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. With my mental health issues (especially depression), I won’t have kids. First because I don’t want to pass that on. Secondly, I won’t have the motivation, energy or the mental stability to take care of a child. Honestly I’d just be mentally incapable and unprepared to raise a child 🙁

  2. selfishness is adding to the population for no other reason other than that anyone can. reduce co2 emissions? how about STOP BREEDING INCESSANTLY?

    im responsible enough to know i am too irresponsible to raise a kid fulltime. stick to babysitting.

    this world is insane and only getting worse. who wants to bring a life into this BS? THATS selfish. i want a baby! not… we need a baby. i WANT a baby. no. i want LOTS of babies!

    too many humans. too many kids in foster care or worse… orphanages.

    the concept of IVF is sickening when theres people starving, people homeless, and all our flora and fauna being destroyed at an ever incressing rate. thats nature's way of saying STOP BREEDING. enough! too many humans!

  3. I don't want kids because I can barely take care of myself how do you expect me to be responsible for another being??

  4. Why is this ted talk considered valuable no ones cares if you want kids or dont

  5. That’s what all families say like this it’s not like a cool upgrade it’s a big responsibility dreams should be taken seriously this world is already populated enough it’s not selfish and motherhood does not make a woman we can still be happy without a partner or kids

  6. I never ever ever wanted kids.
    I don't dislike them.
    I just never wanted my own.
    And I have never regretted that decision .

  7. My mother wants to get sterilized for her health because nothing else will work, but the doctor just says try this and this, you might want more children, when she already has 2. I just told her that the next time she goes to say, I don’t but if that changes there is always adoption.

  8. The more I try to explain it the more people look at me like I am afraid of it or sure to change my mind or something. I am sitting there literally trying to understand why anyone would rationally want kids.

  9. I don't ever want to have kids cause I don't want to make another soul get tortured by indoctrination, 15 years of school, and 25-30 years of a job, only to realize that it was all so that you could perpetuate the cycle of birth-innocence-realization-despair-death.

  10. THANK YOU for saying this. I'm basically only 2 minutes in but yooo. How many times I have heard "wait ten years and you'll change your mind about it"
    I think it has been 17 years that I've first heard this. I have never changed my mind about it and don't think I ever will. Is it really selfish of me? People were always having this face of disbelief when I said I dont want any. Have always wondered what goes on in their heads that moment. Me here always shrugged "hm. Guess I'm not normal then" and carried on with my life.

  11. Feels great to know this is normal and i am not the only one, thank you for sharing your life experience

  12. Where are the men that don't want children? Raise ur hands coz now women need more of those

  13. Is it worth it having a ridiculous talk about such an insignificant topic? Who cares if she had kids or not? 😏

  14. Having children is a very personal choice to make. I know that one day, after I get my career and have done all of my travelling and the things I want to do, I would love to get married and have a baby. That is my choice, and whether if women want to get pregnant or not, it's no one else's place to make a narrow judgement. As long as people are satisfied with the decisions they are making for themselves, no problem 😎

  15. I'm 47… I decided at 21 that I did not want children. I gave not, at any point changed my mind.

  16. I'm not even fifteen yet and I never want to have biological children. Sure, you might be super proud of yourself once you have them, but like…
    I just don't like it. I don't like anything about it. I would definitely adopt, that would be nice, but I just can't ever imagining having to take care of another part of me…also I may or may not be bi/les/asexual so…im not sure if it has something to do with that. I just feel pressured to have children later in life, sorry gran but…if anything at the least you're gonna have to deal with an adopted grandchild. AIN'T NOBODY STOPPIN' ME!

  17. You belong to the state, the state will change your mind for you if the figures show that more children are needed.

  18. Splendidly said. I would make a great dad but I don't want kids. My choice. Your choice. Religion gives you no choice. You either fit whichever religious path you're not even on or you're a woman. Condescending megalomaniacs will always rule!

  19. If a doctor talked to me like that I'd tell him to piss off, fire him on the spot as my doctor and go find a female obgyn. How dare he call her a little girl. He needs a good kick in the gnads to discover his inner falsetto.

