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Agony of lifes expectations

04 May 2021

Behind everyone’s smile there may lie a dark cloud that weighs down on one’s soul.

When recently a bubbly person committed suicide, everyone was shocked and people were asking ‘how could she?’ 

This came as a shock because everyone thought she was the happiest person ever. “She knew everyone’s name and would smile happily with opened arms for a hug,” they would say.

She was a daughter, a sister and her career was heading for the stars, everyone thought that she had achieved everything that anyone hoped to accomplish as a young professional. Though she appeared to have been happy, inwards her soul was troubled and that was stressing her.

For instance, society has expectations for young people that after graduation one would automatically get a job, they would then get married and they would definitely have babies in their lifetime.

When such does not happen, society changes the manner in which they greet or talk to them. It then becomes ‘when are you convening us,’ when are you getting married, where do you work and so forth.

When one now gets married and they stay a little longer before they can start having children, the language changes to ‘when are you having an offspring, tlhatswa lesire’ !.

These questions do not only make people uncomfortable, but have a tenacity to push people to the extreme, said Dr Kgomotso Jongman, a psychologist with the University of Botswana.

Dr Jongman, who is also a motivational speaker, said for most people when life expectations have not changed, it becomes an emotional uncomfortable period, saying the crisis presented a period of existential self-evaluation as some find themselves at crossroads and questioning life and at the same time may act out of character as they feel compelled to face their mortality, confidence, identity and accomplishments or otherwise.

Dr Jongman urges people to be sensitive and not to say or ask certain questions especially that they never know what the other person was going through.

He appeals to Batswana to have empathy, and exercise the botho concept in all aspects, adding that there should be boundaries.

Dr Jongman is of the view that reproduction is considered one of the phases of life, adding that if it fails, it affects people in other aspects of their lives including psychological, socially, self-image, sexual relationship and otherwise.

“Being in a childless marriage affects relations with other people, sexual interaction, social interaction and self-image. If anyone does not give birth; being male or female after some certain years they were bound to think that they were less of a human,” he said.

He indicates that the desire for most people is to have children especially after getting married, if not, it has a psychological impact. Even those that choose not to have children even after getting married, they get affected especially by relatives’ expectations and/or friends as they would not feel the need to explain their plans to everyone.

Meanwhile, Dr Jongman states that about 15 million to 17 million people worldwide are designed not to have children by God because they were made infertile, meaning that there is going to be childless marriages.

He further states that infertility could be caused by different things including trauma, while others were born like that, saying the world is bound to have infertile people being either men and or women.

Dr Jongman therefore says ‘there is need to be careful on what we say and how we behave around those people that do not have children.”

He highlighted that before anybody could ask a person without a child when he or she would have a child, they should understand that maybe he or she is part of the 17 million people, and therefore they should be sensitive.

Dr Jongman said those people might have not accepted the fact that they would not have children and that would affect their feelings, saying the feelings ranges from anger towards their partners, society and that some become guilty thinking that it was their fault, maybe they have eaten something self-blame and their self-esteem get low.

Regarding men that are infertile, Dr Jongman says they tend to have a denial spirit which drives them to go and try somewhere else as they would rather believe that they are not the ones that are not fertile.

He says some emotions for both genders would be complex of anger, sadness, fear and anxiety, adding that they would be then caused to react either in isolation, emotional eating, especially for women, and might lose hope to even try.

He says anxiety either for a lack of a child and/or being not yet married could lead to wrong decisions, some having multiple partners because they want to make babies, while some would marry wrong partners so as to fit in society.

Dr Jongman therefore says to the people that keep on asking “When are you going to have a child?” add more to their anger, pain, denial, isolation, anxiety especially that they would not know reasons behind.

“Where do you work? question” he says makes one have feelings of uselessness if they are unemployed, adding that maybe the person has been job hunting for many years and even depressed.

 “When are you getting married? question, maybe no single relationship has ever worked for them,”  he said.

Dr Jongman calls for sensitivity in all respects, and not to trigger and provoke emotions. “People should go back to basics of setho” he says, adding that one does not have to ask questions that do not concern them.

If you knew someone was expecting and you see them after do not ask where the baby is unless you know how to react when they start crying. 

He says for those that were going through such should see professional help so that they could move out of depression and start seeing things differently.

He mentioned that for those that could not have children, adoption is an available option and for those not married would be assisted with love to accept and live life to the fullest as single people.

Sharing the same sentiments, a counselling psychologist at Willone Counselling Services, Ms One Nkitseng said asking such questions ‘o rebitsa leng’ is an insensitive question, adding that the person the question is directed to might be struggling to cope with a string of heartbreaks.

For such people, Ms Nkitseng is of the view that the best to do is to accept there are people who do not think about their actions.

She urged those going through that challenge to “make peace with who you are, where you are in life is the key.”

Furthermore, she said “all things happen at their right time,” adding that life is not a race or competition and that when one has not attained either a job after graduating, without children and/or married at a certain age, does not make one less of a human and no one is superior than the other.

Ms Nkitseng encourages people to count their blessings, saying people should be confident about God’s plan for their lives that they do not have to get upset about such issues.

She also encourages people to know that in life they are people that are living with communication disability (bogole jwa go ipuela fela) and would be senseless and immature, saying they cannot be changed, but instead one should change their response and reactions to them.

For those that are in the habit of asking senseless questions and remarks, Ms Nkitseng asked them to keep in their lane and also feel for others.

In a random interview, Ms Chedza Mogakolodi aged 34 said she has since stopped attending family gatherings because of the nagging question “when are you having a child” and her marital status.

Ms Mogakolodi complained that some of her relatives did not stop reminding her of the ticking biological time.

“As if they are God,” she said, adding that there was nothing disturbing peace than with such questions, as if they know what one was battling with emotionally and otherwise.

She said life has no manual as to what is right or at what age certain things should be done saying therefore people must “chill with such questions.”

She shared the same sentiments of the culture of botho and compassion.

As for Ms Segametsi Matlhare, 35, says she suffered several miscarriages and has been advised she could no longer be able to conceive. She says she suffers discrimination when people talk about their children.

“I feel extremely isolated,” said Ms Matlhare, adding that when those questions come, she does not know if to tell the questioner her ordeal. Sometimes she is tempted to carry her medical report to show to those that ask.

She says it takes an amount of mental fitness for one to get by the day with such questions, adding that it also does not take much for one to slip into depression.

Another 30-year-old woman who preferred anonymity says they went to medical doctors and it turned out her husband has low sperm count to conceive.

She says her husband told her his problem before they could get married, and that she decided to stay with him as she did not mind staying without offspring’s.

She said now talks with friends and relatives are that she cannot bear a child.

“Imagine, it falls disproportionately on women, when a couple is unable to reproduce” she said, saying often some ask her when she is getting pregnant, while she has made peace with it and enjoying her husband.

She says she cannot go on telling everyone their problem, and would wish for people to know their boundary, “if you matter in our lives, surely we would tell you the real problem, and if we have not conversed to you, know that you do not matter that much to us and it is none of your business to be asking about our lives,” she concluded. ENDS

Source : BOPA

Author : Lesedi Thatayamodimo

Location : GABORONE

Event : Interview

Date : 04 May 2021