Lifestyle & Relationships

Damned If You Do

Country of Origin: Jordan

(Audio recording by Julianna Wages)

Trigger Warning: Child Abuse, Sexual Abuse/Trauma

Wiam Najjar selfie shot with her students in a classroom
(All images courtesy of Wiam Najjar)

As a teacher, a member of a large family, and a feminist, I have always had crystal-clear notions about nurturing kids. For most of my teaching career, I’ve taught children ages 10 and under. I also have nephews and nieces that I’m very fond of. So far, children are the only humans who speak not only honestly but also kindly. 

Everywhere I go, I play with every kid I see. But I don’t want to have my own kids. Not now, maybe not ever.

As a firm believer in freedom of speech and the right to express one’s ideas, I have always been open about my desire to get married or stay single without having children. I’d have pets, of course, but not kids.

I don’t keep count, but I’m sure that tons of people are ready with a stock reply about God’s wrath and how women like me risk missing the boat to motherhood. 

“You say you’re not ready, or you don’t want children, but you’ll change your mind one day. However, it will be too late because God will punish you by taking them away from you.” 

Gasp! I’ve heard this statement over and over for several years, but it’s still shocking.

The facts don’t lie

The number of divorces has increased rapidly over the years. The biggest divorce victims are the kids. The Department of Statistics in Jordan tracked this in 2018. According to the study, out of 70,734 marriages, 4,690 ended in divorce. Four of the married women that got divorced were less than 18 years old, divorce lawsuits in the same year hit 4,445, and 2018 divorces were over 50 percent more than those in 2017.

Wiam Najjar selfie shot with a few students in a classroom
(All images courtesy of Wiam Najjar)

Numbers and statistics might not be everything, but to me, these numbers offer evidence that is just too strong to argue against. Besides, personal stories of nurturing families and my actual encounters with such families make me want to believe otherwise.

Facts like how many poor families with kids are living through struggles, how many parents are unemployed, or how many kids live through emotional distress resulting from divorce or separation aren’t widely publicized, but these are all part of the picture.

Stories of children I know

During my teaching career, I have witnessed the impact of such broken relationships and how negatively they have affected the children involved, which is why I don’t dare to have kids.

For example, I had a student who had to wait hours with the doorman until his father picked him up only to drop him off at his mother’s in the evening. The kid, 10 years old at the time, was so disconcerted and confused that it was hard to watch.

Wiam Najjar selfie shot with two children
(All images courtesy of Wiam Najjar)

Another student had to watch his father beat up his mother and throw her out with a newborn in the street in the middle of the night. The boy, who had just turned 11, found comfort in pornography and was a victim of familial sexual abuse. 

Another student broke my heart as she narrated her cousins’ exploits with her body.

One last example among scores of kids that I taught was a mother who disappeared in the middle of the night with three of her kids, leaving the other three with their father, never to be heard from again.

Never giving in

When I met my husband, the first and most persistent topic of discussion between us was not wanting children. It was scary to speak about. It was unfathomable to him.

The only reasons I should have kids were to please my in-laws, to make society shut up, to prove I was “woman enough,” and to fit in.

Wiam Najjar selfie shot with a young boy
(All images courtesy of Wiam Najjar)

My husband is not a citizen of my country and, therefore, has no rights. Any child we bring into this world will accordingly have no rights. I can’t list my husband or child on the family register. I’m referred to as the foreigner’s wife. In my country, women are way behind men in terms of human rights, while men are under so much pressure to achieve it all. Having a boy or a girl does not look hopeful. 

Arguing with facts and statistics, expressing one’s fear of bringing a child into an unstable world, or simply stating that not wanting kids is never enough for society. 

God won’t punish me for considering the many possible scenarios and dreary stats. God won’t take anything away from me because I’ve made a choice. Kids are a huge responsibility that cannot be easily handled. It’s not simply instinct or custom. It’s bringing a human into this world and taking care of every aspect of their life until they grow up. 

Yeah, I’m scared of that responsibility. And I must admit that it isn’t an easy decision to make.

So whenever someone decides to ask me when I’ll have kids, I will let them read this piece, even before they ask!

Thank you to Brooklyn Riepma and Julianna Wages for their inspired edit on this piece and everyone else on the Lifestyle & Relationships team.

If you are interested in submitting a piece to the DG Sentinel, please visit our submissions page here.

Wiam Najjar has been writing ever since she was a child. She is an educator, an artist and a translator. She publishes her stories on her personal blog and on different websites.


  • Yosef Baskin

    Brave you are. Of course it is your decision, and that is a modern sensibility.

    No one welcomes being cross-examined about their views. I wonder if you could ever get away with “Thank you for your thoughts” without admitting those thoughts carry no weight.

  • Laura

    I’m always amazed at the hypocrisy of people who condemn women who get pregnant out of wedlock as being irresponsible and then shame married women who choose not to have children, as if the legitmacy and obligation of parenthood is soley dependent on marital status. The choice to not have children is often one born of understanding the challenging issues children face to do and earnest respect of the demands of parenthood. Thank you sharing your perspective Wiam.

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