Therese Shechter is about to make the first film out there about women who consciously decide not to have kids. The film, My So-Called Selfish Life, is funded via a Kickstarter campaign, (Shechter’s third crowdfunded film project), which closes next week.
The film will show how choosing to be child free in today’s society is not an easy option, and something which can be met with strong reactions from the surrounding community.
Film maker, writer and speaker Therese told her mother already in high school that she wasn’t going to have children, and that if her parents wanted grandchildren they would have to look at her sister.
While always knowing she didn’t want children, Therese kind of assumed she would have them anyway. “That had a lot to do with my ideas of what women did. I just assumed I would have a partner who wanted kids, and my friends would have kids and I would kind of have to go along with that,” she says.
Therese dreaded that looming motherhood, as she considered it the end to any dream or ambition she had. “I kind of felt like, okay, one day this is all going to get shut down.” But by the time she turned forty, she realised she should just do whatever “the hell” she wanted to do with her life. Instead of going through a crisis like so many others at forty, she realised that she was in “a perfect place”.
Therese had been thinking and talking about making this film with her friends for a very long time. “But I didn’t feel ready to make the film until recently,” she says. In the midst of the explosion of women coming out publicly and declaring they don’t want children, and then meeting with a lot of opposition – is what triggered Therese to finally start the crowdfunding campaign.
“At this point it seemed right to look at this and ask: why is this happening? Why are women getting so much abuse, being called unfeminine, selfish?”, she explains. In a society where motherhood is seen as the ultimate accomplishment, Therese said it’s important to go deeper to explore that.
According to her, not wanting kids as a woman is a threat to the status quo. “People feel deeply threatened by it, and if you’re not following that female script -that’s set out for almost every woman on the planet- if you say: ‘actually, that’s not what i want to do’ you just become this huge threat to society,” she says. “You become dangerous, you become unmanageable.”
In the film, Therese asks a gynaecologist if the desire to have children is innate and she said it’s not. “From the first moment a little girl gets a doll to take care of, we’re grooming her to become a mother,” she added.
Women choose not to have children for many reasons: the environment, health issues they don’t want to pass on, for economic reasons, that they never found the right partner, or infertility.
“If the choice not to have kids gives you more free time, more flexibility, more income to spend (if you’re not paying for daycare and college), if it allows you to pursue your goals and to travel, then yeah that’s a wonderful luxury to be able to do that,” she says.
Therese says that her own film projects would probably not exist if she had taken a different path. “On a personal note, I think that if I would have had children, I wouldn’t have had the time or the flexibility or the money to make these films.” She added: “I’m pretty sure they would never have existed.”