I don’t want children — stop telling me I’ll change my mind | Christen Reighter


I recognized the roles
that were placed on me very early. One persistent concept that I observed — existing in our language, in our media — was that women are not only
supposed to have children, they are supposed to want to. This existed everywhere. It existed in the ways
that adults spoke to me when they posed questions
in the context of “when.” “When you get married …” “When you have kids …” And these future musings
were always presented to me like part of this American dream, but it always felt to me
like someone else’s dream. You see, a value that I have
always understood about myself was that I never wanted children. And as a kid, when I would try
to explain this, this disconnect between
their roles and my values, they often laughed in the way that adults do
at the absurdities of children. And they would tell me knowingly, “You’ll change your mind.” And people have been saying
things like that to me my whole life. Otherwise polite conversation
can turn intrusive fast. “Does your husband know?” (Laughter) “Do your parents know?” (Laughter) “Don’t you want a family?” “Don’t you want to leave anything behind?” And the primary buzzword
when discussing childlessness, “That’s selfish.” There are countless reasons
a woman may have for choosing to abstain from motherhood, the majority of them
not self-prioritizing. But it is still socially acceptable
to publicly vilify women as such, because none of these reasons
have made it into the social narrative. When I was little and learning
about the inevitability of maternity, it was never explained to me the commonness of these factors
that women consider, like the risk of passing on
hereditary illness, the danger of having to stop
life-saving medication for the duration of your pregnancy, concern about overpopulation, your access to resources, and the fact that there are
415,000 children in the foster-care system
in the United States at any given time. Reasons like these, many more, and the fact that I don’t like to leave
things of this magnitude to chance, all informed my decision to become surgically sterilized. I began my research eagerly. I wanted to fully understand all that was going to come
with undergoing a tubal ligation, which is just another word
for getting your tubes tied. I wanted to know approval to aftermath, satisfaction rates, risks, statistics. And at first, I was empowered. You see, the way the narrative
has always been taught to me, I would have thought that women
who didn’t want children were so rare, and then I learned
one in five American women won’t be having a biological child — some by choice, some by chance. (Applause) But I was not alone. But the more I read,
the more disheartened I became. I read women’s stories, trying desperately to get this procedure. I learned how common it was
for women to exhaust their finances appealing to dozens of ob-gyns
over many years, only to be turned down so many times, often with such blatant disrespect
that they just gave up. Women reported that medical practitioners
were often condescending and dismissive of their motivations, being told things like, “Come back when you’re married
with a child.” But women who did have children,
who went to go get this procedure, were told they were too young, or they didn’t have enough children, which is very interesting, because the legal requirements in my state
for getting this kind of surgery were, “Be at least 21 years old,” “appear of sound mind,
acting of your own accord,” and “have a 30-day waiting period.” And I was perplexed that I could meet
all of these legal requirements and still have to face a battle
in the exam room for my bodily autonomy. And it was daunting, but I was determined. I remember I dressed so professionally
to that first appointment. (Laughter) I sat up straight. I spoke clearly. I wanted to give that doctor
every piece of evidence that I was not the date
of birth in that file. And I made sure to mention things like, “I just got my bachelor’s degree and I’m applying
to these doctoral programs, I’m going to study these things.” And “my long-term partner
has this kind of business,” and “I’ve done research
on this for months. I understand everything
about it, all the risks.” Because I needed the doctor to know
that this was not a whim, not reactionary, not your 20-something
looking to go out and party without fear of getting knocked up … (Laughter) that this supported something
integral to who I was. And I understand informed consent, so I fully expected to be reeducated
on how it all worked, but … At one point, the information being
given to me started to feel agenda’d, interlaced with bias
