The thing with kids is that they don’t have a return policy. Once they are here that’s when you really see that the pudding is in the tasting. If having kids isn’t a setback, why are you using the law to force people to have them? Why are there so many fatherless kids?

The definition of a setback is ‘to hold back to a later time, to slow down the progress of or to hinder.’

In light of this definition, let’s discuss how children are a setback emotionally, psychologically, financially, physically and realistically.

If you think kids aren’t a setback you are either a man or a woman who isn’t good at parenting. Raising kids is difficult. Keeping someone alive who has a high propensity towards death-defying stunts is hard! It is exhausting. You will hear mums talking about the sacrifices they have made for the children. If you are African you know the speech mothers give about sacrifices. Those sacrifices are the setbacks we are referring to. Also, please don’t make those sacrifices if you are gonna hold them over our heads later.

If you don’t think kids are a setback, you have probably fobbed off the responsibility to someone else. I know a woman who lives life like a single, young and free slay queen but has 4 kids staying with their grandmother in the rural areas and she doesn’t send money to them. She just pretends they don’t exist.

For women in marriages, setbacks include staying in a toxic marriage for the sake of the kids. Ngihlalele abantwana or ndagarira vana is the ultimate setback. Some of these women can’t leave because they can’t afford the financial upkeep of the kids. For others it’s fear of a stepmother ill treating their kids or staying just to protect the children from their abusive father. “What will people say?” is another reason. Whichever way you look at it, kids are the reason you are set back from being free. Ever wondered why the term “trapped” is used in connection with having kids? She “trapped” him into marriage. When has a trap ever been a good thing? A mouse in a trap sounds setback to me.

Having kids is not a setback for men. For example, in a teen pregnancy situation, the teen father continues with his education without embarrassment or stigma. For girls it’s different. She stops going to school. Sometimes the parents want to preserve their own reputation so they stash her away somewhere until she gives birth. Women are still being passed over for promotions especially if they are pregnant or are yet to have kids. Some work contracts will even stipulate how many kids you can have while employed with them. This is so that they can limit the number of maternity leaves you are entitled to. Also, if you are pregnant in the first 3 months of your employment, your maternity leave is unpaid. Ironic since that’s when you need the coins in your purse the most. Instead you’re joined at the hip with a baby carrying it everywhere like your purse (which in this case, is empty.)

An actress I have never seen in anything sparked Twitter debate when the story ran about why she would be using a surrogate. This broad said having a baby would wreck her body and set back her career. I didn’t have the energy to research this alleged career but she wasn’t wrong. The act of bringing a child into the world can ruin your physique. Married men will argue that the reason why they cheat is because the vagina didn’t snap back after childbirth. I’m not a dick-carrying person so I can’t verify this. Women are trying all sorts of things to try and snap back. Those with means, undertake vagina rejuvenation treatments (available at Borrowdale Trauma Centre in Harare.) Others gained weight in pregnancy and still can’t get it off. The changes to a pregnant woman’s body are a contributing factor to post partum depression. Now your mind is also set back along with your self esteem and career.

At least we are now past that dark time when people used to disclose how many dependants they had on their CV. Whose idea was that anyway? Women with kids are at a disadvantage because they are the first responders to family emergencies. If the child is sick, the school will call the mother. If there is a disciplinary issue, it’s the mother who has to come and defend her parenting skills. Don’t they have both parents’ contact details on the school forms?

Men have the luxury of seeing parenting as optional. They can just choose to opt out and the earth continues to spin. Their trail of destruction doesn’t end there. They will drag single mothers from here to high heavens and never hold the deadbeats who made them single mothers accountable. Behind every single mother is a man who ditched. Which gender is usually jailed for baby dumping? Shouldn’t men who don’t look after their kids also be tried the same? Maintenance Court is full of them. Some will even go as far as resigning from their jobs to avoid paying maintenance. Do I need further proof that children are a financial setback?

In the Ndebele language, when you have a kid out of wedlock it’s called ’ukumitha.’ Which loosely translates to, ‘your life is stalled.’ Don’t ask me to prove it. From there, the baby daddy has to pay ‘damages.’ What has been damaged if kids aren’t a setback? There are men who know that having kids is a setback and thus will impregnate you on purpose. Men know pregnancy and child bearing is hard. If there is a gender which is an expert on this topic it’s men. They will use pregnancy to literally and I quote “humble you.” Especially if you are perceived as the snobbish, pretty girl in the neighbourhood, count your days cause they are numbered. Men will advise each other to ‘mithisa’ you as soon as possible. This is what prophets are referring to when they say, “a setback is a setup for a comeback.” When you have his baby, you will keep coming back to this man for one reason or another. These are the ties that bind.

Now that ‘usulimitha’ as a woman, it’s you who gets kicked out of your father’s house. You are taken to the baby daddy’s home for him to look after the unborn baby. This concept gives me ‘discarded’ or ‘thrown away’ vibes. I’ve never been for it. It leaves you wide open to abuse from your new family all in the name of culture. The ubuntu code our forefathers lived guided by is dead now. Along will all the cows they were breeding for future generations. No one can afford an extra mouth to feed. People are bitter and counting every cent and every grain of rice. Having a new daughter and a baby is a setback for them and they will remind you every chance they get.

Would this article be complete if I didn’t state that not having kids is also a setback. We’ve seen the abuse that women with fertility issues go through at the hands of witch doctors and false prophets. It’s a tired Nigerian movie storyline. The in-laws and the husband will torment you about child bearing and your inability to procreate will be a cuss word unto you. Next thing you know a new leading lady is introduced into your storyline as a second wife to bear children on your behalf. Culturally, your sister would be bestowed the honour. If that were to happen to me, the Zulugirls would make me a widow first.

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As much as having kids is a setback, there is no convenience that money can’t buy. Finances are a huge contributing factor to kids being a setback. Children are expensive. They can hinder your career goals, travel and relocation, family ties, leaving an abusive relationship and the dynamics of dating in the future. You’re not a bad mother for admitting that having a child was a setback. Some of you, the resentment towards your kids is as clear as overstretched tights over my fat ass.