Malawi: Having Children for Marriage Security

Do people keep having children for marriage security? I would like to think that this is not true, unfortunately, events I have witnessed make me believe otherwise. During the time I was pregnant, I was exposed to the mindset of other women. Some of the stories I learned were hard to believe, but I had to with a grain of salt.

As I begin the Afrobloggers’ 2022 WinterABC, I wanted to start off with this controversial topic.

Do Malawian women have children to secure their marriages?

When my family found out about my pregnancy, one of the questions I was asked was:

Did you get pregnant to make him marry you?

At the time, I was very offended by the idea. Being questioned whether you chose a life-changing thing just to trap a man just felt off to me. I remember being so angry with them that I kept a distance. At that time, I felt my own family did not know me enough hence why they were asking me a stupid question.

Moments later, during one of my hospital visits, I happened to be sitting with other pregnant women. These women freely shared their life stories, their pregnancy journies, sex tips, and more. It was so interesting and intriguing.

As the stories were being shared, one just happened to ask how many children we all had. Most of us were first-time moms, then another woman answered and said that it was her sixth pregnancy. At the time, you could feel the judgmental air that quickly surrounded us.

She went on to voluntarily explain why she decided to have another baby. The story went like this:

She’s had children for marriage security

She shared with us that out of all the six pregnancies, the ones she really wanted were the first four. Those, she believed, were her actual love children. They were conceived from love, they had all the love, and were loved. She shared that those pregnancies shared uniform happiness between her and her husband.

Two years after her fourth child was born, she started noticing that her husband seemed to be withdrawing. They started to have less sex, even on days when they did perform the act, she had to force him.

He then started coming home late, was always glued to his phone, and just seemed uninterested in her. After she consulted her girlfriends about his behavior, they advised her to check her phone. She was meant to check if he was having an affair.

At that point, she started spying on his phone. She would dial strange numbers just to check if she would be greeted by female voices. One day, her wish came true. Indeed, she was met with a “Hi babe” after dialing one of the numbers. She shared the heartbreak she felt on that day, that later transformed into anger, and then desperation to save her marriage.

She was scared to confront her husband, fearing that it would make him leave. Instead, she decided maybe giving him one more child would ground him to her.

She did get pregnant by him, and for a while, she had the old version of her husband back. At no point did she think it could be a cycle.

After giving birth, he went back to his ways which made her the more frustrated. In her mind, the child was meant to remind him of his responsibility, however, it was not the result it yielded.

For a while, she ignored it all. She raised the baby by herself without the help of the father. During this time of the story, she kept saying that she knew her husband would know better. It was hard to believe!

Stupid Advice

After some years passed, she was advised by some of her relatives to give him another child. As if having FIVE children was not enough, she decided ‘why not’.

They did get pregnant again, and during the early days of her pregnancy, he was grounded. He became more involved in their lives again. Basically, for the second time, he became the man she had married in the first place.

Unfortunately, this time around, he did not wait until she gave birth for him to go back to his cheating way. She shared with us that a couple of times he came home smelling of fresh sin. But there was nothing she could do about it.

Why do women have children for marriage security?

After I gave birth, I kept thinking of how absurd this story was. Overall, how absurd that women will go to that extent to make sure their marriages are secured. This is the unfortunate truth for a lot of marriages.

As I write this, I remember a proverb in Malawi:

” Ana nde ankhinswe a banja” which means children are the actual marriage guardians.

What this means is that people in marriages will only stick around because of the children, and not because of their happiness. A lot of marriages are lasting just for the sake of their children’s happiness. Unfortunately, it means parents having to endure so much pain while in said relationships.

Then comes the issue of financial security. Most women are scared to leave their husbands because of the financial dependency they have on them. A lot of women in Malawi are underpaid which increases their reliance on their partners. Their fear is that leaving their partners would leave both them and their children starving.

That is because men have the tendency to abandon their children after the marriage is over. Kids become the sole responsibility of the woman, increasing the stress of it all.

However, I still find it weird that women will choose to bear more children just to make sure they secure their partner. The thought of bringing more children into a cruel household just to secure their marriages.

What are your thoughts? Share them in the comment section below

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7 Comments

  1. This is the topic in the bar of late with my boys, but it takes more the route of using babies as insurance even after it can’t work.

    This whole thing happens across Africa, the last born after many years is an attempt by a lady to ground the man but it never works

  2. Nice read this one. I think there is a prevalent notion that marriage is about sacrifice. While to some extent it might be true. Its folly to stay because of kids . It hinges on thinking that the kids are oblivious of what’s going On. That they can’t see mum or dad is unhappy. . In fact I think it does more damage .

  3. Such cases don’t seem to come to an end any time soon hey. I’ve seen people bearing more children just so that they can keep the man. Maybe there’s an imbalance of how people truly understand the sole purpose of marriage.

    Recently I read an article of a 47year old who took her life because she was unmarried and could not have children. It’s very sad to realize just how far we are in terms of societal expectations.

    1. To an extent of killing oneself The issue starts in our 20s, when we pressure ourselves to get married just cause our friends are getting married. Then comes the issue of wanting a baby because your whole circle of friends has a baby. At the end, even when the marriage is bad, you never want to end it because of the fear of being a failure

  4. It’s funny how reading this question out loud feels as though no woman can be low enough to do such a thing as carry a baby to secure her marriage…it happens way before people are married and it’s still happening with married people. I would like to think that it has more to do with (in the first instance) a lady having identified a man she feels will be responsible and man enough as a family man, while (in the second instance) it has more to do with how society continues to make women fear judgement after they decide to walk out on a seemingly failing marriage, and the general fear of financial paralysis should the man be the one to initiate a fall back plan.

  5. I don’t doubt that this happens but it is all shades of wrong.
    Having children isn’t even the important aspect of marriage. Companionship is.

  6. I find it amusing that women will have children so casually when pregnancy is a life and death situation and being a parent is a lifelong endeavor. Children do not keep a man or make a man be faithful or love you. Just bringing children here without considering the quality of life and the amount time and energy it takes to raise emotionally balanced individuals is extremely selfish and short sighted.

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