• Emily Osborn

Childfree vs. Childless: What's in a Name?



When it comes to defining "childfree" and "childless," terminology matters.


Whereas childfree means a woman does not want children, childless means a woman could not successfully conceive or carry a pregnancy to term. However, as the Non-Mom Movement grows, more and more confusion and controversy has come up with these labels.


As a woman who wanted kids, but was unable to have them, there is a negativity that comes with being called "childless," with that "-less" sticking out at the end of the word, relentlessly mocking me and my inability to achieve this seemingly basic human task of procreation. The word "less" makes me feel just that--less.


I look longingly--jealously, even--at those who confidently call themselves "childfree," "CF-ers," and "C-Farers." The people who wanted this no-kid life all along. The word "free" is right there in the name--and who doesn't want to feel free? "Free" evokes an image of a person standing on top of a mountain, their arms outstretched toward the sky, their eyes closed as they breathe in calm, victory, and confidence. They are on top of the world.



What we call ourselves holds a lot of weight. Labels and names, whether positive or negative in connotation, can affect our self-esteem, confidence, and outlook on life. Many women who don't want children feel that the word "childfree" is a lifestyle choice that they, as women choosing not to procreate, have earned to own and use. They want to separate themselves from the childless pack, and don't like that the childless community is starting to appropriate their term "-free."


Childfree women are movers and shakers in their own right, stating they don't want kids and never have (women like Betty White, Helen Mirren, Jennifer Aniston, and Anjelica Huston). These women boldly took a stand against societal norms, and are helping pave the way for future women who don't want kids. They are also helping to redefine what it means to be childfree. (Hint--it does not mean they are a "witch lady," "spinster," or "cat lady"...more on that later.)


But as more and more women are unable to conceive or have children of their own, they are deciding to ditch the term "childless," and go with more empowering phrases like "childfree," "childfree by chance" (to differentiate from those who chose to be without kids), or "nomo," meaning "not a mom." Some women use the variation "childless by circumstance," and others continue to own the label "childless," while giving it a positive spin to ensure that there's hope, light, and happiness after the hurt.


I tend to question why, as women, do we have equate our existence as being with or without children at all? Isn't just the act of associating ourselves as "with" or "without," giving more power to the expectation of having kids, and that those who don't or can't are wrong?


Childfree Movement trailblazer Jody Day, author of Living the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfilling Future Without Children, coined the term "Gateway Women," to veer away from defining women as having or not having kids, but rather as who they are as people: Women are more than their uteruses. Women are powerful, strong, intelligent, kind, giving, and entrepreneurial.


No matter how we got here--by choice or by chance, wanting kids or not--I hope we can still support one another. Because in the end, our fate is the same: we don't have children, and that's okay. We are all still beautiful, generous, and loving, and having a lot to share with the world.


How do you define yourself?







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