Childfree, happy: Women who
With a yearly population growth rate of 2.6%, Kenya’s population in 2015 was estimated by the World Bank to stand at 47.24 million. On average, the World Bank says, every woman in the country gives birth to 4.26 children. It therefore comes as a surprise that there is a small but growing coterie of women (and men) who, irrespective of the fact they have no medical complications that would prevent them from having children, have decided that kids are not in the cards for them. Not today, not ever! The politically correct term of such a lifestyle is “child-free”, not to be conflated with “childless.”
Ms Tarurî Gatere, a Nairobi-based life-coach and wellness instructor, is one such woman who has no desire to give life to or raise children of her own. “For as long as I can remember, I have always known that I did not want to have children of my own,” the 33 year-old says. “I kept my decision under wraps for a long time though, because I was not sure how people would react when they heard of my decision. However, about 4 years ago, I decided to ‘come out’ and speak out about my decision,” she reveals.
When she first told her parents and siblings that she was determined to lead a child-free life, nobody believed her. She narrates, “They thought that I was just joking and the feeling would pass. However, as the years rolled on and I remained resolute, they came to accept and support my decision unconditionally.”
Ms Gatere acknowledges that our society has certain expectations of a woman her age. However, she insists that she has always been a rebellious spirit who seeks to question social norms. “Although not having kids is a private decision, I have chosen to speak of my decision on several public platforms in order to prove that we do not have to stick to the paths that society expects us to follow,” says Ms Gatere.
She explains that her courage to speak out about her decision has opened her eyes to the fact that she is not the only Kenyan woman in that school of thought. Scores of women and men, she reveals, have reached out to her expressing similar views. She says, “Knowing that I am helping others find courage in their own divergent voices has always encouraged me to speak my truth.”
While stating that American media icon Oprah Winfrey has been her role model since childhood, Gatere says that being child-free allows ones to devote their time, resources and efforts into finding and fulfilling their life-purpose. Oprah Winfrey has repeatedly stated she does not believe that she would have made a great mother because she would likely have neglected her children in order to focus on her career.
When it comes to unsolicited advice from friends, family and even foes online, Gatere admits that she has heard it all. She says, “People always tell me about how I would make a great mum, how my life will find meaning when I have children, how no one will take care of me while I am old and how I will regret my decision when I’m past my child-bearing age. They say that I’m selfish and some even accuse me of being a feminist, as if that’s something to be ashamed about.”
While she says that people within her inner circle are comfortable with her decision, the greatest grief that she gets comes from virulent trolls on social media. “People come online and insult me saying that I am promiscuous and that I have probably procured many abortions and that is why I cannot have children. I have since learned not to be fazed by the negative comments because my decision only affects me, I am not hurting anyone else. If someone who does not even know me gets