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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

A different path

BY Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash Feb 28, 2020

I will be turning 25 in May. I’m at the age when a lot of young women are planning to start a family. In my community, many women my age already have children. When I sit in ceremony or when I get teachings from Elders, the main topic on the women’s side is often motherhood.

I get a lot of pressure to start a family. People tell me I will eventually change my mind, or they ask why I don’t have kids yet. In ceremony, I often want to sit on the men’s side and receive their teachings because I hardly relate to those on the women’s side. Unfortunately, not a lot of people let me do that.

It shouldn’t matter really. Having children is not my only purpose in life and everyone should be able to find their role within the circle. I don’t think I want children. Maybe I will change my mind, but I am scared to bring children into this world for many reasons.

In a statement published in the BioScience journal, 11,000 scientists said that the world’s people face “untold suffering due to the climate crisis” unless there are major transformations to global society. There seems to be scientific consensus around the fact that the planet is literally on fire and that we need to end population growth, leave fossil fuels in the ground and halt forest destruction.

The thing is, the world doesn’t seem to take it seriously, capitalism is still thriving, and people are still being violently arrested for opposing development projects. Eco-anxiety is real, and I am scared of what the world will look like in 10 to 15 years. I would find it contradictory to put a child into this world if I am frightened by what the future holds for our planet.

According to public-health groups Trust for America’s Health and Well Being Trust, “there’s been a marked uptick in so-called deaths of despair – those involving drugs, alcohol or suicide – among millennials over the last decade.” The world we live in is becoming more and more hostile and I honestly don’t feel like imposing that on a child.

I am also well aware that I inherited traumas from both my parents. Even though taking care of my mental health is literally a part-time job for me, some people have predispositions for depression whether it’s caused by genetic factors or environmental factors. I have a heavy history of mental health problems and that weighs in my decision not to have kids. I have this huge fear of passing those traumas to a child.

I don’t mean to freak people out and I don’t want anyone to feel the sense of impending doom that I sometimes do about the fate of humanity. I just find it interesting to see that more and more young people are taking the same decision as I have. The decision to not have children should not affect my ability to get housing or my place in my own culture. I’m not less of a woman even though I might never bear my own children – and the survival of humankind doesn’t rely on me.

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Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash is Cree from Waswanipi, and is the Nation’s newest columnist. She is an activist and writer who also has a regular column in Montreal’s French Metro Newspaper.