Jamaica Gleaner / For the past 10 years, programme analyst Tory-Ann Clarke has suppressed her maternal urges so she could attend university, pursue a career, find the right partner and own a house.
At 32 years old, she has achieved most of her goals, but her biological clock is ticking. Like several other professionals, she has joined Jamaica’s growing rank of voluntarily childless because she doesn’t feel she is in a financial position to care for a baby.
“A lot of persons think we are just pushing for career, career, career. I don’t necessarily look at it that way. You are actually pursuing your career so that you can get financial independence, and once you get that financial independence, then, even if the father drops out of the picture, you can take care of your child with ease,” said Clarke.
“We are not rushing to have any kids immediately because the income just can’t go up to taking care of a child and to cover the other expenses for yourself,” added Clarke.
She argued that this is the dilemma facing several mid-career women who are overwhelmed with the repayment of student loans, purchasing a house and other material possessions as they strive for upward mobility.
“So you might delay the process, you might not have none at all, to be honest, and you might just end up with one,” said Clarke.
Senior educator Shanice Blackwood* already has one daughter and she intends to keep it that way. She said she has been begged, beseeched and even tricked into trying to have another child, but the 43-year-old said she has had her “lot”.
CHILDCARE IS COSTLY!
Although she earns a good income from multiple sources, Blackwood said the reality is that childcare is costly and having another child might jeopardise the quality of the life currently being enjoyed by herself and her only child.
“The reality is, in order for me to live comfortably and live how I want to live, where I can take my vacations in the summer and I can do my shopping and I can achieve certain things, I don’t want another child,” said Blackwood.
“I want my daughter to live in a comfortable house. I want when she goes home in the evenings, she can go in the fridge and I don’t have to be saying, ‘Lawd Jesus, where am I going to get food for her to eat’? I don’t want her to go to school to buy one bag juice and one patty,” she shared.
Blackwood’s 15-year-old daughter attended a costly preparatory school, currently takes extra lessons and was always involved in extra-curricular activities. Her father plays an active role in her life and also provides financial support.
“I have always said when it didn’t work out with her father … I don’t want to have another child with another man’s name,” said the educator whose mother had four children for four different men before she got married.
Just recently, health minister Dr Christopher Tufton noted that middle-class families were choosing to have only one child or none at all, although they are the ones more financially capable of caring for a child. But both Clarke and Blackwood contend that the government has not made it easy for career women to have children.
“We look at it from the perspective that we can’t afford it based on our quality of life and our income and expenditure,” said Blackwood, who is currently pursuing a master’s degree.
Dr Dalea Bean, lecturer at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies Regional Coordinating Unit, UWI, noted that several international studies have pointed to a growing trend where middle-class families are choosing to delay having children.
“This idea that middle class can afford children is very dicey, because the middle class is more and more feeling the brunt of the nation’s taxation and have other goals, material goals like house (and) car,” Bean told The Sunday Gleaner .
“In the realm of things, children are expensive and you want to give the child the best opportunity in life, and a lot of middle-class are not able to make ends meet in the way that is expected,” she said.
Former chairperson for the National Family Planning Board, Dr Sandra Knight, said the fact that women are delaying childbearing has also come out in local surveys.
“Women are choosing to have children at a later age and are also choosing to have fewer. Later age because women are seizing more opportunities when it comes to career, education and social climbing, so to speak, or social advancement,” said Knight.
* Name changed upon request.