Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Childless or Childfree? June 29, 2010

This is a debate that rages in my head often and I know it’s going on out there in the world, too. Are you childless or childfree?

I used to refer to myself as childfree as my way of stating that I made a conscious decision about my life. The problem is that “childfree” always had the suggestion of a narrow escape, or that I’d been cleansed of something unpleasant, like being germ-free, or living rent-free. Occasionally I come across parents or children that make me feel like I had a lucky escape by not having kids, but usually that’s not how I feel. So, recently I’ve switched to using “childless” instead, but that has the opposite connotation, that I am missing something that makes me less than whole. Again, aside from those odd times when the hormones fare up or one of my triggers is flipped, I consider myself to be a whole and fulfilled woman.

So what do I call myself? I’m looking for a term that suggests no affiliation to any faction, including parenthood.  Something that suggests my independence and my wholeness. Any suggestions? How do you refer to yourself?


7 Responses to “Childless or Childfree?”

  1. Katie Says:


    We’re all born into this world in the default position of not having reproduced. The word parent is the one that reflects a change of status.

    I don’t identify as a non-astronaut, masters degree-less, or pianoless.

    • Kathryn Says:

      Ok, Katie. 🙂

      I posted my reply before seeing your concise wonderful comment.

      I love it!

      Can i identify myself as “non-horse owner” & “energy-challenged non-cook” when i find someone determined to label me? (Hoping to shame them away, i guess.)

      My long, long comment/reply was superfluous to your “I’m human.” That’s what i was trying to say.

  2. Kathryn Says:

    I doubt there is one word that will do. One word answers let other folks “label” us & then dismiss us too easily. Most blogs, when they have a “Who I Am” section/profile use many words: Sister, Wife, Daughter, Mother, (Mom of 5 – i’ve seen), Teacher, Friend, Christian, etc.

    I don’t think it healthy for anyone to use one word/phrase/identity to label themselves (“Justin’s Mom”). I want someone to see ME & not just a “childless woman.” I don’t like taking the identity of either childless or childfree, but i most definitely won’t use childfree.

    It is “childless” for me. The “childfree” word has all the problems which you mention plus, for me, the idea that i’m “okay” with it, or that i chose it. I’m not, i did not. I’ve heard that others come to the point that it is okay for them & they end up with happy lives.

    My life is happy. I am very, very blessed with all i have. But not having children is painful & i think it will be a life-long grief for me.

    Honestly, i hope people can see me as a complete person sans a one-word label. I don’t really think of myself as either “childless” or “childfree.” I’m Kathryn. If someone asks if i have children, the answer is no.

    Sometimes i’ll elaborate & say that God didn’t give us that desire of our hearts. Sometimes i’ll say that we lost 3, waiting in heaven. But i’ve found most people don’t handle those answers well. I’ve gotten lectured on how, if we don’t have kids, that it was our choice because “there are so many kids out there who need homes.” But they don’t understand the agony we had to live thru to decide not to pursue the path of foster/adopt. They can’t know the logic behind it & that can’t be put into a one-word or one phrase explanation. I’ve found that a “no” answer usually will stop the diatribe/lecture against my choices for which they really have no clue when they have no business making such a lecture.

    The answer for me is, I’m Kathryn. Wife of Duane. Aunt to six. Friend to a few. Child of God. Lover of animals. Delighted to live in an amazing community & blessed to live among much beauty. Massage Therapist. (etc.etc.)

    Am i a mama? No.

  3. loribeth Says:

    This is a tough one. Childless implies something less than or lacking. I AM lacking the child I wanted, but it’s a sad sort of term. I know the creators of childFREE meant it to be a positive thing, but it sounds like we are relieved to be FREE of the “burden” of children, when nothing could be further from the truth. “Barren” sounds far too bleak & forlorn.

    Of course, the real question is why we let ourselves be defined by our children (or lack thereof). But that’s another topic altogether, I suppose.

  4. Tatica Says:

    I’ve thought about this recently, though I don’t really have to identify myself in such a way yet. I love the children in my life, so I don’t want to use childfree and offend their parents, but I am also very, very happy not being a parent. So I’m a non-mom when I’m hanging out with my mommy friends and that seems to work 🙂

  5. Carollynn Says:

    When people ask me if I have children, I smile and say “two cats.” It seems to tell a larger story while it also ends that line of questioning. I’d like to think that it is both said and taken with kindness, but perhpas someone has taken it as flip.

  6. Daphne Says:

    While I don’t like to identify myself with ANY label (let’s reserve la labels for cans of soup, shall we?), if I’m choosing one over the over: it’s childfree.

    ChildLESS implies a lacking of something. I am not lacking, or LESS than anything. I am free of children, however. Although, if someone is describing me, writing about me I don’t see why whether or not my uterus has ever been inhabited is something that needs to be available for public consumption.

    In other words, I agree with you 100%.

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