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

I absolutely love this TED Talk by Christen Reighter, who talks about the resistance she met with when attempting to obtain approval for tubal ligation. There are two statements in particular which struck me:

“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.”

The resistance which Ms. Reighter encountered during her consultations for tubal ligation was unfounded in both my opinion as a woman, and also as a physician. It’s astonishing how medical colleagues refused to hear her argument for the ligation, and how her primary doctor kept insisting that she would change her mind at some point. What infuriates me even more was that the doctors abused medical paternalism, infusing their own beliefs about what a woman might be feeling about the idea of motherhood, and essentially stripping this woman of her rights.

Similar to what Christen Reighter believes, I have never bought into the lie that it has been my duty as a woman to have children. I have always bristled when people would try to pressure me to start a family. I have received this pressure from my family and feel that this is appropriate, but I have also been pressured by friends, patients, acquaintances and complete strangers. What is with the intense societal pressure to create progeny?

I have never experienced anything more than a brief and passing curiosity about the idea of having a child, and now that I am post-menopausal, I no longer have to concern myself with it. I don’t feel that I am incomplete or less of a woman because I chose not to have a mini-me. I essentially chose to be childless for a number of reasons, and I had the right to make that decision regardless of what anyone else thought.

Bravo to Christen Reighter for proclaiming her strong beliefs and standing her ground.

Childhood Quirks

Image ID : 21701963 (123rf.com)
Copyright : Yael Weiss

My mom taught me how to blow bubbles with bubble gum when I was 5 years old, sparking a years-long obsession with gum.  I loved trying different flavors of gum: orange, grape, strawberry, Fruit Stripe (anyone remember this?), lime, bubble gum flavor, you name it.

I was so obsessed with different flavors of gum that I developed a rather odd and disgusting habit which sounds so horrific to me now.  When I found an especially tasty morsel of gum, I would stop chewing it before all the flavor left, then stick the wad on the underside of a small card table I had in my room.  At any given time, I would have between 6 to maybe 10 wads of chewed gum under that table.  When I wanted to experience the flavor of a gum again, I would pry the gum off the underside of the table, then go to the bathroom sink and run the gum under steaming hot water until it softened up.  Once the gum was heated up, I’d pop it in my mouth and chew happily away.

I definitely doubt that the water was hot enough to disinfect the gross little clumps of gum, and I think it’s a miracle that I didn’t become ill from that unsanitary habit!

Is anyone else brave enough to admit to a strange or gross habit they might have had when they were children?

 

The Days Of Trick Or Treating Are Over

42308248 – children in fancy costume dress going trick or treating

Halloween was always my favorite holiday, because I could dress up as anything I wanted to be. It was always such a blast to think of what I wanted to be for Halloween, and my mother always obliged, albeit begrudgingly at times when she wasn’t thrilled with my choice or had to put together a costume for me. That being said, there were only two years in which she took on the task of putting a costume together for me: in fifth grade, when I went as Cleopatra, and once in seventh grade when I went as Princess Leia.

Year after year, I used the same hard plastic trick or treat pumpkin which my mother bought me when I was five years old, and I always managed to get that Jack O’ Lantern filled to the brim with candy when I went trick or treating. Back then, parents were concerned about apples containing razorblades, so I was instructed to never accept apples, but I could accept all the candy I wanted, as long as the wrappers were intact. I had my favorites, like Snickers Minis and Dubble Bubble Gum, but I was such a polite kid that I was happy to get any candy when I approached front doors and made that request:

“Trick or Treat!”

The Halloween I celebrated in sixth grade was characterized by trick or treating with several friends in Bel Air, an upscale community in Los Angeles. When we knocked on the doors of the beautiful homes there, we didn’t get Dum Dums or candy corn. Instead, we received things like full sized Hershey bars and little boxes of Godiva chocolates. One house we went to handed out $5 bills, which was a sizeable amount to a ten-year old in 1976!

Things have changed dramatically over the years, with parents opting to take their children to the mall or to scheduled events in lieu of knocking on doors at dusk. I completely understand why, since the hazards of walking around after dark and accepting candy from strangers can be just like playing Russian roulette. In the eleven years that I have lived in the same community, I have only had four groups of children trick or treating. It’s a dying trend.

