What Do the Childless and Childfree Have in Common?

A friend who never wanted to have children said the other night that she knew I wrote about childlessness, but that had nothing to do with her because she chose not to have children. But we actually have quite a lot in common, I said. When I started naming some of those things, she responded, “I never thought of that.” 

Let’s think about it today. How do the childfree and the childless differ and what do we have in common? 

The obvious difference is that the “childfree” have chosen not to be parents. Their reasons vary. They want their freedom, they don’t think they’d be good parents, they can’t afford it, they’re giving their all to their career, or they’re doing their part to save the planet from overpopulation. They reject the term “childless” because they don’t feel “less” anything. 

The childless also come to their state in different ways, from infertility to disability to lack of a willing partner. Some spend years trying and failing to give birth. Some agonize over whether to leave their partner and try on their own or with someone new. They grieve the loss of the life they might have had. They dream about having babies and ache when they see families with children. They do feel “less” a great deal.

These two groups sound very different. But there is a gray area. Some of us chose partners we knew would not give us children. Consciously or not, we made a choice. In some cases, we may even come to feel “childfree.”

What do we have in common? More than you might think. 

  • Most of us do not hate children. We may or may not want to be raising them, but we find them lovable and entertaining and don’t mind hanging out with them.
  • We get bombarded with questions and comments, particularly in our fertile years. “When are you going to have children?” “Why don’t you have children?” “You’ll change your mind.” “Who’s going to take care of you in old age?” “You’re not getting any younger.”
  • We find that our old friends are so preoccupied with their children and later their grandchildren that they don’t have time for us. Besides, they have new friends they met at their children’s schools, soccer team, ballet classes, etc., friends with whom they have more in common now. 
  • We have more freedom because our lives are not tied to the school schedule unless we work in the schools. We never need a babysitter, although we may need a pet-sitter.
  • People ask us how many children we have because it doesn’t occur to them we might not have any. 
  • We worry about who will care for us in old age. My friend is in the process of setting up her will and advance directives. Single and childfree, she is not sure whom to entrust with her health-care and financial decisions when she is incapacitated. She has half-siblings whom she does not feel close to. I have a brother I love dearly, and I have given him the power on all my documents, but I know we think differently about some things. Will he do what I want in the end? What happens if he dies first? 
  • We all hate Mother’s Day. 

A few years ago, I attended the NotMom Summit in Cleveland. NotMom founder Karen Malone Wright had the radical idea that women who are not mothers, whether by choice or by chance, could congregate in an atmosphere of mutual love and acceptance. It worked beautifully. By the end, I had made new friends, some of whom never wanted to be moms. I sat with one of these new friends on the plane ride home and we talked all the way back to the West Coast about everything but motherhood. It was a joy, and we are still friends. The fact that we came to be NotMoms in different ways doesn’t matter. 

I don’t want to downplay the horrible pain of infertility or the rudeness of some people who are militantly anti-parenting, but we do have quite a bit in common, whether we’re childless by choice or not. As for those of us who are childless by marriage, aren’t we making a choice not to have children every day we stay with a partner who can’t or doesn’t want to give us children?

Let’s talk about it in the comments. What do the childless and childfree have in common? What is different?

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8 thoughts on “What Do the Childless and Childfree Have in Common?

  1. Amen! Great points. I am child free because I chose my husband over children 41 years ago. I had a career and lots of animals. I also inherited grandchildren. No regrets. I would make the same decision today.

    But now that he’s gone, having no family through the holidays is especially hard. I too struggled with whom I entrusted my care to.

    Gratefully God has brought my young pastor and his family into my life the past few years. In so many ways, they are the family I never had. I’m beyond blessed by them but there were some pretty bleak years before they showed up.

    Keep on writing and sharing!

    Lynne Hoeksema Best Selling Author/Speaker https://lynnehoeksema.com/ – Ministry https://itsbeyondme.blog/ – Personal Blog

    Sent from my iPhone

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    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s also amazing to me when people assume I have no responsibilities because I don’t have kids. We take care of a lot of other people: elderly relatives, neighbors, friends in need — and their children. And almost all of it is done quietly, with no notice or appreciation, let alone a designated holiday.

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  3. I totally agree, and I’m really glad you’ve pointed this out. I think as we learn to let go our of sadness at not having children, and allow ourselves to embrace the pleasures of our life, the childless become a lot like the childfree.

    I wrote three posts about this back in January 2014, prompted by an article that annoyed me. lol I said that, no matter how we become No Kidding women, we are all “tarred by the same brush.” And that “Their struggles to legitimise their lifestyles without children are the same as our struggles to legitimise our lifestyles without children.”

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  4. The childless and the childfree…

    We are both misunderstood in so many ways. We both lack accurate representation in characters in books, movies, and tv shows. Both groups of people get all sorts of rude assumptions made about them. People assume we have more free time, more spending money, and less responsibilities. (Ha! I wish!!)

    Also, just because we aren’t raising children doesn’t mean we aren’t good with them. Plenty of childless and childfree men and women are excellent childcare workers, school teachers, sports coaches, Sunday School teachers, youth group leaders, etc.

    Now that I think about it, the two groups do have a lot of similarities!

    Like

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