As an adjective, "childfree" refers to one who does not have children, does not wish to have them, believes that he or she will never want children, actively plans his or her life so that he or she will not have children, and does not consider his or her life diminished by the absence of children. As a noun, it refers to someone who is childfree or a group of people who are childfree. Another phrase for this idea is "childless by choice," which is used to bring across the idea of childfreedom more easily to those who don't know what it is about. Note that someone who is simply "childless" is someone who has no children but does want them, believes that he or she will want them someday, or believes that there is something missing in his or her life that will be alleviated only by the presence of children.
Oddly enough for such a decision, many people consider the intensely personal business of whether an individual wants to reproduce to be appropriate for public discourse. It is generally considered abnormal for an adult to genuinely not wish to have children, and women tend to be treated more harshly about this desire than men are. In fact, an expression of a well-thought-out and long-deliberated decision to not ever have children frequently results in the one expressing this idea being viewed as unnatural and monstrous.
The concept of a person not wanting to have kids, ever, is so alien to many other people that some gross misconceptions about the childfree are made in order to make sense of this new idea. Commonly-held ideas about the childfree are that they:
- are much more selfish than the average person
- are physically or mentally incompetent
- are pedophiles
- hate children and would act maliciously towards them when given the chance
- are homosexuals
- are sexually immoral (whatever that means)
- will change their minds once they meet the "right" partner of the opposite sex, get older, or accidentally have a child of their own
- have pets only as a substitute for children
As far as the attitudes from the childfree are concerned, some of the most often-encountered reasons for not having children are:
- recognition that, for them, the joys of parenthood will not outweigh the troubles that arise from it
- a desire for financial security
- a desire to direct their resources toward their existing relationships and passions
- an aversion to pregnancy
- fear of not being able to be a good parent
- a belief that the world is too dangerous and/or overpopulated to justify creating another human life
- a conviction that it is better to regret not having had children than to regret having had them
- recognition that they simply dislike children and don't care to pretend otherwise
Issues of reproductive choice and control are of especially great interest to the community. A common discussion topic on forums is of the desire to undergo sterilization and the difficulty of finding a doctor who will perform this procedure. Reportedly, many doctors will refuse to sterilize someone who is below an arbitrarily determined age (often 25-30 for men and 30-35 for women), especially if the prospective client has not already had an arbitrary number of biological children. Some doctors demand that client obtain permission from his or her spouse; other doctors may require that the client come alone for the consultation visit to ensure that he or she is not being pressured by a significant other. Even more frustratingly, some doctors may require a psychological evaluation on the client, though no such requirement exists for people wishing to reproduce.
Several online childfree social and support groups have been created (such as World Childfree Association Incorporated and No Kidding!) and have created their own jargon, some of which is listed here:
- breeder: someone who has reproduced but does not take care of his or her children properly according to the speaker.
- PNB: "parent, not breeder" -- someone who takes care of his or her children properly according to the speaker. Also used is the acronym BNP, meaning the reverse.
- moo: a BNP female. Originally a slur comparing a woman to a breeding cow, it has been backronymed to "mother obsessed with offspring" or "mother with obnoxious offspring." Also mombie.
- duh: a BNP male. Also dud or duhdie.
- sprog: a term for a random child. It is a non-derogatory (and even affectionate) commonly used term in general UK English, but offensive to North Americans whose only exposure to it has been from people using it with hostility. Along the same lines, ankle biter is used neutrally in Australia, but North Americans also tend to see it as offensive.
- snotgoblin: one of many intentionally derogatory terms for a child. Other terms include: crotch dropping, yard ape, fuck trophy, carpet shark, flesh loaf.
- SMooV: a large vehicle, usually a minivan or a sports utility vehicle, that appears to be used by a parent.
- babystalking: the act of a parent or caregiver of an infant following one who does not react to his/her child, usually while cooing at his/her baby or affecting an exaggeratedly cute manner with it, in order to elicit a reaction.
- baby rabies: the state of believing that one absolutely must have children as soon as possible, whatever the cost. Usually applied to women.
- placenta brain: a post-reproductive mindset characterized by a belief that the world must be child-friendly and a sense of entitlement. Almost exclusively applied to women.
- Breeder Bingo: a shorthand phrase meaning the event of someone trotting out a series of clichéd statements in response to a person's assertion that he or she is childfree.
- TMIJITW: a derisive synonym for parenting, this acronym stands for "the most important job in the world."
- breeder pleaser: used by self-identified "hardcore" childfree people to denote a childfree person who, for whatever reason, is not hardcore enough for the speaker in their anti-child and anti-parenthood opinion.
As with any subgroups of society, the childfree lifestyle includes as many definitions of childfreedom as there are members, as well as heated debates that take place when one person's definition does not quite match with another's. In addition to this basic overview of what childfreedom entails, other good points of reference include the "childfree", "childfree_zone", and "cf_singles" communities on LiveJournal and the alt.support.childfree newsgroup; visiting relevant websites and reading books on childfreedom will provide a better-rounded picture of the concept for those more interested in it.