While I can relate to pretty much all of the personal content that I write on this site on some sort of level, as someone who decided at 45 that I'm 90 percent sure that I don't want to be a mother (even via adoption), this is one that is really close to my heart. The reason why I say that is because, although I am a doula, a godmother to two (technically three but that's a long story) beautiful girls, and kids and I have a truly remarkable connection (even random ones I see when I'm out), at this stage in my life, I am at peace with not being someone's mom.
It's not like I thought it would turn out this way. I've shared on this site before that when folks ask me if I am a mother, my response is usually something along the lines of, "I'm a mom of four aborted children" because that is indeed the case (check out "Why I Named The Children I Aborted"). I mean, isn't it interesting that when we want to have a child, the moment we see a positive sign on a pregnancy test, we say, "I'm having a baby!" and yet, if the pregnancy isn't desired, suddenly it's a debate if there is significant and profound life growing within? The conflicted resolves of humanity, boy. Besides, I knew what I was doing, every time I got on that table. And while I've spent years healing from the childhood abuse, relational trauma and low sense of self-worth — things that all played a role in why 1993-1999 was such a battlefield for me in this area — on this side of healing, there is a part of me that believes that while I would've been a good mom, if there was a part of me that made the choices that I did because I didn't entirely desire to be one. Not way deep down.
No, I'm not justifying that I should've used condoms more nor am I coming at you like abortions should be a form of birth control. Lord, that's all another discussion for another time and I certainly own my part in my recklessness. What I'm saying is, while I thought in my 20s-30s that becoming a mother was inevitable, throughout my decisions and due to the peace I feel now, I can't help but wonder if I was more caught up in thinking that I was supposed to want to be a mother rather than I actually longed for it to be a part of my reality. Because you know what, y'all? What we really want to make happen in this life, we really do tend to go out of our way to make it so.
Yeah, I know that's pretty deep for an intro yet I thought it was important for me to share because, if you're someone who is currently on the fence about whether or not to have children yourself, it's absolutely essential for you to ponder your own life choices in this area — if you are preparing for motherhood or doing what moves you further away from it. And while you're doing that, how about you ask yourself the following seven questions as well?
1. Do You Even Like Children?
While some folks will look at this question in sheer horror, I know better. That's because I know some really good people who honestly can't stand kids. Not like they want to do them bodily harm (those are psychos) or anything. It's just that, if they could go their entire lives without seeing a child, they wouldn't lose any sleep over it. In fact, what's kind of funny about this is I know a guy who is a dad and while he's actually a pretty good father, he says all of the time that he can't stand children and if he could do life all over again, he definitely would've been wiser on the birth control tip.
Again, this is nothing to feel bad about or ashamed of because there is no rule that says every decent human being has to have a love affair with little people. What I will say, though, is you are definitely selling your potential future children short if you are going to try and love them without really liking them because kids require A LOT and liking them can definitely make the rough days easier. So, if you're someone who doesn't really seek out time to hang with little folks, you're not big on being a "love auntie" or you are more polite to children than embracing of them, it could be because you're cool with them existing yet not super geeked about them being in your personal world. That's fine. Yet again, why become a mom if that is indeed the case?
2. Are You Too “Selfish” to Be a Mom?
The reason why I wrote articles for the site like, "What If It's Your Parents Who Happen To Be The Narcissists?" and "Here's How To Know If You've Got 'Mama Issues'" is because a lot of us are recovering from folks who, let's be honest, were way too self-consumed to become a parent. Some of our needs went unmet because of it. Promises were broken because of it. Hell, some of us barely even know our parents — then or now — because everything in the world but us was made to be a top priority for them. Case in point, I know a guy who says that he knows he's a commitment-phobe to this day, in part, because his mother put her career ahead of him. He was the baby — a surprise. And because she didn't plan on having more than two children, let alone four, she left him in another state with her parents so that she could go pursue her education. Then, once she got it, she spent more time mentoring students via her career than bonding with him, her son. Now, as a direct result, he's afraid of getting serious with a woman and making children with her because he's not sure if he'll make the same kind of decisions that his mom did — not because he wants to; because it's all that he knows. Damn shame.
I can't tell you how many times I've looked across at an engaged couple and rolled my eyes right in front of them and it's all because one or both are way too selfish for a selfless dynamic like marriage. Parenting requires even more selflessness. So, if it needs to be all about you. If you're not willing to make sacrifices. If, in your mind, you are never wrong. If you're not good at being flexible. If you don't know how to humble yourself and apologize for your mistakes and bad decisions. If you've got to "win" all of the time. If you suck at sharing. If your needs always have to come first — if this is you, it's OK to own that.
If you don't want to change, that is totally your right. Yet why you would subject a child to you being that way is beyond me, sis. Selfishness is about being self-consumed. Folks like that need to stay with on their own— not raise some kids.