and inflated statistics. The questions began to feel interrogative. At first they were asking me questions that seemed to understand
my situation better, and then it seemed like they were
asking questions to try to trip me up. I felt like I was on the witness stand,
being cross-examined. The doctor asked me about my partner. “How does he or she
feel about all of this?” “Well, I’ve been with
the same man for five years, and he fully supports any decision
I make for my body.” And he said, “Well,
what happens in the future, if you change partners? What happens when that person
wants children?” And I didn’t quite know
how to react to that, because what I was hearing was this doctor tell me that I’m supposed
to disregard everything I believe if a partner demands children. So I told him not to worry about that. My stance on childbearing
has always been first date conversation. (Laughter) (Cheering) (Laughter) He then asks me to consider how “in 20 years, you could really
come to regret this” … as though I hadn’t. I told him, “OK, if I wake up one day and realize, you know, I wish I’d made a different
decision back then, the truth is, I’d only removed
a single path to parenthood. I never needed biology
to form family anyway.” (Applause) And I would much rather
deal with that any day than deal with one day waking up, realize I’d had a child that I didn’t really want
or was prepared to care for. Because one of these affects only me. The other affects a child, their development, their well-being — (Applause) and human beings
are not to be gambled with. He then tells me why no one
was going to approve this procedure, certainly not he, because of a concept
called medical paternalism, which allows him,
as my well-informed provider, to make decisions for me … based on his perception
of my best interest, regardless of what I,
as the patient, want or believe. He takes this opportunity to step out and discuss my case
with my potential surgeon, and through the door, I hear him
describe me as a little girl. I was so offended. I wanted to defend myself. I wanted to explicitly explain
to each one of these providers how they were treating me, that it was belittling and sexist, and I didn’t have to take it. But I did take it. I swallowed every sharp word in my throat, clenched my jaw, and instead answered each one of their condescending
questions and statements. I had come here looking
for objectivity and support and instead I felt dismissed and silenced, and I hated myself for it. I hated that I was letting people
disrespect me repeatedly. But this was my one shot. That was one of multiple consultations
that I had to go to. At one point, I had seen five or six
medical professionals in the same hour. The door to the exam room
felt more like the door to a clown car. There’s my primary, there’s his colleague, the director, OK. It felt like I was asking them
to infect me with smallpox instead of, I don’t know,
obtain birth control. But I didn’t waver, and I was persistent, and I eventually convinced one of them
to allow the procedure. And even as I am in the room,
signing the consent forms and getting the hormone shots
and tying up loose ends … my doctor is shaking
his head in disapproval. “You’ll change your mind.” I never really understood how strongly this society
clings to this role until I went through this. I experienced firsthand, repeatedly, how people, be it medical providers, colleagues, strangers, were literally unable
to separate me being a woman from me being a mother. And I’ve always believed
that having children was an extension of womanhood,
not the definition. I believe that a woman’s value should never be determined
by whether or not she has a child, because that strips her
of her entire identity as an adult unto herself. Women have this amazing ability
to create life, but when we say that that is her purpose, that says that her entire existence
is a means to an end. It’s so easy to forget the roles
that society places on us are so much more than mere titles. What about the weight
that comes with them, the pressure to conform
to these standards … the fear associated with questioning them, and the desires that we
cast aside to accept them? There are many paths
to happiness and fulfillment. They all look very different, but I believe that every one is paved with the right
to self-determination. I want women to know that your choice
to embrace or forego motherhood is not in any way tied
to your worthiness or identity as spouses, as adults, or as women … and there absolutely is
a choice behind maternity, and it is yours and yours alone. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “I don’t want children — stop telling me I’ll change my mind | Christen Reighter”

