Can You Be Both Childless and Childfree?

One of the speakers at a World Childless Week webinar that I watched yesterday, Les Finneman, introduced himself as “childless some days, childfree others.”

I had never heard anyone say that before, but if I’m being completely honest, I feel the same way, childless some days, childfree others. Some days it breaks my heart that I never had children. I want to cuddle my babies, teach and take care of my older children, watch my teens grow into adults who contain parts of me and their father. I want to applaud at their graduations and cry at their weddings. I want to shower my grandchildren with love and gifts and guide their little fingers on the piano keys. When I need help in old age, I want them to . . .

I know, I know. They might not be there. Last week I sat in the ER with my friend for seven hours (she’s going to be okay). She has grown children and grandchildren, but they’re all far away. “Sue and I just have each other,” she told the doctors and nurses.

Yes, I feel childless much of the time. I am missing something important in my life, grieving that I don’t have children, hating that I’m different from four out of five women.

BUT sometimes I am just fine with my non-mom status and the freedom it gives me. Fewer people to worry about. Freedom to write, play music, and travel. Freedom to spend money on whatever I want or need instead of saving it for my children and grandchildren. Freedom to walk away from the toddler wreaking havoc at the grocery store and be grateful I don’t have to deal with that.

Child-free. I didn’t choose not to have children, but there is freedom in it. I feel guilty for saying so, but sometimes I like that freedom.

Do you ever feel kind of glad you don’t have children? It’s okay to admit that you’re sad about it one day and a little happy the next. Life is not black and white, and neither are our feelings.

The webinar Finneman spoke at, about the childless network he and colleagues created at the University of Bristol, was part of the UK-based World Childless Week. I really should have alerted you sooner, but I didn’t realize there was so much to it. They are having webinars every day. Many are at times that don’t work for me here in Oregon. 2 a.m.? But all the sessions are being recorded, and you can watch them for free. Today the theme is aging without children. Tomorrow they’re offering the male point of view. Sessions go on through Sunday. It’s quite miraculous that we can attend these events from all over the world. Visit the website for the schedule and give it a go, as the Brits might say.

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The new “best of Childless by Marriage” book, actually titled Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both, is currently with the designer, who will pretty up the pages and design the cover. I hope to show you a picture soon.

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Do you want to tell your story at the Childless by Marriage blog? I’m looking for stories, 500-750 words long, that fit our childless-by-marriage theme. You could write about infertility, second marriages, partners who don’t want children, stepchildren, feeling left out when everyone around you has kids, fear of being childless in old age, birth control, and other related issues. Tell us how you how you came to be childless “by marriage” and how it has affected your life. Or you could write about someone else. We love stories about successful childless women. We do not want to hear about your lovely relationship with your children or how happy you are to be childfree. Not all submissions will be accepted, and all are subject to editing. If interested, email me at sufalick@gmail.com.

4 thoughts on “Can You Be Both Childless and Childfree?

  1. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I sometimes feel childfree but I often feel glad that I do not have children. I feel despair about the state of the world, for example the looming climate emergency and the increasing pornification of society, and I feel relieved that I don’t have to worry about my children trying to make a life in that world. I’ve felt it more often this year with the whole Coronavirus situation. In the UK, the schools are open and I cringe when I see footage on the news of the children sitting or playing so close together. I know if I was a mother I would have found it very difficult to send my precious children back to school, especially as I am in a vulnerable group myself. It seems to be a terrible time to be making babies.

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    • Jo, I agree that this does not seem to be a good time to be having children. Here in our corner of the U.S., most children are still doing their studies at home via computer. I would be terrified to send my kids to school. We all know how quickly illness spreads among the little ones. I wonder if we’ll see a drop in the birthrate for this time. Or will it go up because couples are alone and bored?

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  2. I have (and sometime struggle with) the same feelings: I am childless not by choice, but some days I’m grateful for it and then wonder if indeed a small part of me (or even medium-sized part!) isn’t also a bit childfree by choice, mostly during moments like you described above. Like the commentor above, I am not a fan of labels and I imagine it’s more common than we know.

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