I’ve been thinking about the words we use to describe those who choose not to have children. Years ago it was “childless”-those who didn’t have kids, by choice or not. The word became criticized by those who chose not to have kids because it denotes a lack or an incompleteness.
In the 70s “childfree” started as a reaction to this “less” concept. While it has more positive connotations than “childless,” “free” is also interpreted negatively, reflecting someone who shuns the responsibilities of parenthood, aka “adulthood.”
This belief has its roots in pronatalism, the backbone of why those who don’t want children are judged. It’s our deep seated value system that is pro-baby, encourages reproduction, and exalts the role of parenthood.
With pronatalism in mind, take the focus off “free” and “less.” What’s left? The word “child.” The very words we’ve used begin with the focus on child—at its root, it comes from a pronatalistic context! What could we use instead –to finally get away from ties to pronatalistic thought?
There are other words out there. “Non-parent” is used…pass. That focuses on “parent” and describes us as “not” that so in the same way starts with a pronatalistic context.
Marty Ireland, in her book, Reconceiving Women: Separating Motherhood from Female Identity, characterizes women who choose not to have children as the “transformational woman.” While the idea of being transformational is cool, imagine describing yourself that way to others—pass!
Think about this. It is about time to come up with a new word or phrase that does not have pronatalistic connotation. In the bigger picture, it would use the power of words to take a step toward challenging our pronatalistic society and its continued push for reproductive conformity.