  1. Woah humans are making things so complicated for themselves even the topic of reproduction and continuation of the human race is debatable to personal interests. We’re all too.. individual. Makes me have an existential crisis sometimes.

  2. I'm 17 and I've known for literally 10 years that I will NEVER want kids.
    Everyone: you'll change your mind
    Even my boyfriend: BUT WHAT IF YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND
    Me: I'm sorry I'm not changing my mind.

  3. I think that sometimes curiosity comes off as being judgemental, or intrusive? Her decision was considered against the norm, and probably these days, it's becoming more the norm to either forgo parenting, or to just have a dog for many people. And some people,like my own Aunt and Uncle, just like being Aunt and Uncle.

  4. never wanted kids since I was a kid. Didnt play with my dolls like I was their mommy. Preferred animals. He doesnt want children either….celebrating 20 years in 2020 and I look amazing bc I dont have kids!!

  5. I wish I could be like everyone else and want children but I don't and I never wanted them. When playing with barbies I always had Barbie, Ken, and friends not Barbie Ken with children.
    I always refused to play with baby dolls.
    When playing games like "Family" with my friends I would refuse to be the mommy.
    I first said out loud I dont want kids when I was in 4th grade.
    and I said it the year after that and the year after that.
    And even though I've said the same statement a million times and am aware of my views of "motherhood" I still hear, as a 21 year old "ha! you'll change your mind"

  6. Your mind will change when you're older.
    Thanks. But no, I strongly dislike children and the idea of pregnancy disgusts me. I'm sure the strong hatred will go away.
    Also having a child is selfish as well.

  7. I sometimes casually (in form of humor) let my parents know that I don't want biological children in the future. And they always hit me with "who would take care of you when you're older?"
    Which is so wrong in so many levels. Children are not just retirement plans.

  8. Women who don't want children don't need men in any way. That's what stings. How dare they even demand you to go through all the pain danger and fysical damage of pregnancy and labour!!!

  9. …. who are you and why would anyone care?  Is this one of those ethereal people that always tell you, "You'll never make it," but no one has ever met one?

  10. SHE'S GOT VERY GOOD POINTS HERE! BECAUSE IF I HAD IT TO DO ALL OVER AGAIN… I DEFINITELY WOULD NOT HAVE CHILDREN, NO WAY NO HOW!!! THE MAIN REASON IS THAT I WASN'T EQUIPPED EVEN IN THE SLIGHTEST… MENTALLY OR EMOTIONALLY!!! THERE WERE SO MANY THINGS THAT I WASN'T TAUGHT AND THAT I DIDN'T KNOW, THAT I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN!!! THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS THAT SHOULD BE TAUGHT IN SCHOOL BUT AREN'T!!! WE NEED TO ADD MORE SUBJECTS ON HUMANITY AND HUMAN BEHAVIOR AND THE FAMILY FOR OUR EARLIEST YEARS OF LEARNING! AND SO MUCH MORE!!!

  11. How many times did I hear my own mother say that she wished she'd never had kids–that if she could do it all over again, she wouldn't have had my brother & me? There's no getting the tight nail outta that coffin!

  12. i had an ex co worker once tell me that i should have kids because they had a kid that they didn't want and have a bad relationship with and that i should have one because they had to. that i should go through the same suffering that they did to understand them. all i want to do is scream to the world that i am more then just an incubator with legs.

  13. I know it’s not exactly the same, but I have an older brother who has anxiety and other psychologic and social issues that he doesn’t want to solve (because of ignorance, basically), and he has a young child, who of course loves her uncondicionally, but still he hate children, he can’t manage with them and he acts violently when they’re being just children (being messy and stuff). So I’m sure he didn’t want kids but social pressure (specially family) “obligated” him to be a father and now he is even more miserable than he was before, just because of the duty to be a father. I’m so sad for him 🙁

  14. I wonder how many people in the audience were thinking "Yeah you'll totally change your mind." ( 2:58 the second blonde from the right looks furious.)
    on another note
    As someone who wears glasses it hurts me to know that's what the shadows on my face look like from the frames and lenses. Ugh. I need contacts.

  15. It's true I have two children and I told my doctor I wanted my tubes tied after my second one and he just laughed at me I told him no seriously cut them, tie them take all of it out. I was denied and surprised I have three children now. Yes I used birth control still got pregnant just like I was using birth control and got pregnant with the first one.

  16. I’ve said I don’t want kids my whole life so far and NO ONE takes it seriously it’s SO frustrating “oh you say that now but you will change your mind” nO I won’t I would be an awful mom and I don’t want that responsibility

  17. I do not have kids becoz planet is overburdened with overpopulation. Bringing kids up and make them good citizen is very big resposbility, time consuming and need a lot of labor. These days marriages do not stay long so for single parent it become worst

  18. Thank you. I'm so sick of people labeling your worth as a woman as to having a child. Not all women want to be a mother and it should be our right to decide if that is the path for us.

  19. The world is overpopulated. We are killing our planet. The world needs less people. Better fewer of us live a better life than have billions living in poverty and misery.

  20. There is, I think, an inherent selfishness in having children. You are thrusting a life into this world which had no opportunity to consent. No matter your health or state of mind, it's a gamble. They may be happy and healthy, or not. They may suffer greatly, die horribly, or endure any number of terrible fates which may befall a human. And they had no choice in the matter.