  20. That happened to my husband too. I had been on bc for years and he wanted me to stop taking them. We talked about the fact that he just didn't want kids. If I wanted kids, we could have them, but don't have them for him. When he went to the urology clinic, he was basically told he was too young to have the surgery. What happens when you're older and want kids. He said if I don't want them now, I'm not going to want them when I'm older. He wound up going to another clinic, and I got off bc

  21. Because a man's want to have children is more important than a woman's opinion and want of her body that will be impacted from pregnancy.

  22. Women who don’t want children are defying their biological imperative, and are very selfish. They’ve bought into the modern feminist lie that you can find true fulfillment via selfishness. Just because there’s a wrong way to become a mother, doesn’t mean you should go that route. Nothing is more beautiful than marrying someone you love and creating an eternal manifestation of that love. But what do such women know about love and sacrifice? They only look for ways to bastardize every beautiful tradition.

  23. Plenty of men get crap for not having kids from other men. I've heard all the "you'll regret it" and "You'll die alone" and "You won't leave anything behind" bullshit myself.

  24. I'm too f*** up in the head to be a father ……or a husband for that matter. Also don't have the resources for either.

  25. Are you fu%#!%%! Kidding me? A woman can’t even get a tubal ligation if she chooses?!

  26. Idiotic Men … this time MALE DOCTORS, controlling women, Post their names on social media and tell everyone you know what these sexist men are doing.

  27. Of course, all women have the choice of whether or not to have children, but I find her narrative to be a bit mendacious. She equates doctors not wanting to give her a procedure to them forcing her to have children, and this is a false equivalence. It is not necessary to have that procedure if you don't want children; indeed, there are many different viable contraceptives available. If you want to argue against medical paternalism, fair enough, but that's a complicated and rich discussion that medical ethicists have constantly. The fact is that not a single person is forcing her to have children, and yeah, it must be annoying to have to deal with societal norms that make you feel suffocated, but quite frankly, everyone deals with abrasive societal norms, and those norms aren't going anywhere. Do I beleive society should be more accepting and open-minded? Yes. Is this women a little melodramatic and accusatory? Absolutely.

  28. Wish i was in her place so i can ask the doctor if he was straight/american/a doctor/an adult/a woman/etc or not and no matter his answer I'd tell him
    "You'll change your mind"
    That makes no sense but what they're saying makes no sense as well

  29. I always knew that I wouldn't be a good mother. I'm sorry but I don't really like children, I am not even remotely caring or patient or consistent enough. And my family isn't a good one to grow up in. I first tried to kill myself at the age of seven, after considering it for aproximately a year. My dad, my mum and my uncles tried (they failed). My Grandfather killed himself, my greatgrandfather killed himself. We have eating disorders in my generation, narcassistic traits are constantly rewarded and being emotional is imediatly punished. This is not an environment to raise a child. Don't tell me I need a medical reason for being sterilized. If it's for the risks of having complications I am happy to sign every form taking all responsibility. But not doing it because I might regret it? Even if, it's none of your business. The best way (in my opinion) to have a child is to adopt. So many people want to adopt babies ut you know what? Having a child in primary school, middle school, even High school sounds so much more inviting.

  30. The first time I saw a gynecologist for a routine examination he asked me what I use as birth control. I said "nothing". He said oh, so you're trying to get pregnant? (You could see the gleam of potential money in his eyes….) I replied "no, my husband had a vasectomy because we don't want kids". He was horrified!!!!!

  31. My aunt has endometriosis, so do I (I want kids) she didn’t, she was in constant pain (so am I) yet there was no gain from having a uterus as she didn’t want children. The battle she had to get her hysterectomy was insane

  32. I feel like she never had the opportunity to have kids, and now she has convinced herself "she doesn't want kids". It is the equivalent of losing a soccer match and calling the whole game "stupid". Also, she is very pretentious.

  33. Parents: We are struggling to male ends meet raising four children.

    Conservatives: Well then don't have kids.

    Millenials: Okay cool we won't.

    Conservatives: Wait, why aren't you having kids?

  34. When someone starts pressuring me into having children again, I'll just ignore them and send them this TedTalk

  35. if some one does that to me i just ask them " and how do you know you won't want to cut your right leg off tomorrow or next week? coz i'm sure your change your mind one day right?"

