Childless or Childfree – what’s the difference & does it matter?

I’ve been using the term Childless to describe myself for over 10 years since we stopped trying to have children and jumped off the IVF rollercoaster.  Having read various other websites, blogs and forums I’ve seen lots of others used, for example Childless, Childfree, Childless- not-by-choice, Involuntarily Childless,  Childless- by-Circumstance and Childfree –Not-by-Choice to name a few. And I’m sure there are others I haven’t listed.

I and other close friends use the term Childless which for us seems right.  We wanted to have children, were unsuccessful and feel a loss because of that.

So to answer the question what’s the difference?

Turning to dictionary definitions for a moment, this is what has to say,

Childless is a term that refers to a person or couple that does not have any children Childlessness may be the result of:

      • a deliberate choice (childfree),
      • circumstance, or
      • Infertility or other health problems that would prevent or preclude them from having children.

Childless by choice; Some people are childless by choice, meaning that they have made a conscious decision not to have children. Childfree is a term that is coming into use as an alternative, indicating that they do not see the absence of having a child as lacking in any way, as the suffix -less seems to imply.

Childless by circumstance; some people are not childless by circumstance, meaning that they have not made a conscious choice to never have children, nor is there anything medically preventing them from having children.

Childless by infertility or other medical condition. Some people are childless, not because of choice or temporary circumstance, but as the result of infertility or another medical problem…. which makes it difficult or impossible to have children.

The Cambridge online dictionary defines Child-free as people who choose not to have children….

And my 1980 copy of the Oxford English Dictionary says that …less means “not having”, without, free from”

And why does it matter?

In big picture terms I don’t believe it matters which term we use. As I mentioned above, for me Childless feels and sounds right.  My rationale is in line with the Oxford Dictionary in that my life is less than ideal and something is missing. And as I mentioned above it’s the term I’ve been using for over 10 years.  This rationale obviously varies for everyone, and that’s absolutely fine.

Because of this I will be using the term Childless on my new website and blog.  I also feel that it encompasses everyone who wanted children, and for one reason or another couldn’t have them.  It is a helpful generic term that is readily understood.

I think I will always consider myself to be childless, however 11 years on the effect that has on my life is significantly less than it was, and I now lead the happy and positive life that I want.

So if you couldn’t have children for whatever reason I welcome your comments and thoughts as to which term feels right for you and why.

I’m in the process of re-focusing my business to work with women to overcome the pain of childlessness and to create a life they love, and to speak to women’s groups on what it’s like to be childless and to help them understand how it feels to go through fertility treatment.

Thank you for reading,

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