3. Can You Afford Them?
OK, so here's the thing about this particular point. Did you know that from 0-17, the average cost that it currently takes to raise a child is somewhere around $233,610? That's roughly $14,000 each year. Yeah, kids ain't cheap. Not only that but they shouldn't be raised to feel like they are a burden or that we're somehow doing them a favor by meeting their needs. Back when I was a teen mom director for the local chapter of a national non-profit, I witnessed more verbal abuse from parents than I ever would've liked and a lot of it was because the parents were so financially stressed out that they took it out on their children. Kids didn't ask to come here. Adding to that, they are going to have needs on a daily basis. A lot of those needs are going to cost money. For instance, if you decided to have a baby and put them in daycare, the currently average monthly bill that you would get is close to 700 bucks. Whew.
There are so many of us who are still healing from the PTSD of our own parents just "getting by" when it came to financially providing for us. Choosing to put your kids through that simply because "you made it out OK" is a really low bar. No one said that you need to be rich to be a mom, yet you should be realistic about if you can actually afford to be one or not (even if you can't now, be real about if you're going to put a plan in place to get ready before trying to conceive). Then follow that thought up with if you're willing to make constant sacrifices to make sure that they're gonna be good under your watch and care.
4. Are You Emotionally Mature and Self-Aware Enough for Children?
This point right here, boy. Another piece that I once wrote for the platform is "How To Recover If You Had To 'Raise Your Parents' As A Child". I'm not gonna get too deep into how much I can relate to this today. Let me just say that I get triggered when folks say, "I wanna have kids young so that I can grow with them." Honey, you need to be raising them and that requires a certain level of emotional maturity and self-awareness. Unfortunately, a lot of parents — shoot, adults, in general — lack both.
Emotionally mature people are calm. Emotionally mature people hold themselves accountable. Emotionally mature people don't constantly burden others with their "stuff" (especially not kids). Emotionally mature people aren't know-it-alls. Emotionally mature people can say "I was wrong" and "I'm sorry". Emotionally mature people don't hold grudges, pout or manipulate to get their way. Emotionally mature people don't sweat the small stuff.
As far as self-awareness goes, check out "These Are The Things Self-Aware People Do Daily" when you get a chance. For now, what I'll say is a self-aware individual knows their strengths and weakness and are intentional about improving upon both of them.
If you read any of this and honestly felt a little triggered, while that doesn't mean that you should never become a parent, I definitely recommend booking an appointment with a reputable therapist, counselor or life coach to get to the root of why you aren't as "grown up" as you probably should be at this point in your life. Because if there's one thing that a child should not be expected to do is make up for the areas where you are emotionally inadequate. You are supposed to be mentoring them; not the other way around.
5. Have You Healed from Your Own Childhood?
Speaking of sitting on somebody's couch and laying your burdens down, a few weeks ago, I wrote "Childhood-Related Questions That Can Reveal A LOT About 'Him'" for the platform. Listen y'all, the more I work with people, the more I realize, just how much one of my favorite quotes rings so very true — adulthood is surviving childhood. I mean, when I think about my ish and others', about 60-80 percent of it can be tied to something that we witnessed or experienced as a child.
I can give you an example that isn't connected to direct trauma too. I've got a friend who only likes to eat Lunchables when he gets home from work. He's almost 50. When I asked him what the deal was, he said that growing up, that's what his mother left for him until she came home to make dinner. Sometimes, she got home so late that he'd fall asleep and since she didn't want to wake him, that meant Lunchables was all that he had. Now he eats them out of habit. Another example is me and thrift/antique store shopping. It was nothing for my mother to stop by one of those or a yard sale when I was growing up. Now I find myself doing the same thing.
I didn't want to get a lot into traumatic events because I've already gotten pretty deep (I think). Yet I do want to say that we are very innocent, and while resilient also quite fragile, as children. In fact, there are many studies to support that whatever age we were abused/traumatized, we oftentimes continue to emotionally process at that age until we get some help to get "unstuck".
Have mercy. Some of us got beat because our parents got beat and we've already got it in our heads that our kids will experience it because we did. That's not nearly a good enough reason. If you know that you've got some unresolved childhood stuff going on, don't wait until after you have a child to realize you need to work through it. Now is the time to get that stuff handled, as much as possible. If you choose not to, it really is an act of love to not subject a child to the pain that you still haven't healed from.
6. Have You Thought About the Purpose of Parenting?
There's a Scripture in the Bible that says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6 — NKJV)
Here's something that I think a lot of parents miss here — it says in the way your child should go, not in the way you want them to live their life. You know, a quote that I really like says something along when two people are just alike, one of them is unnecessary. Lawd, the amount of parents who need to hear that.