    I wouldn't go so far as to say that people shouldn't have kids, but it's worth considering that they may not enjoy the life you give them.

  21. A lot of people here commenting like they were breeders" and like they were on a mission to save humanity sop that makes them special and better than those who are aware of their limitations as potential parents. Hopefully all of them are ABLE and WILLING to raise children which are actually a positive addition to the world (be advised there's no guaranteed formula to make perfect children like the Nazis tried most recently in history even though Hitler himself didn't want kids correctly for not being sure what kind of person that child would become and what world would be left by him for them to live).

  22. told my mum I would never want kids and that I find them repulsive and annoying and she said that I’d change my mind when I’m older.

    lol

  23. This hits me hard, I told my religious parents two days ago that I'm actually an atheist. But I will probably start planning soon to get sterilized. I can hear my mum talking about how she feels like I'm dead and I know that if I told her what I'm planning to do she would break. My whole life people have been telling me the same thing that they told her. My parents say that i will marry and want children but although I'm only 17, I live in England so I go to college am looking for a job and growing as a person. It breaks my heart that I might only be able to tell my sister who's an atheist aswell what I'm doing because I cannot trust my parents enough to be honest.

  24. Thank you for doing this talk!! People all around need to understand that not wanting to have kids is a completely normal thing… please stop ostracizing women who don’t want kids!

  25. I never wanted children from a very early age in fact when I was a child I didn't like children I'm now 55 I did not have any children I have been married and now divorced but I've always been very happy I think some people have a different role in life my role was to look after both of my parents who have now passed away and also to work on my own personal development as a human being so I'm afraid there wasn't any room for children , but good luck to all those people who do want them and hopefully that will have them have a happy life

  26. I have kids and I do not look down on people who do not want kids. The thing is… I expect them to return the favor. I based my life on my kids, I have not ruined my life. And I say this, because that's the reaction I have ALWAYS gotten from people who dont want kids. If you want to devote your life to a career, traveling, volunteer work, or other passions go ahead. It is YOUR life, enjoy it! But do not treat me like Ive ruined mine just because it revolves around kids. It's not for everyone believe me I know, some days I don't even know if it's for me. Why… Seriously WHY do we have to validate EITHER side of this debate. We are all women screaming to be heard and validated for our choices, so why is it so hard to do that for each other?

  27. All well and good till you inevitably adopt a bunch of pets and add to the domestic animal overpopulation to fill the void in your heart.

  28. if youre not going to be a parent, be responsible and get yourself spayed/neutered. because once you've conceived, all that little human wants is to be born.

  29. Isn't it ironic that when someone says they don't want to have kids, ppl who have kids attack them and make the most viscous, hateful comments.

  30. I would rather this woman get the sterilization she wants then to have Liberals tell her its her body and she can abort when ever she wants. Moreover, I do not want to pay for her birth control either.

  31. "(being sterilized) only affects me. (having an unwanted kid) affects me and my child"… see this is where I believe women fail in their struggle to change society and gain complete support on this topic. I think everyone in their sound mind believes that anyone should be able to decide what to do with their bodies: men, women, doesn't matter. We all agree on that. But then again, MEN cannot bear children. So if every woman acted like you, (as they are, according to their view, well entitled to, if they please), there would be no more humans. So NO, your decision doesn't only affect you. So there is where the true "selfishness" argument is born. If men could bear children, then be my guest, it's your call. But sadly, they don't. People are not out there to oppress, harass and scrutinize you just because you're a woman that doesn't want children. You're part of society. You're a small cog on an ancient machinery designed to replicate and ensure continuity… part of a billion year line of uninterrupted reproduction that ended in you as an individual. So don't be surprised when society judges you for not wanting to do "your part" out of free will. I am not saying you shouldn't do it, just don't act like you're the one that is right, and everyone else is wrong and should change their ways.

  32. Boo hoo! STFU! can we talk about women in 3rd world countries that get rapped and abused on daily basis! SURE THIS IS A BIG PROBLEM

  33. I’m done with one kid. I have birth control. It’s insane to me to know people who don’t get birth control and “accidentally” get pregnant because “they don’t like birth control”. Please. I’m don’t bc I’m responsible, and because I don’t want to continue more overpopulation, which creates most problems.

