Reading “The Grief of Childlessness” by Samantha Schoech got me thinking about how we’ve come to commonly define “childless “and “childless by circumstance.” Who are the childless? Typically we are talking about those who want biological children….
…but have not been able to have them. Then there are the “childless by circumstance”-those, who as far as they know, can have biological children, but are choosing not to have them because the circumstances are not right, such as not have a spouse, wanting to further one’s career first, or a host of other reasons.
Until now, I have been thinking about the difference between childless and childless by circumstance as more about “choice.” Although not the preferred choice, people like Melanie Notkin are still choosing not to have children, at least for now. But as Schoech writes, childless by circumstance Notkin experiences much the same pain and grief as someone who is childless.
If we focus on these kind of feelings associated with being childless and childless by circumstance, the latter really does seem to fall into the childless camp. Thinking of it this way, maybe we don’t need to talk about childless by circumstance at all. Maybe it’s more about how we feel about not having children rather than how it is we arrive at this status.
Simply put, being childless, no matter how you get there, biology or not, is when you feel rotten about not having kids. And being childfree is when, well, you don’t! And would not have it any other way.
This isn’t a “wow what a revelation!” to be sure, but I do see that if we start with how we feel about our “no kid” status, there just might be two terms-childless and childfree. No need for others, maybe not even temporarily childless. If you are temporarily childless and not in a state of grief, you could be considered childfree. Feeling badly about it? Childless.
Just interesting to look at the terms first by feeling, not through the lens of choice.
What do you think?