It's not a child's job to become your mini-me (that is sheer ego talking). It's not a child's job to do all of the things in their life that you didn't get to do. It's not a child's job to get on the path career-wise or relationally that you think is best (whew, there are a lot of narcissistic parents in this world. Straight up). No, a good parent is someone who knows that their children are gifts from the Most High and so they need to being in constant prayer and meditation about how to prepare their little ones for being who God called them to be, not what their fallible minds want them to become.
The reason why a lot of people wreck marriage and parenting is because they go into both with absolutely no clue what the purposes are. If when it comes to the topic of having a child, all you hear running through your head is "me, me, me", you definitely need to rethink it. Because any sane parent will tell you that helping another human being become their own best self has very little to do with them and what they want personally.
7. Have You Processed How Permanent Parenting Actually Is?
Just about every time I see that Tide commercial where the grandparents talk about their daughter and all of her kids moving back in with them, I damn near hyperventilate. While I am definitely someone who subscribes to "Parents are supposed to raise adults, not children" (which means a parent's job is to make their kids transition into adulthood so that they can be self-sufficient in every way), even adult children are still their parents' kids. Not only that but sometimes life happens and things don't always go as planned. Take some friends of mine who couldn't wait for their daughter to turn 18. Let's just say that at almost 21, she is still right in their crib. Partly due to her constantly changing her mind about her life plan. Partly due to the pandemic. Partly due to her sucking at saving money.
Moral to the story? If you aren't sure if you want kids but a part of you is like, "I mean, they'll be gone at 18, so…" — don't set yourself up. Parenting, on some level, is until you or your children take their last breath. If even the thought of that freaks you out, don't rush to get pregnant. Because once they're here, they're here. On some level. To stay.
Yeah, I know this was a lot. The good news is there is abstinence, birth control and, to a large degree (especially if you're under 40 and reading this) time. My main objective in writing this is to remind us all that having children isn't a flippant decision and oftentimes, real stuff like this isn't discussed as much as it should be. If after reading what I just shared, you're like, "You know what? I think I'm good", that's something to applaud because responsible parenting isn't just about being a good parent when you have kids, it's also about knowing that you don't want to do what being a good parent requires and so you decide to put your focus elsewhere. Personally, I salute both sides of the coin. I wish more folks had been so thoughtful. And if you took all of this to heart, I'm glad that you are exceptional in this way. I mean it. Salute.
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
It is Eartha Kitt who once said, “Aging has a wonderful beauty, and we should have respect for that.” I couldn’t agree more. That’s why, it really does get under my skin, that we live in a culture that is almost obsessed with staying young. Why? Don’t you want to grow, evolve…mature? That’s why I’m also not big on people who are damn near obsessed with looking 20 years younger than they are. Nah, personally, I think the goal of looking great for and at your age is where it’s at because, as my mother (who ages remarkably well) used to say, “I’ve earned every year. I don’t want to be looking like a child when I’m not.” (It’ll preach.)
This kind of wisdom is the type of hindsight that cannot be matched. Because again, while getting older shouldn’t be anything that any of us are afraid of or ashamed to do, wouldn’t it be great if we were more proactive than reactive when it comes to how we take care of ourselves — so that as we do age (and it is inevitable), we will age…gracefully…seamlessly…beautifully?
That’s why I took the time to ask 15 women in their 40s to share some things that they wish they had done in their 20s as far as physical beauty is concerned. Look at it as me doing a solid for any of you younger readers who really think that “I woke up like this” will last…forever. It won’t. And if you settle into that very real reality by taking good care of yourself now, the 40s will be where you actually end up looking better than ever.
*Middle names are used in all of my interview pieces, so that people can speak freely, no matter what the topic may be.*
“Some women aren’t gonna like this but, Black can crack. I see it often; especially when I look at a lot of these women’s necks — even celebrities. You can look like you’re 29 in the face but because you didn’t take care of your neck when you were in your 20s, it’s out here looking like it should be in a nursing home. That part of your skin ages and sags like everything else. I wish I had cared about that back in the day. I do now and yes young women, moisturize your neck every night and every morning. I personally use a combination of rosehip oil and lavender because they help to stimulate collagen production. Don’t wait until you have tree rings. Do it…now.”
“I wish I had taken better care of my breasts. Not [just] as far as my health; as far as their appearance. When you’re in your 20s, everything is perky and unicorns. Hit 35 and you start to notice that your girls like your feet more than your neck. Doing some exercises to make your pecs more prominent and applying some cocoa or shea butter every night are little things that can keep them youthful. Don’t wait. A breast lift is an option but those aren’t cheap. And if you can avoid paying what a used car costs to keep your breasts sittin’ high, why not do that now?”
“It might sound weird but I wish I had laid off of my protective styles more. It’s like we’ve forgotten that the point of them is to grow our hair out but that can’t happen if we’re never giving our hair a break from all of the tension that comes from tight-ass braids and twists. Now my edges are suffering and that can make you look older than you are. Those ‘Brandy braids’ are cute, girl, but so is having a full hairline. Don’t live in a protective style — your future self is screaming this at you.”
