Young Zimbos Opt for Smaller Families

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Maidei Tikiwa, 26, of Chitungwiza has three children. Hararian, Tambudzai Chikanga, 28, has two. For Shamiso Dube, 30, of Mutare, it’s three. Ruvimbo Mazani, of Tafara, has four.

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Blessing Chitambo, 20, wanted two – and got them when her twin boys, Tafadzwa and Tafara, were born four year ago.

“I have always wanted to have two children, that’s something I agreed with my huaband. Two is very normal,” said Chitambo.

Traditionally, six has been the number of children favoured by most Zimbabweans. But the ideal family size appears to have gone through a shift.

Nowadays, deciding how many kids to have isn’t as easy as settling on a magic number, especially against a background of a tough economy, increased educational opportunities for women and increased job demands.

In the past, the number of children that couples chose to have was often determined by household workloads. Hence, couples opeted to have big families in order to secure labourers.

However, today’s parents are increasingly facing a lot of things that need to be balanced. Young couples intend on having children (and those that are looking to have children someday) have to balance school, career choices and relationships. What is interesting is that, unlike in the past, there is now little extended family influence in making decisions about family size.

“It’s now a very personal decision how many children I’m going to have. It’s something that my husband and I have already decided. However, I can’t say what we decide should be a straight-jacket for all,” said Mazani, who added that she and her huband, Tawanda, talked extensively about how many kids they wanted to have.

James Sitiya, 32, who is planning to get married next year, said the choice of a partner largely determines the number of children.

“I think the more educated we become, the less children we opt to have. I see it among most of my friends that are married – three is the highest number of children that most are opting for. It’s just an imperative that one has to balance career development with starting a family,” he said.

In the twentieth century, the typical Zimbabwean woman had six to ten children. During that time, children were largely seen as an asset. Children were regarded as a resource that could be put to work. Parent expected their children to look after them when they were old. Very little money was spent on the education of children, particulalrly, girls.

More recently, children are now seen as an investment. There is an increasing realization among younger Zimbabweans that children require investment in order to have a successful adulthood.

It is proving more difficult financially and logistically to have more children nowadays. Howvever, there is some clear brainwashing that two children, especially if it’s a boy and a girl, is the perfect size for a family. That message is hammered via advertising.

Whatever the case, what is apparent is that Zimbabwe’s family size has significantly shrunk. Two seems to be taking hold, and it’s not surprsing given that it takes appromixately US$200,000 to rear a child from age zero to 18.

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