BERKLEY, Mich. (WXYZ) — More women are saying no to motherhood than ever before. The most recent census numbers show nearly one in six Americans 55 and older are without children- additional research shows more than a 1/4 of Michigan adults are saying no to kids as a conscious choice.
Despite the growing demographic, child-free women say they constantly get stigmatized as “selfish” or as someone that “hates kids” – and the judgment has impacted their healthcare.
For Berkley's Tara Heitz, this is the picture-perfect family: one loving husband, three rambunctious rescue dogs, and exactly zero children.
“I didn’t know it was possible growing up that you could choose not to have kids,” said Tara Heitz.
Tara did play house as a little girl but never wanted to play mom.
“I don’t remember ever really wanting to hold babies, but I liked other kids, so I just figured I’d grow out of it,” said Heitz.
She never really did- and when she met her now-husband who felt the same, her dream family would finally begin to take shape.
WXYZ’s Ameera David asked, “Did you face some pushback?”
“I faced pushback from the oddest places,” said Heitz.
Shockingly from health professionals- one incident in 2012 when Tara sought out a doctor to address her thyroid disorder.
“His response to me was, well, if you would stop trying to be such a career woman and stay home and have some babies you wouldn’t feel like this,” said Heitz.
When looking for birth control- another battle. Women’s doctors she says refused to prescribe medications she wanted because of their potential impact on fertility.
“I went through 3 or 4 OBGYNs before finding someone who would listen to me,” said Heitz.
“It sounds to me like you weren’t believed, how did that feel?” asked David.
“At all. You’re standing there, who’s just met me telling me you know better than I do what I want with my life after a two min conversation, it’s infuriating,” said Heitz.
“I remember hearing about an IUD, so I went in to request it and they told me no, and said well why? Well because you haven't had children,” said Kim Bode.
Kim Bode, child-free on the west side of the state spent her 30s facing the same stigma-driven headwinds.
“I just think people fear what they don’t understand,” said Bode. “Motherhood and being a female, apparently they have to go hand and hand.”
But that strong link between womanhood and motherhood is withering - a 2021 MSU study shows one in four Michigan adults don’t want kids.
“I realized that not only were the numbers growing around the world but that there were other women in exactly the same place looking for someone to talk to,” said Karen Malone Wright.
Karen Malone Wright is the founder of thenotmom.com, a supportive space where women without kids - by chance or choice- can tap into “community.” She’s long tracked the growing trend of childfree women.
“The number one reason that people give when asked by surveyors is I just don’t want to,” said Malone Wright.
For Tara and Kim, career commitment was a driving factor- but so was the desire to contribute in other ways - through volunteerism, by being a rescue dog mom, with ten pups between them, and by staying engaged as an aunt to their siblings' kids.
“I have nieces and nephews that I adore, by being best aunt,” said Heitz.
“Do you feel any less happy for choosing not to have kids?” asked David.
“Absolutely not. I love my life, I love my dogs, my husband is fantastic,” said Bode.
“I think my message would be you can live a full life without it. You can still have a family; it just might look a little different than other people's.