Today’s interview is with Nina Steele, the 42-year old founder of nonparents.com.
Can you tell me about yourself?
I am originally from the Ivory Coast, now a British citizen. In short, I am a British Ivorian.
In terms of which ethnic groups, I would rather be known as Ivorian as opposed to a specific ethnic group. This is because ethnicity in Africa, and the Ivory Coast , has become a highly divisive issue. People have lost their lives because of it, so I prefer the more inclusive approach of identifying myself as an Ivorian.
What do you do for work?
I work full time running nonparents.com. It’s a global community for people without children either by choice or circumstance. The site’s overriding aim is to promote a positive image of people without children. For far too long, the narrative has been that we are all destined to be parents, and that those without children are somehow missing out. The site debunks that myth by showing how fulfilling being a non-parent can be. From having more money to spare, to the freedom of doing all those things that parents often have to wait until the children have left home to start doing, the advantages of being a non-parent are endless.
Another myth the site has continuously challenged is the assumption that anyone without children will automatically suffer loneliness in old age, implying that parents always have their children around in old age to look after them. Well, I worked for an old people’s charity for eight years, and I can put that myth to bed. In my former job, the majority of elderly people who complained of being lonely had children. Being lonely in old age can strike anyone, regardless of whether they have children or not.
How long have you been childfree? Have you always known that you wouldn’t have children?
After trying to conceive for 9 years, my husband and I chose to accept that having children was never meant to be. Once we made the decision to stop trying, we never looked back. That was in 2013. In retrospect, I can see clearly that the only reason why I kept trying was because I had bought into the narrative that having children is a must for every couple. Not only that, coming from an African culture where having children is viewed as a person’s greatest achievement contributed to warping my view about what constitutes a life well lived. But of course, I became enlightened and realized how misleading all this message about parenthood is. For example, many of my relatives in the Ivory Coast have children they cannot afford. Some of the children are left to fend for themselves. And of course, many of us know of children in Nigeria and other parts of Africa being abandoned for being witches. I mean, the utter hypocrisy of it!
How have your family and friends reacted to you being childfree?
There was resistance at first. Some of my relatives had assumed that we would end up adopting. Now that everyone can see how happy we are as a couple, the subject of children is seldom mentioned.
You mentioned your husband. How does your partner feel about you being childfree?
My husband was never keen on having children to begin with. It was me who wanted them at first because of all the societal pressures and cultural issues I mentioned before. He is as happy to be childfree as I am.
Do you feel that society is accepting of your decision?
My relatives have certainly accepted our choice to be childfree. As for society, overpopulation (and all the issues that come with it) is forcing people to reassess their views on children. It is now obvious that finite resources cannot sustain an ever growing population. Not only that, increased pollution and damage to the environment are linked to overpopulation. These are issues that will affect all of us.
Do you think your advocacy is contributing to changing ideas about being childfree in general and for black people in particular?
My website is translated in 30 languages and so reaches people in all corners of the globe. I feel strongly about educating people about the benefits and advantages of being childfree. For too long, the narrative has been negative around this issue. But thankfully, people are now waking up to the reality that parenthood is far from the ideal we have been made to believe that it is.
As for black people in particular, I believe that social media and the Internet in general are helping many see that parenthood is not the only way. Many people from Africa have reached out to me through social media to tell me how much finding my website has changed their lives. A woman from Nigeria whose husband left her because she could not conceive went from being totally depressed to being empowered, thanks to nonparents.com. She is one of many, and that’s just the beginning. As the site continues to grow, I anticipate that many more lives will be impacted positively, wherever people happen to be in the world.
Photo credit: Nina Steele