By Therese Shechter “Do you have kids?” seems like an innocent question, but the answer may be the most taboo topic of a woman’s life. In this third film of my irreverent trilogy on female identity, I ask: What does it mean for a woman to say no to children–and why is our society so deeply threatened by that choice?

My So-Called Selfish Life chronicles the rise of a growing community of women who don’t want children and who reject the message that a woman’s most important – and most natural – role is to be a mother.

Almost half of American women between 15 and 44 have never had children according to 2014 statistics, an all-time high. Yet choosing not to have children is still seen by many as a deviant decision made by the immoral, the unfeminine…the selfish.

This taboo-busting film goes beyond name-calling to expose powerful cultural, economic, and historical forces behind the message that a woman’s true identity and value is as a mother. This is not a film about how terrible motherhood is, but rather how social structures present women with only one possible path for their lives.

“What does it mean for a woman to say no to children – and why is our society so deeply threatened by that choice?”

As director and storyteller, I take on a world where femininity is tied to childbearing, reproductive rights are under renewed attack, and the contents of our uteruses seem to be everyone’s business. As a woman who chooses to be childfree, my personal journey guides this narrative. Traveling through pop culture, science, and history, the film layers verité, interviews, vintage films, candid self-reflection and wry observation to deliver an eye-opening anthropological study of motherhood in the 21st century.

The film gives voice to a community challenging our most fundamental ideas about female identity, including a 19-year-old student determined to get her tubes tied, a woman “coming out” about her regret at becoming a mother, the founders of a childfree LGBT seniors’ community, and a repro rights activist whose unsuccessful fertility treatments lead to a life transformation.

Through a vivid pop culture tour that spans vintage postcards of storks chasing young women, to pregnant Barbies with removable bellies and the rise of “Instagram moms” Ivanka and Beyoncé, the film connects the dots between the cultural forces that push a message of maternal inevitability so ingrained, we no longer notice it.

Join us on the front lines of a seismic societal shift. My So-Called Selfish Life is destined to stoke a cultural conversation that will provoke discussion, outrage, and understanding–and possibly shatter a few taboos.

This is Therese’s third documentary in her trilogy about women create their own identities, which includes I Was a Teenage Feminist and How To Lose Your Virginity.


Therese and the My So-Called Selfish Life team are looking for submissions for their #SelfishSelfies project. Anyone who would like to to talk about not having kids can submit a 30-second video; it might end up in the film or an online project related to the film.

About the author
Therese Shechtertherese schechter motherhood is a filmmaker, writer, and multi-media storyteller based in Brooklyn. Her work fuses humor and personal storytelling to disturb what’s considered most sacred about womanhood. She uses popular media to explore how women shape their identities in the face of a society that seeks to define them. Her in-progress documentary “My So-Called Selfish Life,” takes on the very heart of female identity: motherhood. This taboo-busting project chronicles the rise of a growing community of women who don’t want children and who reject the message that a woman’s most important, natural–and perhaps only–role is to be a mother.