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Nkem Says: First Comes the Marriage, Then the Baby… Or Maybe Not!

Nkem Ndem

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Growing up in the eastern part of Nigeria, we dreamed of getting married before having children: you meet a man or woman, introduce him/her to your parents, go on to have a traditional wedding, then a white wedding before having kids.

It was the right thing to do, not just as Christians but as well-raised children from reputable homes. Never for one minute did we imagine for ourselves a different turn like getting pregnant  while still a teenager and being forced to have and care for the baby or opting to have a child without necessarily being married because we don’t want marriage at all or we still haven’t found love and age is no longer on our side. How could we imagine it? There were hardly any exceptions… and even the few exceptions were sort of kept under tight wraps.

When I was about 13, one of my best friends got pregnant. She had dared to have sex at a young age (she was 14). This girl was not only shunned by her parents, she was quickly taken away by her aunty to her village to have the child. The child was then left behind with the grandmother. It was kept“hush hush” and the family was not disgraced.

The father had actually wanted to force a wedding between her and the father of the child, but in a bid to protect her future, she told them she did not know who the father was. She wanted to keep the baby and raise it on her own, but the family would not abide the dishonour.

Let’s face it, she was 14. She could barely already cater for her own self. The main problem her parents had was that she had deviated from the traditional structure: sex after marriage to ensure child birth only after marriage, and it was unacceptable.

Of course, things are a little different now. Nigeria has since seen a dramatic liberalisation of sexual attitudes: you can boldly announce that you have a lover while still unmarried and no one will turn up their noses at you; you can cheat on your spouse and it would be overlooked; you can also even “abandon” your husband a few weeks into the marriage in the name of  a divorce and you will not be judged too harshly; however, somehow unmarried motherhood has remained a sort of taboo.

In an argument with a couple of friends in a chat room, I mentioned that they had to start saving up money for my baby shower as I had plans to harvest sperm from one of my male friends and have a baby by next year. I meant it as a joke, but clearly they took it a little too seriously and attacked me.  Not one of them out of the entire 16 members in the group, including the ones that had lived abroad the most of their adult lives, supported my decision. I mean, when I saw that they took it seriously, I kind of went with it, to see where it would lead.

The first person was of the argument that I was being impatient, and I should wait on the Lord and not deviate from his plans for me. According to them, having a child out of wedlock, even if I could afford to raise it on my own was just not right or respectable. Another person suggested that raising a child on my own was a huge responsibility that comes with an elevated risk of falling into poverty. She suggested that in supporting the child (For example, while trying to care for myself during pregnancy, and then for the newborn and growing child), I was more likely not going to be able to keep with all my jobs, and I may have to take a lesser paying job, which would be the gateway to  poverty.

The last person was the one who came at me the most. She said that I was being selfish as not only will I bring a child into the world to face soci-oeconomic disadvantages, but also deal with emotional traumas that will certainly play out as behavioural issues. According to her, there is a certain stability and safety that comes with a child knowing that both of her parents are committed to each other and married. Then advised that if I had the baby fever that bad, it is better I do some good and adopt a child, than bring a fresh child, of my own blood, into such a situation.

My counter arguments were as follows: First, while parenthood outside wedlock has its own unique financial planning challenges, it is not something that cannot be tackled.  Not too long ago, the norm was one parent (the man) supporting the family and the family enjoying economic upward mobility nevertheless. My father did it. Many fathers have done it. Why then is the assumption that, as a single mother, I cannot support a child and have her enjoy the same?

Secondly, there are many successful, well-adjusted children who come from single parent households. Being a single parent is not a guarantee that the child will be lacking emotionally or otherwise.

Lastly, what if it is part of God’s plan for me is to have a child before marriage? What if it is a grooming process for me or something? And what on earth makes bringing a child into this world “not right”?

It appears the cultural and religious views of marriage before pregnancy are still very valid. People don’t want to hear that you are a mother without a husband because it visibly screws with the stereotype. Even if you earn so much, are independent and can clearly take care of your child, they still look down at you… because it still is an “untraditional” way of bringing children into the world.

This negative reaction to single parenting is probably why people are forced to marry people they don’t want to, so that they can have a safe covering for bringing in their child to the world.  Marriage should be a commitment separate from pregnancy. People should be able to make the choice to become parents, without pressure from outside forces. What do you think?

