Are More Black Women Saying “No” To Motherhood?

I was about 11 or 12 when I started thinking about having babies. There was nothing nefarious about it I didn't have a boyfriend (or any firm prospects, even), wasn't anywhere near getting my first kiss, let alone doing what it took to make a child. Still, I distinctly remember sitting in my hot pink room, sun shining through flower-print curtains, listening to Teena Marie on my static-filled alarm clock radio, jotting down baby names in my notebook. Khary for a boy. Maybe Cori or Amina for a girl.

Having a baby was a given. A right. An expectation. An aspiration. And as soon as I finished college and found myself a good job and got myself a fine career and found me a good man, I got down to the business of becoming a mother.

But this seems to be the thinking of a bygone generation. I have friends who, single and getting on in their years, aren't really pressed about having babies. Sure, they'd like to, but really, they insist the sun will still rise and the Earth will still spin if they don't become mothers. That they'll be just fine.

And then I have younger friends, still, who say they don't want to be mothers. Like, ever. Their line of thinking synchs up with this poignant essay I read on Clutch:

Not too long ago I met a 30-year-old man at a networking event. He asked me (age 25) if I wanted children and I said no a position I've developed since moving to NYC a few years ago. His response? Oh you're just going through your selfish phase. It will pass.

His reply reminded me of the way that women tell men that they're just scared of commitment when they say that they don't want to get married. Because my anti-motherhood stance is relatively new and more fluid and dependent on current circumstances than etched in stone, I let the comment slide. But since I've come to find that this too is the reaction of my family to this choice, I can't help but question, what is selfish about saying no to motherhood?

Being a mother is often considered the most selfless and thankless job in the world, and it may very well be, but that shouldn't take anything away from women who don't dream of baby carriages, first words, and school plays.

In some ways, motherhood has begun to look less appealing to women of generation Y, burdened by hard economic times, supposed limited options for marriage, and a desire for a booming career. On the surface, these issues may seem selfish, but I think the logic behind this thinking speaks to the exact opposite. Read the rest here

This essay, and the thinking of some of my younger friends and mentees, left me wondering: Are we giving birth to generations of women who will no longer dream about having babies? And what does that mean for the already fragile state of African American families?

Flickr credit: √oхέƒx™

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. That’s my concern as well. I had my only child in my early 20’s when many young woman cringed at the thought of motherhood. It wasn’t planned,but being a mom was the greatest thing I’ve ever accomplished. I went on to finish college and obtain a career, but it will never be as rewarding as parenting my son. Many of my friends have yet to experience motherhood over 20 years later.

    I’m 43 and regret the decision I made to have an only child. At the time, I followed the example of older mothers who also chose to have one child in order to have a career. Little did I know, they also would grow to regret their decision.

    African American women need to hear that our children are gifts. The media has painted such a bleak perception of the African American mother, I can understand why many shy away. But I want to say, it’s a lie. Having a child does not make you a statistic. Children and family are blessings.

  2. I also think we put too much emphasis on having it all as mothers, when it’s not possible in many cases. Some of us choose demanding time consuming careers and find it hard to balance life .

  3. I completely agree with angel. I had my son at 22, and yes it is the hardest job that I have ever taken on, but it is also the most fulfilling. Never can an employer tell me how much they love me for buying them new socks, or how beautiful I am when I think I’m a mess. Never can a tiny hand touch my face and my heart at the same time. Never did I imagine that this tiny boy would take over my heart, my soul, and my bank account 🙂
    With that being said, I also must agree that motherhood is not meant for everyone. It is a demanding job that not all women are ready for. Especially in this day and age when unfortunately not all of our black men are ready to step up to the plate and be fathers. It is a daunting task that needs not be taken lightly. Unfortunately, if society were to ask our young men at age 25 if they want kids and they say “no”, no one calls them selfish.

  4. This is a topic dear to my heart as I am in my late 20s and 20% of my married girlfriends have kids, with the other 80% adamant that they either: A) do not want them or B) won’t have time until they are out of their prime reproductive years.

