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Why Are Some Women Choosing Childbirth Over Marriage?

“There is no man more single than a married man in Joburg.”


Joy FM host Naa Ashorkor Mensa-Doku wanted to know why modern women are choosing to have children outside of the confines of traditional marriage and there was no shortage of men waiting to give her an answer. In fact, there was such a noticeable dearth of female input on the subject (both from callers into and in the comments on social) that one man was compelled to point it out.

I found that hilarious. (You can watch/listen to the conversation here🙂

Generally, the type of women who would make such a bold step as to choose to bear and raise a child on their own neither have the time nor inclination of calling into radio programs to justify their life choices. Single parenting is all consuming work, so I was not surprised that so few women devoted time in their day in order to subject themselves to the sort of barrage that the lone single mother on the panel found herself subjected to.

Nevertheless, it is a topic of great interest and I’m really glad Naa Ashorkor tackled it. The dynamics of family life – globally – are changing. For some Africans, those changes are too quick and too radical. That we cannot fathom the idea of a woman choosing to have a baby outside of wedlock means we are far from prepared to cope with the notion of families headed by same-sex partners – or worse – women as heads of the household.

Though in vain, Mrs. Mensa-Doku tried to keep the conversation on course by tackling why a woman might choose to have a baby without pledging herself to a man in marriage. There was a lot of discussion about family structure from a Christian context, which I found particularly unhelpful. Not everyone in Ghana, or the world for that matter, is a Christian. And even within Christianity the rules are not homogenous. Some Christians believe in child marriage, polygamy and economic disenfranchisement to the detriment of women. Some Christians believe that a rapist ought to be compelled to marry his victim. Some Christians believe that women ought to be silent in the church. Some Christians believe that women ought not have C-Sections to deliver their child, because such a medical procedure contravenes the purpose of God’s plan and retribution (that a woman ought to experience pain) through childbirth. I think it’s dangerous to try to argue anything so personal as childbirth from a Christian perspective without first defining what that perspective is. And in any case, the hearer has the liberty to reject that notion or definition.

Although I haven’t seen any scientific evidence to suggest that a significant number of women are choosing babies over marriage, I do fully acknowledge that single motherhood is becoming more prevalent in our society. There are a number of factors that contribute to this: divorce (the rates are way up), widowhood, unintended pregnancies in the confines of casual relationships…even more unpleasant and horrific situations like rape and incest. In this regard, single motherhood is not a positive personal choice. Becoming a mother in this way is not something most women look forward to or count on.

I can’t speak in general, but from what I’ve observed from my own circle of friends, the type of woman who would eschew marriage and opt to have a baby on her own is well-educated on the subject, has considered the optics and the opposition to her choice, is financially stable enough to support herself as well as a child, and has made a conscious decision to expand her network in order to help her raise that child successfully. And the truth of the matter is, a lot of these women just don’t want to deal with the emotional toll that comes with navigating male whims…or what Ghanaian men like to refer to as “submission”.

If you ask a man to define submission, he will struggle to do so in a manner that does not suggest that a woman is less human than he is. Women want a partnership in marriage, whereas society cues men to seek obsequiousness instead. Even one of the panelists on Naa Ashorkor’s show said that there cannot be “two masters” in a household, an idea that some women would find appalling. I certainly do. My husband is not my master, nor I his. And since it is inconceivable that a woman can be a fully functioning, sentient and responsible human being, one would rather choose to be single than to pledge herself to someone who views her as inferior.

“There is no man more single than a married man in Joburg.”

I saw this quote on Twitter, which was followed quickly by retweets revising the word ‘Joburg’ with Accra, Lagos, etc. The fact of the matter is, there are a lot of men for whom marriage does not equate to monogamy. Marriage is the springboard from which they bounce from one casual relationship to the next. Women who know this – but know they cannot accept it – abstain from marriage, especially in cultures where this behavior is excused as ‘normal’ or ‘biological’.

That doesn’t take away the desire to be a mother, however.

