I’ve written about childfree terminology in the past but I got to thinking about this topic again after listening to a recent episode of the Married Without Children podcast. In it, hosts Chris and Bev discuss a New York Times article by Marci Alboher. Alboher is, by all accounts, childfree. However, she doesn’t subscribe to the term and instead favors “nonparent” because, as she wrote, “it doesn’t carry the judgment of childless or child free.” While I wholeheartedly support anyone’s use of the word “nonparent” — and I’m a big fan of Nina Steele, the woman who created nonparents.com — I think it’s time we stop viewing the word “childfree” as a judgment. Why? Simply because it’s not.
Childfree by Definition
Childfree, by its dictionary definition literally means “pertaining to adults who do not have or live with children.” What it does not say: adults who do not have or live with children and judge everyone who does have children. Some feel “childfree” carries a negative connotation because it is a blend word that combines, obviously, both “child” and “free” — AKA free of child(ren). But, even then, the word is not inherently negative. Bear with me, please, as I try to get this thought out into the open…
What does it mean to be free? Literally: to be unencumbered, without, exempt, not liable to … Okay, I know this is starting to sound like a lesson in semantics but my point is this: childfree could, word for word, become:
- child-without or without-child
None of those words are negative, right? I’m not denying that some see “childfree” as negative, I know that to be true. What I am saying, however, is that there’s no real basis for it. So, how did this happen?
Childfree is Child-hatred?
There’s no one reason why people have decided to forego parenthood. Often times, even each individual childfree person has their own multiple reasons for being childfree. I, myself, fall into that category. Although I enjoy the company of children (most of the time), I know that’s not the case for every childfree person. Some people don’t like kids and would even go so far as to say they hate children. I’m not here to judge that opinion. Actually, let me first say kudos to those people for not having children. Because having children when you hate kids — now that’s a problem. Living a life without children because you don’t like them, well, what harm really comes from that?
Outside of the childfree community, people tend to generalize and lump all childfree people into a group of child-haters. Maybe those who dislike children are more forthcoming about their decision and use the term “childfree” more freely? I’m not sure. I have realized the role I play in perpetuating the stereotype. How?
When acquaintances ask me if I have children (in person, that is), I often don’t use the word “childfree” to describe that aspect of my life. While the question isn’t always appropriate, I’m much happier to be asked “Do you have children?” than “When are you having children?” Regardless, I realize the way I answer could be an opportunity to educate and dismantle stereotypes. Why not tell a rando, “I’m childfree.” If I get a confused look, what prevents me from explaining what a childfree person is (and often times, is not)?
What Childfree Means to Me
Being childfree is only one aspect of my life but, let’s be honest, it’s a big one. Parents would rightfully say their children are the most important part of their lives. Likewise, being childfree is an important part of mine. I think, at least sometimes, there is this confusion about people who do not have children — like we’re either a) declaring our hatred for children everywhere we go or b) walking around with child-shaped voids in our lives. For most of us, that’s just not true. One of the things I love most about my childfree life is having the space to spread out, so to speak. I have a lot of different interests and divvy up my time accordingly. I don’t think that decision deserves to be viewed negatively.
That said, I’ve decided I’m going to make a conscious effort to use the term “childfree” more in my everyday life. But, for now, if any of my parent-friends or acquaintances are reading this post today, hi! Here are some things I feel I need to explain:
- My decision to be childfree is not a reflection on your choice to parent
- If I like you, there’s a good chance I like your kids. That doesn’t mean I want my own.
- If you’re happy with your decision to become a parent, I’m happy too. All kids deserve to live in homes with people who love and want them.
- I know my stuff even if I don’t say it. I spent just under a decade working with children, am educated in child development, was a mandated child abuse reporter, and — lest you forget — was a child myself. I know you probably don’t want to hear my opinions so I tend to keep them to myself but, please stop writing childfree people off as knowing nothing about kids just because we aren’t parents. We can be a source valuable and unbiased information.
- I likely don’t share my blog with you because I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. I realize that’s my mistake.
- I enjoy vacations (and flights) best when they’re sans kids. That doesn’t make me a bad person. It means I like when the world is quiet.
- My dogs are not my children, but they’re pretty stinkin’ close. You’ll probably have your kids ’til the very end but I won’t be able to grow old with mine. Knowing that is hard enough so don’t judge me for spending money on keeping them healthy.
- I’m childfree by choice, which means I made the definitive decision not to have children just as you made the decision to have them. We’re not that different, you and me 🙂
What would you like parents to understand regarding your life as a childfree person? Comment below!