    I do believe I am a member of the generation that forgot the 7 basics of living things—reproduction. I’m not saying if someone doesn’t want kids they should just have them anyway, because lord knows there are already too many unfit parents. BUT my generation has gotten so career ambitious that we sacrifice things that no career can replace: family and love. I’m tired of being in the minority when I mention that my husband and I plan to start a family soon. You would think I was an unwed, crackhead living on the street the way some of my fellow graduate students look at me.
    I’m glad we as women, and black women especially, are climbing the work ladder. But what is the future cost?

  5. I love being a mother and wouldn’t have my life any other way. In fact, I wish that I had more children than I have now (I have two). BUT I completely understand when someone makes the decision not to have children because as my husband and I say, it’s very hard–if you’re doing it right.

  6. Great post and I think it is fantastic that black women are finally able to redefine their roles as women. Everyday in my community, I see women take out their daily frustrations on their children. This of course creates a cycle of violence and mental health issues that the larger “African American family” must address over this innocent child’s lifetime.

    I commend black women who recognize their ability or inability to raise a child for selfish or non-selfish reasons. Often women have children to overcompensate for missing unconditional love. Which is equally damaging as not having children because a woman wants to focus on on herself.

    We can strengthen families in other ways that do not require giving birth. Still, I find the magic of motherhood noble, I also respect the women who step back and evaluate their role in a child’s life.

  7. I believe it is perfectly acceptable to decide that having children is not what you want or the best option for the child or children. I am a professional woman in my 40″s with two children. I love my kids, but absolutely don’t want any more.

    I work in an overwhelmingly traditionally male-dominated environment. Many of the younger women I work with, in their 20’s and 30’s seem to want children. However, they also see the daily struggles that motherhood places on careers. They have seen how as soon as a woman announces a pregnancy, she is automatically dismissed in the minds of male managers as a rising star, a future company leader. Most eventually left the firm after first going to a part-time schedule; concluding that it is too difficult or not worth the sacrifices to try to be successful professionally.

    Conversely, I have friends in their 40’s who had their kids young, a few who wish they hadn’t waited to start families or are still hoping to start families. I think there is a little “the grass is greener on the other side” mentality no matter which situation.

    In my opinion, the state of the African-American family does not hang in the balance of women who chose not to have children. Every family is not a happy family. The state of the African American family lies with all of us creating environments that sustain and support strong families.

  8. I think it’s about sensations. It normally passes. It did happen to me, now that I am in my late 20s, I am in pursuit of mummyhood

  9. I am one of those females who do not want children…ever.
    I have just graduated from a world renowned University and began working with the federal government. Soon I will be going to Law School, and from there practicing Law. Having a child will just get in the way of my goals. Call it selfish, but at the end of the day having a child does not validate my womanhood.
    The state of Black families and relationships have been crumbling for decades. To repair it is something that will take more than one person, couple, or child to achieve.

    Not having a child isn’t selfish. Its a personal decision. No one badgers young girls who are proud babymomma’s, or men who spread their seed far and wide (while evading their parental responsibility), so why badger a woman who decides not to have children? There are plenty other people having countless kids

  10. At 28, I was living in NYC and making my journalism dreams come true. I was seeing someone casually who I cared a great deal about. I NEVER WANTED KIDS! I wanted a career, a husband and to live my life FREELY! Then I found out I was pregnant. I was always told I wouldn’t have kids because of PCOS. But here I was 28, my career progressing like never before and I was pregnant. The father was telling me to get an abortion. So being the journalist I am I went to women and “interviewed” them about their abortions. No one could tell me anything good. I left NYC, the man I loved and my career in NYC. I ended up in therapy. I battled SEVERE depression. I had my child 3 months early.

    He’s now 8 months and a little miracle baby. As someone who never wanted kids honestly I still feel the same way. I can’t go out like I used too. I can’t travel as much. My money is not my own. I’m 29, a single unemployed mother. I’m the LAST person who needed a child. But God has jokes. I miss my old life. I miss my old friends. I miss being my own person. I miss having to only worry about myself. Having a child now, makes me FULLY understand why I never wanted one in the first place. I love my child, I even resuscitated him once but being single, unemployed and not able to make ends meet when you have a child is no fun. I went from living decent in NYC in my own place with a roommate to living with my parents in one bedroom for my child and me. I don’t even have adequate space for a crib. He sleeps with me.

    I would say to women who don’t want kids, don’t let anyone change your mind. YOU will be the one dealing with the consequences. I know, because I’m dealing with the consequences now.

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