Nkem Ndem is a dynamic freelance writer and editor who can be reached for copywriting, editing and proofreading. She is also a content creator (web, T.V, radio) who has had stints with Jumia and SpiceTV Africa e.t.c. Now she works at Glam Africa as Online editor and BellaNaija as Features writer. E-mail: [email protected]; IG: @kem_dem; Twitter: @ndemv

25 Comments

  1. Jummy

    April 13, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    Nkem I have one thing to say: if you think God’s plans for you including purposely becoming a single mother, then I’m sorry to say that you know almost nothing about God and the way he works. God will never purposely put you in such a situation.

    What he does is that he works through our mistakes and human error to ensure his plans for us come to fruition.

    These stupid liberal ideas filtering to Nigeria is adding to the already detrimental situation in the country. How can you purposely want to become a single parent? Like how? That is not God’s plan for anyone! God’s plan is that children are born in the confines of HEALTHY 2-PARENT households.

    And yes, a retort to my assertion would be the how the state of marriages in Nigeria have disproved my statement. Marriages in Nigeria are mostly not how God intended marriages to be. Healthy, God-centered marriages are more likely to bring about well-rounded adults. Do you watch crime shows at all? I binge watch them and when most of these people tell their stories, more than 90% of them come from single parent households where there’s an absent father.

    This article is so ridiculous that it’s utter baloney!

    • SoniaPaloma

      April 13, 2018 at 3:30 pm

      I beg to differ that figure re crime shows. Actually a high number of them come from an unhappy home with both parents with unhealthy living standards. Infact, most were abused by the so called father. Not trying to dispute the point you made regarding the importance of both parents, just commenting on the crime show statement 🙂

    • gbaskelebo

      April 13, 2018 at 4:38 pm

      Tell them!

    • Abi

      April 14, 2018 at 12:33 pm

      I didn’t read your entire comment but I get the gist.
      The assumption that single mothers all had their children ‘outside’ of marriage is very inaccurate. Widows, divorcees can be single mothers.

      I’m seriously contemplating what Nkem talks about. I was married for a few years and (speaking about God’s plans) did not have a child. If I did would it have been God’s plan then for me to have been a single mother because I’m single now? My ex was a destructive person from a destructive family. God delivered me kicking and screaming from a very very bad marriage. So having a child (from that marriage) now in my current single status would be viewed as more acceptable because he or she resulted from a marriage?
      There’s no biological or physical provision for marriage. There’s no marriage gene or wedding glands common to living things. But the ability to procreate, to continue, is a God given ability common to all with breath. I see God’s plan in this.

  2. SoniaPaloma

    April 13, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    To be honest, I dont even know again. I was/am for getting married before having kids, but then again; the world is changing and a lot of women are not ready to deal with some incompetent men. My own is, just do you when the time comes.

    • ProudNigerian

      April 13, 2018 at 3:12 pm

      Nawa for the world is changing. If you grew up with a single parent or grand parents you will know the importance of having both parents in your life. Please don’t deny a child of a healthy life! Eku world changers!

    • SoniaPaloma

      April 13, 2018 at 3:39 pm

      @ProudNigerian
      Please go back to reading what I wrote, I am not advocating against the importance of having both parents. contrary, I am for it. I cannot deny a child the importance of a father figure but we should also not negate the fact that, there are a lot of kids who turned out better than the so called kids with both parents in their life. In other words, most African fathers were absent in the life of their kids as they believe kids are for the women only and look at some of the caliber of men in this generation that have been raised?
      We believe so much in marriage but fail to actually educate ourselves on the importance of being a role model to our kids. Being a father goes beyond just providing sperm and money for basic needs 🙂

    • BlueEyed

      April 13, 2018 at 3:45 pm

      @ProudNigerian I know so many children out of single parent homes that turned out very fine, they didn’t lack any emotional or financial support, they have gone ahead to have their own families. Now I also know so many children from both parent homes that are emotionally unstable and even hate or are not in contact with their parents now.
      On this topic, whether it is a liberal idea or not, I believe a woman or man who is ready, emotionally, financially and in other aspects can informatively raise his/her own child on his/her own decision. Marriage is not for everybody, if culture does not agree then culture is obsolete and pointless because I don’t see the point in following a culture that supports polygamy, patriarchy and infidelity and frowns against a child outside marriage.
      The World is hard as it is, please don’t conform to any foolish rules because of people that don’t even have their own shit together.
      Quick story, my fiancé had always had failed relationships and people who used him and didn’t understand love and commitment the way he does, (he is no lies no exaggeration one of the most amazing individuals to walk this earth in my opinion) . He gave up on love and relationships and decided to have a child that he could shower all that love to, a child that would love him unconditionally, he had the baby (not while dating, but from a willing lady who carried the child for him contractually). after one year we met, he is an exceptional father and I am even taking notes for him for when I have my own.