  36. Ok, no kids, I get it. What are your thoughts on practice? Just practice, lots of practice. Just asking

  37. A friend of mine told me once about the love for her children and how "it's the greatest love you can ever imagine, there is nothing like it." She is divorced. I told her that I believe love comes in many forms, and even though my husband and I don't have children, I have never loved more than I do him, he is my best friend, my helper, my equal, my confidant. Many mothers make the mistake of saying "you'll never know a love like this" but maybe they haven't married the right person… My life and love is whole already, I have never wanted a child and I do not feel like I am missing out in any way. Please think before you speak. I know marriages that have died due to children being born.

  38. If you are not willing to make the sacrifices that involves to be a mom, as a mom I tell you don´t do it, for the well being of the kids.
    Particularly if you so sensitive like this woman, if you are going to raise kids the right way, you need to be a little taugher and not such a snowflake.

  39. There's not really any logical argument to be against the childfree life. Some people say "We NeEd ChilDrEn FoR sUrViVaL" but all societies crumble and collapse eventually, nothing lasts forever and the people who argue that children are needed to pay taxes really need to question the real reason why the government wants a new crop of taxpayers. People can judge all they want but they won't be paying your bills or raising the hypothetical child so their opinion is irrelevant

  40. Overly emotional woman who wants an unnecessary medical procedure that could have negative side effects just because she doesn't want to get pregnant at the moment even though there are safer non irreversible options just because she is determined to become infertile that is delusional nonsense. And the bullshit about the statics quess what there will always be people in misery and there will always be unfortunate things that happen but that is no reason to not have your own children because if your own parents thought that way especially considering that in the past those problems were even worse you would not exist and the country that would allow you this freedom would not exist. I have had emotional struggles and I see how she told her story through the frame of being under attack but you aren't. When they called you a little girl they were honest because to 40 year old men or women you are a little girl like it or not. You can decide to get even more emotional about it but that doesn't make the myth that you know it all more true.

  41. When I was twelve years old, I remember sitting in a car with my mom on a road trip. I seriously stated "I don't think I'll ever want children, they're just not for me." She laughed and said "I'll remind you of that in ten years". Well, I'm 17 now and still despise infants and I want to dedicate my life to rescuing animals instead. By becoming a foster mom for orphaned kittens.

  42. Save the earth.
    Lower the population.
    I did my part.
    Teaching children with energy and love.

  43. Dear Feminists, we are thrilled too hear you dont want kids! As the less your reproduce the less of your Cancerous Ideology will exist in the Future!

  44. A Tubal Ligation (a woman getting her tubes tied) is reversible nowadays & so is a vasectomy (for men). So why would there be so much controversy? So long as she knows the surgical risks, isn’t doing it under a false assumption or isn’t being coerced or forced into doing it by her partner it’s her body. 👍🏻

  45. I'd never bring kids into a dying world… We will be lucky to get another 100 years on this planet at this rate… Possibly less.

  46. Why must people stop telling her she'll change her mind? Maybe they have had similar experiences.

  47. If you decide not to have children (and you don't already have them), it's nobody's goddamn business but yours.

  48. I question… why did you do this expensive procedure rather than abstaining? Though it's a stereotype, and your opinion is your right to believe, please understand your opinion is in the vast minority.. so please… please do not act so surprised as to why people question yours.

  49. Single or with full house of kids …doesn't matter….I want just one…More orangutans on this planet 😉 But this is good speach which can help us to go out of the stereotype circle of thinking … Support Orangutan project ! ;)THX

  50. One of my favorite movies called 'Lion,' touches on this lightly. Nicole Kidman's character tells her adopted (adult) son that she and her husband could have had biological kids but they chose not to. They chose to adopt due to the fact that there were so many children being uncared for. That was their choice and it was a beautiful choice. Everyone is different and everyone has rights. I really recommend this movie – it's such a beautiful film!

  51. As a male child free 14 year old I hate telling people I am child free because they’re like you’re a child yourself but the small kids absolutely disgust me they’re so dumb and like they’re mentally challenged ugh

  52. i definitely dont want to give birth, i cant ever imagine doing that but funnily enough i've always wanted to adopt, ive always thought about it
    but some people around me are like, dont you want your own kids? wont you feel lonely? and they say i would change my mind. i dont get it either why they would think that :/ its been MORE than 10-15years now and my mind is still the same!

