All my children
MAXINE PARRIS never gave birth to a child, yet she is a very proud mother.
“Not having children doesn’t define me. It doesn’t make me feel less than a woman. It doesn’t. Coming on to Mother’s Day, I have all the children at my church and there are so many children . . . . I practise with them. Some of their mothers I practised with. I am blessed.
“There are some people who try to insult you when you don’t have children. People have told me that Jesus said if a fig tree doesn’t bear, it should be cut down. People are so cruel. I just leave it there. People feel that if you don’t give birth, that you don’t have children. There are some women who are very cruel. Some feel that if you don’t have children you are cursed. But for me, I’ve gone past that and I’m a blessed woman,” she said assertively.
She is that strong a woman. That’s why she said to me: “One time I would take it on, but not now. I know who I am. I have a personality that is ‘how you feel you feel, what you say you say’.”
The 51-year-old of Cane Garden, St Thomas, possesses that innate strength that allows her to push back against a cruel society that tries to define her because she did not give birth.
On Mother’s Day, she used to celebrate her own mother, but since she passed a few years ago, even that pleasure has been taken away.
December will be 29 years she has been married to Derwin Parris, whose company cannot replace that of children, but with whom she is able to share more than perhaps if they had children of their own.
In the early days of her marriage when she was concerned about not becoming pregnant, her mother told her: “You don’t know what God is shielding you from.” She has never forgotten that.
And her brother, Terry Small, pointed out to her all of her blessings and told her she has lots of reasons to be thankful. Every day, therefore, she counts them one by one.
So when mothers are being celebrated, she doesn’t mope around asking God why he didn’t bless her with children of her own. Not Maxine! She has multiple reasons to join in the festivities.
Maxine and niece Daneysa
With nieces and nephews, six godchildren ranging in age from two years to 20 something, (she had seven but one died tragically), and several children from Sunday School at the Shop Hill Church of the Nazarene where she serves as minister, board member, and main organiser for all its events, she celebrates along with every biological mother.
In addition, she and her biological sisters are close. “I have two sisters who live here in Barbados and one who lives overseas, from my father’s side. The two who live here, maybe when they recognised that I didn’t have children, gave me the opportunity to be a part of their children’s lives.
“I have a really good friend who lives in St James who has three children. She told me: ‘If I have 100 children, you will be godmother to all of them’. She said to me one day, ‘You know something: if I had to die, I would like you to take care of my children’.”
Things in place
Then she and her husband put things in place in case something happens to them, Maxine would be able take care of them.
“Can you imagine that?” she asked incredulously.
“Things like that just blow my mind. That people would look at you and think that you’re capable of mothering their children,” she said.
The children Maxine has taken care of love and respect her and thank her for guidance and prayers while she cared for them.
Sitting in her comfortable and warm living room, the brightly coloured curtains at the windows matched by the throw cushions in the plush chairs, Maxine said their home is open to nieces and nephews who will come and go as they please.
“As for graduations and other special occasions, they don’t leave me out. I am up in everything like if I am mother,” she said.
She recalled an incident years ago when a nephew ran all the way from his home to hers after midnight. He was probably being punished by his mum, but without questioning him, she opened the door, bathed him and put him to bed.
At her 50th birthday party, that same nephew thanked her for the many nights she prayed for him. It was an emotional moment.
“I started to cry because I didn’t know he was listening. I didn’t know he was conscious that I was praying for him. He is a nice fella. He will never forget me,” she said, smiling.
Maxine her husband Derwin and great niece Daneysa looking through a family album.
Maxine has some strong views on Mother’s Day. She would like it to include celebrating all women, not just mothers.
“Some women don’t have children; not because they don’t want to. Nobody knows the reasons that some women don’t have children, but to explain is to expose and there are some things you cannot expose,” she said.
Maxine likes making others feel good about themselves and derives great joy from seeing people smile and feel appreciated. She also feels good when her many children get good exam results and call to share the news. She also likes when they call before their big day and she gets the chance to encourage and pray for them.
When I asked this God-fearing woman to share her story with readers, she said she prayed for guidance. The answer was “yes” and she sincerely hopes that she can inspire someone who might be in a similar situation to get up and live.
“My advice to other women who might be in this situation is to rise up. Don’t just sit down and think about not having children. Get up and enjoy your life, look for things to do and places to go, look for the right friends that understand that you don’t have any children.
“Step out and do what you have to do. Carry on with your life as usual. You do not have children and you cannot do anything about it, so what are you going to do? Sit down and pine and mope around while the world is going along and leave you out? No. Love yourself and rise up. I enjoy my life to the max! I put God at the centre of everything. (Green Bananas Media)