Friday, November 2, 2007

Am I childLESS or childFREE?

This is a subject of endless debate on every relevant board or site I've visited. 

I understand the power of words and desire to put a positive spin on things. Perhaps childLESS does sound a little pathetic or forlorn (and if there's one thing I hate, it's being the object of pity). I may be "less" or lacking a child, but I don't believe that means my life is any less interesting or valuable or valid than a parent's. It's just different. 

But to me, childFREE isn't quite right either, because it implies that we are happy to be "free" of children, as though we consider them a burden, when nothing could be further from the truth. It does not reflect the battle we went through to try to have a very much wanted child, or our struggle in trying to decide when enough was enough and when we should stop treatment, or the struggle we've had to find new meaning in our life since then. If I am FREE of anything, it is the burden of infertility treatment!! 

The term childFREE is also widely used by people who do not want to have children, & I think it creates a lot of confusion in the eyes of the fertile community. Some childfree by choice sites can be extremely anti-child. Nevertheless, I do enjoy visiting some of them. We have a lot in common, in the way we are viewed by society & the situations we find ourselves in (including having to explain and sometimes defend ourselves) -- and the women (& men) on these sites are extremely clear about the advantages of not having children. Sometimes, that's a message we need to hear! 

One of the best such sites/blogs I've found is Purple Women -- lots of thoughtful, reasoned commentary on living without children (albeit by choice) in a world geared to parents & kids. I'm not sure I can call myself a "Purple Woman" by their definition. Lavender, perhaps?? Anyway, my solution, until something better comes along, is usually to use the term "childless/(slash) free" in my writing. 

And of course, I am actually not childless/free at all. I am a mother -- Katie's mother -- but that's another post for another day...


  1. Although we are starting IVF, we "tried on" being childfree/childless for a year and liked it enough to keep it as plan B if IVF doesn't work.

    I'm not satisfied with either term. I like the sense of choice and satisfaction implied by "childfree," but at the same time I want our loss distinguished. My husband sometimes uses "barren."

    The book "Experiencing Infertility: Stories to Inform and Inspire" uses the term "resolving without children." That's a bit unwieldy but more satisfactory.

  2. Thanks, Ellen -- I love reading your blog & I wish you success with the IVF! "Barren" sounds kind of forlorn to me too. Another term I've heard (& rather like) is "family of two." I know there's an argument about whether you need kids to be considered a family, but I think families come in all shapes & sizes these days!

  3. I've called us a family of two. I've heard of childfree by circumstance and childfree not by choice

    i don't think any of it quite fits but oh well

  4. coming back via bridges to read this one again. not sure there's a good answer. childless infertile. childless not by choice. childfree sounds so, well, carefree. yet I can see why some might use the term as part of a conscious choice to stop treatment and live without children. it's so much more than semantics, though.

    thanks for sharing this post on bridges, loribeth!

  5. Back via Bridges: I have a post in my blog drafts folder that is so similar to this one. I have moments when I feel childFREE but also many moments when I feel childLESS, which I guess is why we use the term Family of Two (sometimes adding: not by choice). Anyway you say it, I can't help but feel pessimistic about anyone understanding what it all means.

    Thanks for sharing this on Bridges, Loribeth!

  6. Thanks for this post: I think this is a common question many of us ask.. Basically, whatever you term you choose to use? That's what I will use :)