  53. My siblings and mother keep saying to me that I’ll change my mind in the future I’ve been alive 14 years on this earth and still don’t want children let’s see if I feel the same way in another 14

  54. I am 33yrs old and when I was younger I had always wanted only to adopted kids not give birth to one. 1 bc I have health problems that I don’t want to carry on to the child that I give birth to. And 2 like she said there are way too many children in the foster care system. And at the moment the world is just way too crowded with us humans in it. And I think just last Christmas or so I told my cousin that already has 3 kids and just gave birth to a 4th one that I had just started my Depo shots bc of my reasons. And I thought my mom knew bc she was basically standing across from us but I not. Anyway I did tell her about it again and she exploded and told me to stop taking the shots. But I just basically told her it’s my body it’s my choice. And then for my dad I never told him bc what’s the point he doesn’t even remember anything.

  55. When most people ask when I will have kids, they usually say it with a bit of jealousy, since I do lots of things they wish they could but cannot

  56. I'm surprised that no one mentioned that her gene is at an evolutionary disadvantage, which is exactly the opposite of selfish. A truly selfish person preserves his/her gene -> the foster-cared children's parents.

  57. Absolutely fantastic. I'm 35 and I've been very happily married to the man of my dreams for 5 years now. I have zero desire for kids though I adore children and even work in a daycare. I cannot tell you how many times people have belittled me for saying I didn't want kids. My male ex-boss who has 5 children was so angry at me one day for saying I didn't want kids that he was literally red in the face and shaking. Ive heard, countless times, things like, "You'll regret it someday." and "You'll change your mind once you meet the right person." Well, at 35 and blissfully married, I still haven't changed my mind and I have no regrets. Without kids, I'm able to live my life the way that I want. I can travel whenever I want, sleep when I want, shower when I want, and eat when I want. I love being childless. Thankfully I married a German man and live with him in Germany which is much more progressive in this aspect. My gynecologist immediately suggested a tubal ligation when I told her I didn't want kids but also no longer wanted to take the pill. I didn't go for it, but at least I know the option is there should I choose it someday.

  58. Im a 23 year old guy who is always told i will find a girl and i will have kids some day.
    Maybe i dont want those things, or maybe just a wife and no kids.
    Maybe i want to live in a $4,000 camper and travel the world, actually live life.

  59. I a man dont want to be a provider. I dont want 2-4 people looking to me to put a nice big roof over there heads, food, cars, collage, medical bills.
    You are beautiful for doing this talk. And i will share your message.

  60. It's also true that most of the women that don't have kids are bitter and socially awkward

  61. i have a dad who isn't my father (i'm not biologically his). he told me that as a young man, he NEVER wanted to have a child but when he became old and without a wife (his 'wife' left, got married again and had a child), he began to regret it. before i came into his life, seeing children really caused so much pain in his heart for his past decision. There're people who later regrets it when they're old n there're those who doesn't.

  62. i'm 15 and this woman is my idol.
    I really don't like kids, and i won't change my believes because of my partner or anyone else!

  63. its crazy how our worth is still defined by our ability and choice to reproduce

  64. At the age of 21 I went to my doctors to ask to be sterilised after watching a program that said you learn how to be a parent from your own parents. I didn't want the nightmare of my childhood inflicted on something I was supposed to love, so I made the descission not to have kids.
    I had to sit there while he laughed in my face and said exactly the same things "You'll change your mind", "Your being stupid and selfish" and also "You will never get a husband if you can't have children".
    I'm 52, been married for 20 years, and my husband would have left me if I had said I was pregnant because he never wanted children either !
    I never liked that arsehole doctor to start with.

  65. Its easier for men to say they want children because they dont have carry for 9 month then give birth then breast feed and change diapers, wake up in the middle of night hearing a person screaming.

  66. Truth is whether u re prepared to have a child or not once you find yourself pregnant, you WILL LoVE your child cause u d be taking care of him/her and see him or her growing up! Impossible not to love someone u care for so much

  67. Tattoos: you will live with them forever, they are a huge deal, it is a big commitment, your far too young, you will regret it!
    Kids: you will live with them forever, they are a huge deal, it is a big commitment, your far too young, you will regret it!

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