    • CrazyWorld

      April 13, 2018 at 5:05 pm

      A lot of men are not ready for incompetent women with sense of entitlement too. Give me a child, let me have the baby and go my way. We are all happy at the end!

  3. John

    April 13, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    Actually, I understand nkem…

    If I am single fat womam nearing menopause , frustrated and bitter against men for using and dumping me after all the years of forming strong and what a man can do , a woman can do better..

    With so many body counts …and no hope of marriage or atleast the type and caliber of man I want not giving me a second glance unless it is for hit and run sex( which i feel made me strong in my younger days but no longer cute now and also bcos much younger and beautiful girls have taking over )..believe me, I will op for some sperm donor too.

    • Ebuka

      April 13, 2018 at 10:47 pm

      Lol. @John Nkem is hardly nearing menopause, neither is she even fat or all these things you mention. Dont let her articles decieve you. go check out her IG account for yourself. I think she just writes all of this to rile people like you up. And you are falling in her trap nwokem.

  4. Temi

    April 13, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    I agree with you!

  5. Olu

    April 13, 2018 at 5:26 pm

    I believe children should be born within the confines of marriage. However, I also believe that women have a limited time frame within which they can realistically have kids. While I do not support premarital sex and single parenthood generally, I believe that a single mature woman whose biological clock is ticking should be able to get a sperm donor and perhaps have her own child. At least if husband no come, one should not be denied the joy of having kids as well.
    I’m married now and dealing with certain fertility issues. Knowing what I know about women’s fertility now, if your biological clock is ticking and you really desire kids, please go for it before its too late.

  6. Donnffd

    April 13, 2018 at 6:48 pm

    I agree with you 100%, there is nothing wrong in being a single parent, if thats your wish then do your thing

  7. Donnffd

    April 13, 2018 at 6:54 pm

    I actually agree with you 100%…you know we have this archaic culture that marriage is the ultimate goal of a woman…I say bulls—, pardon my French, First of all, Marriage is an outdated concept, it should have been reformed especially in our day and age where women and men in a just society are on the same footing.Secondly, marriage is not for everyone…marriage is the only institution that gives you a certificate before entering, what?…majority of peeps hate their marriages and a good number especially the women would sit in there because society is against a single divorced woman

  8. Liz

    April 13, 2018 at 8:25 pm

    Has anyone even for a moment considered what’s best for the child in question? I was privileged to grow up with both my parents, and I know what the advantages of having both parents present in a child’s life are. I have friends who were not as privileged as I was. I know the scars they had to deal with . Now sometimes being a single parent is unavoidable, and that’s very understandable. But please don’t encourage a society where people consciously strive to have kids with one parent absent. Trust me, it’s something that would always haunt a child. A child needs both parents in their lives.( These doesn’t off course apply to abusive or irresponsible parents).

  9. Alterego

    April 13, 2018 at 11:12 pm

    I like this article. Food for thought. A society accepts polygamy, absentee parents, infidelity but won’t accept a woman having a child without a husband even if she used a sperm donor.

  10. The real dee

    April 14, 2018 at 9:03 am

    If you’re considering becoming a single parent(i.e. those looking to simply get pregnant by anyone and bear a child), please think twice. It is emotionally stressful to care for a child alone, by yourself, without support. It can be draining. It can drive you crazy.

    I’m not a single parent but there are times hubby has to be away for work and I have to shoulder the responsibility of caring for our child alone. In those times, I empathize with those who have to do it alone, without support. It is absolutely stressful, sometimes you even become overwhelmed and you may feel like having Casper powers. As the kids grow, they even start bothering you with questions, ‘mummy, where is daddy?’, ‘daddy, who is my mummy?’, ‘mum, how come everyone in my class has a mummy and daddy and I have only a mummy?’, endless headache producing questions and unsatisfactory explanations.