  34. What sucks is that the "smart" ones usually don't want to have children, hence not passing on their "smart" genes. :/ it's like Catch-22

  35. I work at a daycare and half the parents don't want to be around their crying, nagging, annoying kids they drop them off even on their days off work , . ., . WHY have kids ????

  36. Disgusting
    I am a mum but that doesn't mean every woman wants to be
    Btw society is actually anti children so it makes no sense to not allow woman a choice

  37. I agree that being a mother is an extended version of womenhood. these conversations with the medical practitioners in United States has to do with their own perceptions of what it meant being a woman and they need to get over themselves to think less of they want out of women, stop imposing their superiority, and respect their customers' wants and needs.

  38. I think the most ridiculous thing is :"it's selfish ". No it's not, i'm sorry it's not. Why poeple acting like womens of the entire fucking world should give some children to the earth ? Is that our role ? Stop make women feel guilty about their choice !
    When a woman dont want children, poeple think she's not normal. As if : "ok you can vote, you can work, but dont forget your role". If a women dont want children, she is not a women like the other ?
    Stop, we have not to justify ourself. We dont need a good excuse to not have children.
    Sorry for my english, i'm upset and french lol

  39. I mean, IMO, I’m fine with no kids, overpopulation chances, resources for one more person aren’t used up. Plus, adoption; I’d adopt if I want to adopt, but that’s just me. I don’t want pressure on women, I don’t want negative stereotypes around both genders, none of that. People are different and people should respect that fact.

  40. honestly… the world is literally dying. climate change is getting worse and the thought of bringing a child here while not knowing if they could even have a good future is even more selfish…

  41. I think it is important to respect anyone´s choice whether to become a parent or not.
    But I also think that procreation is a very strong natural desire in all living beings, and it is within us, not placed upon us. If someone doesn´t feel it, I´ll be the last person to pressure him or her to have a child. But I think it is both true and right to say that he or she might regret that later in life. That´s not offensive, that´s just a fact. There´s nothing worse than loneliness, especially when you´re older, and no other social contact is anywhere close to the bond you form with your child. Also, I would not think that getting sterilized at 21 is a good idea. If you don´t want children there are other ways of preventing that without making a decision that cannot be reversed.
    And lastly, this women gave a few reasons for opting out of parenthood, all perfectly valid. But I would distinguish between not wanting children for personal reasons (one´s own belief), and not being able to have children without taking a big medical risk (physical risks).

  42. What a sad presentation. My wife is a personal life coach and every one of her clients who is over 40 is depressed, sad and lost because they are alone with no children. They tell her that it is hitting them hard. In fact, one woman had a breakdown when saying that she realized she could be alone forever. Sad times.

  43. This is a bit off topic, but…
    I do not feel romantic love, never felt for anyone, I don't feel like sharing my life with someone just because we "love each other", I just don't understand how those things can bring pleasure, how you can feel good just by spending time with someone. And I told my parents I don't want to get into a relationship just because I'm 15 and my hormones should be going crazy, but they still go on and on about how they need to find me a boyfriend. No mom, I don't want to live in my beautiful house with my husband and my children, I don't want either of them, I just want to find an apartment that I can afford so I can live MY life in peace

  44. Be fruitful and multiply, don’t be fruity and blow a guy.

    The Bible says to have children, this lady is satanic, shame, she’s rather pretty

  45. So funny to see someone who I think I will become in the future. In my country which is the Philippines it is so rare to find someone like me that wants to be alone and don't have a plan for getting married nor to have a child.

  46. Me. : I don't want kids
    Mom : Who's gonna take care of you when you're old? Don't be a burden to your sibling.
    Me. : it's okay. I plan to die young anyway

  47. The reason why the Doctor was so hesitant is because 25% of women who get this procedure show
    regret and will undergo a procedure to reverse it with 14 years. Most of the reversal surgeries are
    unsuccessful. The majority of these tubal ligation surgeries are done on women 18-24 years of age.
    I knew someone who had the surgery at 20, but at thirty six had gotten married. She tried the
    reversal surgery and it was a failure. The wife was willing to adopt, but the husband was not.
    They ultimately divorced three years later. She really regretted having the surgery so young
    and it caused her to lose the man she loved. Very sad. This is why the Doctor was really question-
    ing your reasoning.

