Recently, yet another blogger (a male this time) explained why many people who choose not to have children ask not be called “childless.” Cool, Childfree Guy wrote:
“The term “childless” with emphasis on the suffix “-less” here seems to imply that people without children are somehow less for it, or put another way, like we’re somehow lacking something in our lives.”
He concludes that the word “childfree” implies that “our lives are not any less without children.” I believe he would be comfortable if “childfree” were adopted as a universal descriptor for anyone without kids.
The problem, as the Lord should have mumbled to Adam and Eve, is Free Will. Other options abound.
Option B. Across the Internet, there are voices just as loud and convincing. They say that “childfree” is a word to be reserved for the “by choice” crowd only. The woman behind The Hiking Humanist, for example, writes about her belief that the word “childfree” is:
“unambiguous, straightforward and unapologetic and serves to make a clear distinction between people who choose to never have children, and people who are childless in general who may or may not also be childfree.”
Except, of course, that this option reinforces the “less than” vibe that lingers around the word “childless”. Worse, Option B then forces anyone who did not choose a no-kids life to use that descriptor and no other. So much for parity with the “by chance” crowd.
Grammatical nonpartisans who interchange “childfree” and “childless” try to take the sting from the “-less” suffix and erase the requirement of choice from “childfree.” The NotMom.com falls in this category. In another instance, a blog titled Childfree Me describes its author as “choosing to be childless”.
In my experience, the entire childfree/childless debate is as limited as intramural sports. Out there in the larger world, with parents and elders and teens and whoever, the word “childfree” tends to be defined quite literally, with no assumptions made about choice or chance. There are big differences that obviously distinguish the two groups, but I’m unsure other people think in terms of two different tags.