    If you think you have people to drop off the child with and you’ll be fine, for how long do you want to inconvenience them?
    Having kids is not just about being financially capable but being emotionally available and that latter part is quite burdensome when you have to do it alone. So, I won’t encourage anyone to delve into single parenthood.

  11. Veegirl

    April 15, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    It’s good to do things that make you happy as long as it doesn’t hurt a 3rd party. Yes, the ideal thing is for a child to be raised by both parents. But what happens when one parent dies or when there is divorce. Single parenting is tough but it’s way doable. If you are a woman and have not found love but you are close to menopause, I see no crime in getting a sperm donor to have a child. As long as you are financially and emotionally ready. One of the writers friend advised her to adopt a child. Is it safer to raise an adopted child as a single parent than your own child? Do you know that there is hardly any legal adoption in Nigeria? Young ladies get pregnant and sell the babies at ridiculous prices. I have married friends with fertility problem who applied to the state ministry for adoption and for over 7 years no child has being made available to them. Those my friends unfortunately don’t have good money to buy babies from baby factories. I am a mum of 2 and yes, I know how difficult it is for both parents to raise kids let alone one parent. But I have seen both men and women raise their kids alone and they did an awesome job. I have always wanted to have my own kids. If I weren’t married and I am approaching menopause, I sure will get a sperm donor and I will do all it takes to raise the child well.

  12. Veegirl

    April 15, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    Humans are created to give and receive love. I have seen very good girls or boys give genuine love but never get same in return. I have seen good girls and boys become very unlucky in relationships. Speaking for some women, at some point in a woman’s life(mostly at older age), when love has severally failed. She keeps yearning to give and receive love, she begins to give love to someone who on a good day she will not even look at let alone love. And sometimes, the love fails. Such mistake continues if she doesn’t divert the love to a good source. My advice is, when a woman gets to that point in life, find something or someone to give that love to. Most of the time, I would say, get a sperm donor and have your own child. Bearing in mind that single parenting is tough. With a well raised child, you give that love and you receive it back. Yes, a child will ask questions. Who is my daddy? Why don’t I have a daddy? Explain to the child when he or she comes of age. I was raised in love by both parents. But if my mum was ever faced with such predicament and had to get a sperm donor to birth me. With the right knowledge, I will love her choice.

  13. omomo

    April 15, 2018 at 8:22 pm

    see ehn ..i used to think a bit like Nkem ..but now as i have my kids and i see the benefits of having 2 parents .if you have sons there will come a time you will be looking for a father figure for them if you don’t have one..my spouse is not perfect but i am glad he is there for things only a man in my opinion can impart on his kids …..most guys i know who grew up without a father will tell you that they miss that part of their lives and women too..Daddy issues is not a good thing for a child to have to deal .

  14. molarah

    April 16, 2018 at 10:42 pm

    Nobody has yet addressed the issue of how you explain to a child – who sees their peers being raised in loving 2-parent household, with mums and dads to call their own – that they are aproduct of a sperm donor.

    That one of the two persons responsible for their being here on earth, couldn’t be bothered to know their identity, and to share their identity with the child.

    All these women pushing sperm donor agenda should better start saving up for the therapy bills further down in the future. It’s one of the most selfish decisions any individuals can take, quote me anywhere.

  15. Tolulope Orimogunje

    April 17, 2018 at 12:09 am

    One thing I understand about life is its dialectics. Life is made of opposites. If we clamor from Today till tomorrow, not everybody will go into marriage or a successful one. That is what we call life. It can’t be all that YOU want it to be. Just manage and live it the way it presented itself to you. We have different dates and have not been living outside God’s knowing

  16. sky solanki

    May 9, 2018 at 9:50 am

    Hello my name is sky I’m 24 any aunty need love then contact me I’m alone
    Sry but I hate girls

  17. Sylvia

    May 31, 2018 at 1:54 am

    Thank you so [email protected] I was beginning to wonder what was going on in the comment section. Sorry but most of the comments are from a bunch of selfish individuals. We are talk about children here, human beings, people! How is it OK to bring a child into this world because you have the finance and you think one would make you whole. Have we considered how these kids would feel about you bringing them into this world only to be bashed and scrutinized for not having a father in their lives. God’s plan is for kids to come from both parents, he knew it was best that way,thus; he made it so. We need to realise that a child, man. friends, work, societal validation would not make us whole. Only God will(whether you like it or not its the truth).

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