“I wish I drank less. I had a good time, trust me. But drinking on the weekends and then having drinks a couple of nights a week after work took its toll. My skin feels drier and it takes more work to keep it moisturized. These days, [I] eat edibles instead. It’s healthier and it has compounds in it that can slow down the aging process. Oh, to be young again.”
“I wish I had incorporated some sort of hand care. If anything takes wear and tear on a constant basis, it’s our hands and we’ll be out here having a beauty regimen for everything but those. Now my hands are starting to look older than I would like and so I’m having to work overtime to get rid of some fine lines and fragile-looking skin. What I do is get hand facials every couple of months. Look to see what spas or salons offer them. It makes a really big difference on your hands. Your arms too.”
“I’m the most comfortable sleeping on my side but it’s not the best for my face — anyone’s face, really. I used to hear that it would cause wrinkles but when those aren’t something that you have to worry about, you don’t care. I’m starting to see a few around my lips and so now I’m on my back more often. I’m thinking that if I had cared about this in college, avoiding wrinkles would not be on my list of concerns at this age.”
“Stay off of acidic drinks. Your teeth will age just like everything else and sodas and orange juice doesn’t help. Think about the people you know who look one way…until they smile. Then they look 10-15 years older. Go to the dentist regularly and schedule a professional whitening appointment. White teeth make you look younger. Just take good care of them. You’ll be glad that you did, if you do.”
Jaye. 44.“Gray hair is a blessing but my grandmother always told me that it can come in prematurely — and a part of what causes that to happen is stress and a poor diet. When you’re young, you don’t care about stuff like that. But let those first ones creep in around your hairline and suddenly, you’re looking for all kinds of hacks. My advice? That man, that job, and that relative that is already making you want to pull your hair out? Let them go. Your hair can’t take it. And all of that junk food you’re consuming? I still hit a drive-thru but these days, it’s more like a couple of times a month instead of during every lunch break.”
“Get your legs waxed. All of that razor shaving can cause discoloration or leave razor marks that can make your skin look older over time. Plus, it creates ingrown hairs and something about those can make you look older too.”
“Stop not taking sleep seriously. When you’re 25, you can go on four hours of sleep for days on end but it catches up to you. Sleep is what rejuvenates you and if you don’t get it, eventually you will look like it. I have dark circles that I’ve been trying to get rid of and a part of it is due to years of no sleep catching up to me. Whatever it is, it can wait until you’ve had at least seven hours. Don’t listen if you don’t want to. One day you will look in the mirror and wish that you did.”
“I wish I had spent more time outdoors. It’s no secret that Black people have more of a vitamin D deficiency than anyone else but trying to pile up on supplements when you’re older is a lot. When you’re at restaurants, eat on the patio. Sit on your back deck to read a book. Go for a walk in the mornings. I’m dealing with some hair loss stuff right now and it’s partly because I need more vitamin D. And thinning hair makes you look older than you should.”
“Waist trainers are bad for you. I wish those damn things would go away. That doesn’t mean that I don’t get that a snatched waist can take a few years off. Hell, I know that I took mine for granted back in my 20s. Snack on bananas and berries. Do some cardio even if that’s power walking through the mall. Stop drinking cold stuff so much. It might sound like a mama’s tale, but drinking things at room temperature reduces bloating. There are other things that you can do to get the curves that you want without smashing your organs. Lord.”
“I wish I cared more about my damn arms. Nothing makes you look older quicker than your upper arms not being in good shape. Get some five-pound free weights and set aside 15 minutes. Dry brush those bad boys; it’ll keep dimples from showing up. Keep them extra moisturized, so that those annoying little bumps won’t show up. And use sunscreen. The sun doesn’t know if you’re Black or not. It comes for us too.”
“Have a professional care for your skin. There are a billion things that you can do at home but an aesthetician is trained to figure out what works best and what doesn’t. Facials, microdermabrasion, and chemical peels from time to time have all played a role in me starting to look younger. If I had taken preventative measures, it would’ve kept some money in my pocket because I wouldn’t be going quite as much as I do now.”
“I wish I had been more choosy about my sex partners so that I could’ve had wilder sex. Listen to Auntie here. There is some stuff that good sex will do for you and aging that no cosmetic can. Sweat out those toxins. Work out that core. Take in some of that sperm. Just do it with a man you can trust and you can be totally free with instead of these knuckleheads. Yeah, better mate selection is the beauty tip that I recommend — and stop acting like it’s a rite of passage to start this at 35. Get a good man now and sit down somewhere. So that you can lay down in peace. That’s what I’ve got for you.”
Pass the plate around for Payce, y’all. As far as beauty and maturity go, she just preached — to women of ALL ages! Amen? Amen.
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