Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Childfree vs. Childless - take two: Are We Taking Over the Term "Childless"?

A Google Search for the term "childless" now turns up seven sites that are about the childfree. The other three are "Childless Not By Choice", "Childless- Support for women who want to be Mommies, but aren't",and "Childless Stepmoms" (arguably neutral). In other words, only two hits relating to infertility and those who indeed consider themselves 'less'. Also worth noting is that one of these two felt the need to distinguish the term childless from the childfree in the very title of their site.

On Yahoo!, the same search, results in one site on the infertile, four on the childfree, and an odd mix of extras that are either about both or unrelated to either.

I had the impression that, as of recently, the default meaning of the term childless was infertility, or at least pre-parenting. Has the childfree movement become so massive and influential that we are changing the meaning of a word? Especially - a word that many, if not most, have consciously chosen not to use?

Many have opted out of it, as noted in "Childless" v. "Childfree": Which term is more appropriate for the childless-by-choice?, many childfree dislike the term because it implies we are missing something; that children are such a given that not having them is a lesser state.

I, on the other hand think it is simply a matter of logistical linguistics - less means you are missing something you want, -free implies you don't have something you don't want. You're not called "debtless" or ""witfree". It is less of a normative judgment than simple language patterns that have long been established.

The term childless should be left to couples who want kids but don't have them. While the term 'infertile' applies to many, there are other childless people - those who waited too long, did not find the right partner, are able to get pregnant but physically unable to care for a child, gay couples with trouble adopting, etc. In addition, there are infertile people who do have children, either through medical intervention or adoption.

That being said, I will not take for granted the significance that this has. In my mind, at least, it signifies just how notable the childfree have become.

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