Nope, I Really Don’t Want Kids

I do not want kids
People are continually amazed when I reveal my utter lack of desire to have children. Though I have found myself pondering the concept of having children while in relationships (including my most recent one), I find that as a single woman, I truly don’t see myself ever pursuing an opportunity to have a child. I have felt this way my entire life, even when I was married, and knew in my heart that unless a man swept me off my feet and somehow convinced me that having a child would be a great idea, that I would never willingly sign up for motherhood. Yes, I have come very close to agreeing to the whole kid thing, and I think I am probably still at risk of being somehow convinced that the idea might fly, but I would never make such a decision on my own. I have NEVER been the kind of woman who has watched children playing, or has seen babies in a nursery, and thought, I want one! I don’t yearn for the mother-child connection, and I don’t feel the need to create a mini-me.

There are a multitude of reasons besides my general lack of interest in the concept of having children which support my decision to remain child-free, but the three main reasons are:

1. KIDS ARE EXPENSIVE: Raising a child is unbelievably expensive. Be prepared to spend $245,000 to raise a child in the United States from birth at 2013 up to age 18. Here is a reference article so you can see the breakdown of costs:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/08/18/raising-child-cost-2013/14236535/

This is insane to me. I can barely get by as it is, and cannot imagine dealing with the financial burden of raising a child. No thank you.

2. TOO MUCH ON MY PLATE: I have so many projects that demand all of my time and focus, and am well aware of the fact that ALL of that would crumble if I were to have a child. Since I have no intention of redirecting my attention, no children will come into the picture. I certainly would never want to be a neglectful mother, and that is why I would relinquish all of the activities (EXCEPT gym time and eating clean!) that consume the bulk of my time and energy. I am not selfish enough to rob a child of all that he or she should experience, and would make every sacrifice to send the child to the best schools and provide everything possible. That would mean the end of all that I have known in my life as an independent woman.

3. I VALUE MY FREEDOM: It is pretty liberating to be able to leave at a moment’s notice (provided it doesn’t conflict with my work schedule) to go out of town, pop over to a store to run an errand, go out with friends from time to time, or just take a rare nap in the middle of the day. If I had a child, I would have to plan EVERYTHING in advance, arrange for child care, or take the child with me, along with diaper bag, formula, etc. I would feel so incredibly encumbered that I know my spirit would suffer.

i-cant-wait-to-have-kids
For those of you who wonder if I feel any sadness over being childless, I can tell you without hesitation that I value my freedom far more, and as a result, couldn’t be happier about the fact that I have no children. People still seem so shocked by that, as if an adult is supposed to feel some type of longing for parenthood. Society often regards people who choose not to have children as somehow inadequate, which is ridiculous, since those of us without children often have schedule flexibility which people with children can usually only fantasize about, and we have just as much value despite the lack of progeny.

I also find it extremely irritating and condescending when a WOMAN asks me if I have any children, and upon my negative reply, says, “Oh, yeah, that’s why you look so good.” This only prompts me to bust out photos of women in the fitness industry who have borne as many as SIX children and who rock washboard abs and fantastic muscularity and conditioning throughout their bodies. The desire to keep my body in its best shape ever has been a minor factor in my decision to avoid having children, but it by no means has been a primary reason. Fit women have proven over and over again that it is possible to bounce back into great shape after having children.

If you’re worried about me being child-free, remember that I love the flexibility and freedom in my life. I have pets whom I love dearly, and I have incredible friends. I don’t perceive any hole in my life because I never bore a child.

Not Everyone Is Meant To Have Children

BabiesIt has always bothered me when people have pressured me to start a family. I have received this pressure from my family and feel that this is appropriate, but I have also been pressured by friends, patients, acquaintances and complete strangers. What is with the intense societal pressure to create progeny? I have never understood it and will never allow ANYONE to pressure me into popping out a kid. It is NOT my duty as a woman. Besides, I joke that the dairy section is getting stale, when in reality, it isn’t a joke. The medical risks associated with pregnancy in women over the age of 35 are considerable and not something I want to sign up for.

On another note, I have noticed that the older I get, the less interested I am in being around babies and children. I tolerate them and simply do not imagine my life colored by the incessant responsibilities and time requirements of child-rearing. Let me be the aunt or honorary aunt and observe from a considerable distance and for brief snippets of time. It’s not that I don’t like children. I think they are cute enough, but I don’t experience the ache that many childless women describe when seeing an adorable child.

Perhaps someone will sweep me off my feet and change my mind about raising children, but it is highly unlikely. I love my life and my freedom and do not feel that I am incomplete because I don’t have children. If I want to feel more rooted to my homebase, I will get a dog.

Woof.