I feel guilty for dreaming of motherhood when the world is so dangerous for Black children
I’m afraid to bring a child into this world. I’m not wealthy enough. I’m not healthy enough.
by Tynesha M. McCullers
Growing up, all I wanted was to someday become a mother. I can’t recall a time when I didn’t fantasize about having kids, naming them after me, dressing them in adorable clothes, and loving on them unconditionally. My desire likely came from gendered socialization and the belief that being a mom was my true purpose.
At this current stage in my life, the thought of motherhood terrifies me, and the fantasies I use to daydream about don’t come as naturally as they used to. When I think of motherhood now, all I can think about is how difficult that journey would be. The thought of bringing a Black child into a world that hates it just doesn’t feel right anymore; and, I feel guilty for simply considering it. I wonder if it’s possible for me to reconcile those feelings and give myself room to not only dream of motherhood again, but be okay with the reality of it, too.
Three years ago, I sat in a graduate school course and the professor asked us to say what we wanted to be in the future. My classmates spoke about wanting to end up in upper level positions in our field of study. When it was my turn, I simply said I wanted to be a mom without any hesitation. The thought of being pregnant, giving birth, and raising a child always excited me and I was certain I wanted all that motherhood came with, but if you asked me today if I want to have children, I would become anxious and hesitate to give a direct answer.
Such inquiries now cause me to have panic attacks, complete with a racing heart and sweaty palms. Panic sets in because I don’t have a curated response that fully encapsulates what motherhood in America could mean for me. And while I am aware that, as a woman, society makes me feel obligated to have children, I continue to fall in the trap of feeling guilty for reconsidering becoming a mother.
This reconsideration has nothing to do with being selfish or unwilling to sacrifice everything for another living being. It does, however, have everything to do with being poor, unhealthy in multiple ways, and fearful.
I make just enough money to provide for myself and occasionally help out family and friends who need financial support, even though I’m drowning in an obscene amount of student loan debt. Debt that I will likely never be able to pay back. Having a child could mean not having “just enough” and going without, which isn’t sustainable or fair for a child.
Living with anxiety, depression, and PTSD has weighed heavily on my mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Some days, I’m not certain if mental and emotional health are impacting my physical health or vice versa. What I do know is that I don’t have a lot of patience or compassion for myself and how that could translate or manifest with an innocent child in the equation is something I’m not ready to explore.
There’s never a moment when I feel like I’m truly getting a break from racism or misogynoir—when I can exist and be free from it all. Black existence might be resistance but that existence doesn’t always feel good. Not a minute goes by that I don’t consider the covert and overt racism, oppression, and discrimination my child would experience by existing in this world. All of it terrifies me.
The question then becomes, is it “right” to bring a child into this world from a moral standpoint? When one is certain that this world won’t give their child a chance at any age or stage, are they doing right by them by expecting them to make it work? Is it fair when you, yourself, have struggled to exist and make meaning in such a hateful place? Although I agonize over these questions constantly, I still don’t have any solid answers. In addition, the guilt and shame I experience for considering them can be overwhelming at times.
Long gone are the times I used to think that I would not be prepared to have a baby until I had enough money saved. These days I think that I won’t be prepared to have a baby until I have learned, unlearned, and healed. I want to have learned as much as I can about history, the world around me, and myself. I want to get rid of bad habits. I want to make sure that I am capable of cultivating a space inside and outside of my womb that feels full and free for my baby. Without this, I would feel guilty for child-rearing. While some may argue that I’m mature for coming to this realization and applaud me for it, what they don’t know is that this realization is painful.
Truth be told, children need more than I am capable of giving. And Black children need and deserve more than this world will ever allow them to have.
I’m afraid to bring a child into this world. I’m not wealthy enough. I’m not healthy enough. But in all of my doubt, I have faith that someday I will be all of these things. That I will not run away from dreams of motherhood, but run towards them. Run after them until the reality of someone calling me “mommy” doesn’t make me feel scared or guilty, but reminds me I’m beyond capable and deserving.
Tynesha is a strong-willed higher education professional in the DMV with a passion for social justice. Born and raised in North Carolina, Tynesha is true to southern roots. Tynesha has a B.S. in Human Development and a Master of Education. Tynesha’s interests include watching documentaries, listening to podcasts, singing, painting, traveling, and writing.