those mothers go on to marry shortly after. (You know how we do, have our kids as flower girls and ring bearers in our weddings.) The effect of that statistic was tactical and worked, because it appears in every article I Googled on the topic and was undoubtedly the main talking point throughout the weekend.

When my own impending nuptials entered the conversation, it was immediately asked if I was going to produce a mini-me and when my answer was in the negative, you would’ve thought I said F Barack Obama! I was called selfish for not wanting to have kids and it was almost impossible for them to believe that not having children was something my future wife really agreed to. In fact, before she and I knew the other existed, we had made the decision to not have kids. Instead, we’ve chosen to spend the rest of our days growing in Christ and in love, completing goals we’ve set individually and collectively, while being qualitative contributors to our community. In those plans, children were not an option for us, but continuous work on our relationship is a necessity.

When I posed the marriage question to my friends, the answer went from “If it happens” to “I don’t want to be married”, but having a child was the priority. One even joked that she would like a DNA sample from me, while the others just seemed to need a donor. I’m no expert on Women’s Studies, but I do think that being a woman has a bit more to do with loving yourself, expanding your worldview, extolling other virtues of womanhood, embracing sisterhood and being an example to others, rather than your ability to procreate. I’m not saying marriage is the be-all, end-all, but there has to be more in your quest for fulfillment than having a child. If not, it may be time reprioritize, because that’s no small task and going it alone makes it even greater. The underlying need for having someone or something to love you can be satisfied in getting yourself a cat or simply learning to love yourself better. But like I said, I’m not an expert and I am a man, so my opinion matters little to most women. However, I will be going deeper to find out what is going on...stay tuned!

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