More Than One Way to Leave a Legacy

by Justine Cullinan

Much to the chagrin of many of my friends, colleagues and most notably, my husband, I have never quite managed to shake my liberal arts, philosophy major, Rhodes University background. In light of this, it gives me great joy that social conversations at random gatherings in Jozi seem to have evolved into more modern contexts recently. When it comes to unmarrieds moving in together, women pursuing careers and university degrees, gay and lesbian sexual orientations or mixed race relationships, we seem to have made some much needed progress. 20 years ago these entirely acceptable life choices would have been social taboo. But for some reason thereís one area thatís stuck in the dark ages; that of having kids.

Somewhere along the path to liberation and freedom of choice, we seem to have forgotten that having children is just that; a choice. I cannot count the number of times that Iíve been asked when I am having kids. Please note the use of the word Ďwhení as though being married means itís only a matter of time (or fertility treatment) until Iíll give birth.

I am going to come right out and say that I donít want kids. But thatís me. Itís not a judgement on anyone who has or intends to have kids.

These are the top 5 outcries I get when I tell people that Iím not planning on having kids.

1 Ė Who will look after you when youíre old?

I hate to outline the sad truth here but very few old people are looked after by their children. They may see their children at family events or receive money from them to assist with their care or they may have good relationships with them but in truth, very few people can claim that their children are their primary source of income let alone company and friendship in their old age. I certainly wouldnít want my kids to feel obligated to visit me and endure my stories, which Iíve probably told them a thousand times. The last thing I want to be is a burden to the people I love. Having kids is not an insurance policy. If you want to be taken care of, start saving and spending wisely.

2 Ė Wonít you feel left out when all your friends have kids?

Several of my friends have kids, and I can say with complete confidence that I donít feel left out at all. I much prefer having their little ones around, or taking care of my niece and nephew for an afternoon, and handing them back when its bedtime or thereís a soiled nappy to be changed. Going one step further, itís very sad that so many educated successful women can end up feeling undermined and helpless when they embark on child-rearing. Whatís worse is that many of them feel guilty for missing their old lives and dare I say, regretful of their current choices. Thatís the catch though, once you have them you canít give your kids back. More simplistically, having friends is about embracing different choices and supporting each other through those choices. Thatís something my mom taught me.

3 Ė Isnít that a really selfish decision?

This is the one I just really donít understand. If I turn that statement on its head, what is the massively selfless contribution to society that a person makes by having children? Isnít it just as selfish to have kids? A child doesnít choose to be brought into the world. He or she is created by parents knowledgeable that what they are doing may result in a child. In many areas of parenting, having kids seems to be extremely selfish. Parents arenít doing the world any favours environmentally and there seems to be just as much of a chance that youíll give birth to a rapist or a junkie or an auditor as you are likely to give birth to the next Steve Jobs or Beyonce or Nelson Mandela.

4 Ė If you donít want kids why did you get married?

My husband is an amazing, inspiring, loving and supportive human being. I canít imagine my life without him. He is beyond valuable to me in more ways I can express in words. Reducing him to the role of a sperm donor from whom I demand genetic material is the very least of what he could contribute to my life.

5 Ė You would make such a good parent though!

That is a very kind thing to say. The reason I say that is because it is by no means easy to raise a child. Being a parent is damn hard work. As Elizabeth Stone once said, ďHaving a child is like deciding forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.Ē There is however an important point to make, just because you can do something, doesnít mean you should. If that was true Iíd own a helluva lot more over-priced footwear.

Of course I reserve the right to change my mind but for now Iíll keep my career, my overseas holidays and my awesome sex life.

Justine is the #BossLady at 5FM and on top of being a foodie, wannabe Ballerina, fashion slayer and shoe lover, she is overachieving at life by studying her Masters degree. Weíre also slightly jealous of her incredibly long legs. You can follow her witty 140s on Twitter here: @shoeshanista.

Justine Cullinan Station Manager 5FM