  48. Why almost every intelligent woman doesnt want a family while the less intelligent ones have them and than they give up on them or they cant handle them or so…
    In one movie that was placed in future a guy somehow appeared in a horrific world and as he tried to find out how the world ended up like that there were scenes with a pair of two young intelligent people that couldnt decide when to have a child. One time they didnt have the perfect job one time they didnt feel physically good and so on so on… while other guy that was drunk had like three different GF had like five children with these kind of stupid women… so the message was that intelligent people have biological children less often…

    I am not saying you should jump into parenthood, but I just think that from a biological look we should have children… now I am not trying to say you should have five children like a pack of wolfs… but saying that a purpose of a woman from biological angle is indeed to have children and pass out their genes…
    and if you want to be a young, independed and intelligent woman without children then be it… although I dont necessary agree I will respect your choice.
    oh and please… this is not trying to be insulting to any woman with a child, I am glad you do and I wish all good to every woman 😉

  49. Excellent!! Thought provoking and well-informed. I am a mother of three. None of my children want to be parents (they assure me that this is not a reflection on me as a mother). They just have different visions for themselves and their lives. I respect that.

  50. I have never in my life wanted kids and I told a friend of mine once and she said "so you want to die alone?" and I just don't see how they're related at all but ok

  51. I am glad she made this talk. I DO NOT want kids, and since my country is encouraging women to have kids, I always felt pressured. THANK YOU for telling the world that women are not born to have kids.

  52. I love she addressed this! It’s so hard to deal w/ so when you gonna have another child and why not?
    I only had one by choice bc knew myself, what I was capable of, as well as limitations (Adhd and OCD) I loved having only one child – my son was brilliant, talented, and super strong willed (more so than me) he spent most of his time w/me over friends. I poured my life into him, managed home, leader at church, school activities, Prof. of Knes, dance instructor coach choreographer. I never felt the need to have another one and I was made to feel guilty about my decision. I stand by my decision today. My son wouldn’t be the young man he is now – AMAZING! And id prolly be in the loony bin. You see when you go all in – hardcore – in everything you do- and you want the best for you and your loved ones – and your whole and complete in your identity – no reason to complicate life just bc society expects this of you. It’s your life! No one else knows how you operate! I operate in non confusion and organization.

  53. I think she did a favour to her unborn child by not having kids. That's all society needs is another kid raised by a third wave feminist.

  54. I never want biological children. I do want children, if I get a partner. However, I want to adopt slightly older teens. I also want a hysterectomy due to reasons I will not discuss here, but I'm afraid it will never happen.

  55. People tell you that you'll change your mind because they know that you are missing out of the very best part of life by not having kids. Really, you don't know what love is until you hold your child. I'm not going to tell that to a childless stranger, but a person who cares about you might.

  56. American doctors are weirdly sexist and patronizing. I am a medical student and what we learn to avoid is exactly this situation. “Paternalistic Doctor” thing is a very old school way of treating your patients. As a doctor you should always let your patient decide for themselves. They may not be medical professionals, but they are definitely fully functioning adults. Your job is giving them options NOT taking them away.😔

  57. Nobody takes me seriously when I say I don't want kids and it breaks my heart. Do I not have enough say in my life to choose this??

  58. Having kids is as selfish as having none.
    But that is hard to believe since people always want their one choice to be the better choice.

  59. I am a woman i don't care If a woman doesn't want kids but if you know you don't want kids get fixed so you never end up pregnant

  60. What's so wrong with saying that? All these women in the comments look so triggered. None of us know the future, just because you definitely don't want now it doesn't mean that you will not want later. So what's wrong with pointing it out? And besides it's actually apart of women nature to be a mother so every women at some point of their lives actually think about having kids, some actually do while others change their minds later, but the truth is every woman thinks about it at a certain point because it's in our nature to give life to other beings. A lot of women nowadays get triggered over nothing ffs.

  61. people talkin about getting "pressured" in the comments.
    1. find better friends?
    2. society isn't a person, it has to be coming from at least someone.
    and
    3, if it's just from random news posts and blogs or something.
    …sorry bro, why are you letting those dictate your life?

  62. Excellent talk. Very inspiring. People support abortion like nothing, but its hard for them to accept not to have children. Who understand them??🤔

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