Motherhood is not the goal of every woman, but there are some for whom their life’s work would not be complete without achieving that milestone. The same goes for marriage. I know women who are wonderful single mothers who have raised exceptional children. I know children who were raised in two parent households and turned out to be abysmal people. At the root of the issue is: how equipped is the person(s) raising this child to help them achieve the highest level of self-actualization possible? If the adults in the house have not created an environment where they themselves strive for persistent personal improvement, that’s not a trait that they can pass down to their kids. If a boy grows up seeing his mother groveling and attending to his father’s needs while neglecting her own in the name of submission, it is likely that that image colors his image of women. And so the first woman he meets that has strong opinions (or any opinions), has a handle on her personal finances and is decisive, he feels threatened. He may be excited by her, but invests more time in altering her into his idea of what a woman ought to be than appreciating and discovering who she is. And for her part, she may find him attractive and pleasant to be around, despite his insecurities, but is smart enough to know and understand that it would take too long for him to understand that she is NOT going to change. But she can’t wait around for him to come to this realization. He’d make excellent looking babies. A baby she is capable of looking after on her own. A baby he is free to come around to see…or not.

For some women, this is the best possible outcome. This may come as a shock, but DNA is all that some women require of men. That’s why sperm banks exist.

I am forced to wonder if this fretting about single motherhood by choice has anything to do with meninist angst over women gaining increased social capital and power. Of course, the hoteps view this choice as a personal affront to their masculinity and part of the white feminist agenda to destroy Black men.


Why do you think more women are choosing to have and raise children on their own? Is this better or worse for our global society?


This article has 6 comments

  1. Andreas

    To begin with the child. What is best for the child? There has been a lot of research done on children growing up with single mothers BY CHOICE, the last 30 years. They all conclude with the same thing: children of single mothers by choice not only do not suffer from growing up in a single mother household, they do usually a bit better than children of two parent families. There is a simple reason behind this: these children have been wanted and wished for from the beginning, from even before they were made. They are thoroughly loved. Where as children in two parent families usually come in to being as a result of, “oops…”.

    Regarding the women. What’s better for her? She has the child/children without the bond to one man. So if she later finds a man that she loves, that loves her, and her children as a part of her, she can welcome him in to and as a part of the family. Any dick can be a donor, but it takes a real man to be a father. If it doesn’t work out… She is not only free to leave, but the child/children will always have that stable parent to turn to, that safe harbour, no matter what. They will never be used as a weapon against parents who hate each other.

    • Malaka

      This is a very thoughtful answer, Andrea. I came to a similar conclusion about the relationship aspect as well. Time is against you when conception in concerned. There is only a certain window for fertility. One is able to dedicate more time to finding an appropriate life partner when the pressure is off.

      Thanks for your feedback and pointing to research! 🙂

    • Malaka Gyekye Grant

      This is a very thoughtful answer, Andrea. I came to a similar conclusion about the relationship aspect as well. Time is against you when conception in concerned. There is only a certain window for fertility. One is able to dedicate more time to finding an appropriate life partner when the pressure is off.

      Thanks for your feedback and pointing to research! 🙂

  2. Seli

    Haha…that was a great discussion to listen in on…despite having panelists on opposing ends, conversation came across as mutually respectful and the host did a brilliant job of maintaining objectivity.

    To the topic at hand:

    After all is said and done, this boils down to choice doesn’t it? Isn’t this just really the crux of the issue? The fact that more women have choices available that they didn’t previously have and therefore there’s a frantic little primitive remnant in the brains of most men (and some women) freaking out about potential changes to the Power dynamics of the sexes?

    For all the talk of Christian values, the Bible labels fornication and adultery as sin but has no condemnation for artificial insemination (at least last I read and I stand to be corrected). So at the end of the day if there’s no offense to anyone or to God then why are we manufacturing slights against humanity and societal standards that are really guises for a challenge against fragile male egos?

    God help us, women! I tell you, sometimes it is a burden simply existing on this planet in this physical form.

    • Malaka Gyekye Grant

      I believe you’ve hit the nail on the head. All this fretting comes down to anxiety to women having greater CHOICE. I don’t think there has been a time in recent history where women have had as much access to education and capital as we do now. And we still want and will fight for more!

      E hard, but alluta continua.

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