At the beginning of 2016, I took stock of 40+ years of talking about the childfree choice. At the end of 2016, I looked back and discussed positive childfree trends that year. It’s time for childfree trending 2017…this year I’ll do childfree trending in two parts. Here’s Part I:
Muddled Use of “Childfree,” “Child-free” “Child free” and “Childless”
This last year I have seen so much mixed up use of the words childfree, child-free child free, and childless. Here a just a few examples of many that get at what I mean:
In the article, “Childless and loving every minute” the author speaks to not wanting children. The ‘childless’ would not be loving every minute of their situation, as they want children and don’t have them. Operative word here: childfree.
The tag line for this piece, “What not to say to couples who don’t have children” states, “One in six Irish couples is ‘childfree involuntarily.'” There is no such thing. This article describes the childless experience. Now it is possible that the childless can ultimately become childfree, but it means they have crossed a chasm and have gone beyond accepting they don’t have children to feeling happy with their lives without them. In any case, a person can’t “involuntarily” not want to have kids!
In “Don’t have kids? Then don’t tell me how to parent,” Kate Symons, a mom, talks about how when she goes to the hairdresser, rather than take her child(ren), she prefers to treat it as a “well-earned, child-free” break. In this case, ‘child-free’ means she’s without her kids at the moment or ‘free’ of them right now. While this does connote a different meaning than childfree, meaning not wanting kids at all, this last year we have seen ‘child-free’ used synonymously with childfree more than ever before.
The piece, “What being a childless and ‘middle-aged’ woman is really like – from loneliness to living the dream” has the tag line: “An honest conversation about living a child-free life has had both mums and women without kids participating.” So childless is in the title and child-free in the subtitle – which is it? Additionally, in it women speak to an array of ways they landed at not having kids…is child-‘free’ the right word for those who speak to having wanted them but ended up not having them? ‘Childless’ sure seems like the better word for these women.
A Few More…
In “What’s it like to be child-free in your thirties?” the women are “all child-free for different reasons.” This seems to imply the word for women without children no matter what the reason is synonymous with the word childfree with the dash.
In TIME, the piece, “Do the Child-Free Live Longer?” talks about longevity between parents and those who “remained childless” – which is it? Here it seems child-free and childless are being used synonymously.
Then there’s “Woman angry at having to go without presents due to family Christmas rule to only buy for kids,” where a forum user writes, “I’m child free too and would feel a bit hacked off.” What does ‘child free’ as two separate words mean in this case?
The article, “Why It’s Okay to be Childfree Until You are Ready” goes more into feeling undecided, which is very different than being childfree – that is knowing you don’t want them. Even though this posted in late 2016 I include it here because this is when I started to notice the use of ‘childfree’ lumping those who don’t want children with those who don’t have children yet (which means they do want them) and/or with those who aren’t sure whether they want them or not.
“4 Things Reminding Me That I’m A Parent Even When I’m Childfree” goes through things that make them remember they are parents when they are not with children. Hardly childfree, they are parents for Pete’s sake!
The Tip of the Iceberg
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg of the ways in which these terms are being confusingly used. Why do we see this? On one hand, online it could stem from SEO algorithms. But if this were the case, wouldn’t we see a bit more consistency of term usage?
Another reason could just boil down to preference. Maybe those writing the pieces and publishing them prefer one term over the other for their own reasons. This idea relates to how many childfree people don’t care for the word “childfree” as a way to describe them. The “free” part can connote less than positive interpretations, and the “child” part still describes us first by what we are without – and from a pronatalist stance that means kids. I don’t like this either, but generally speaking, the childfree community had not identified a concise term we prefer more. Even if we did, would that term get muddled with others like we’ve been seeing with the word “childfree”? Maybe one day we’ll see. For now, I hope 2018 brings less confusing terminology use in this area. One place you won’t find it is here!