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Negotiating The Difference Between Being Child-Less and Child-Free

It was always a given that I would have children. I took for granted that at some point in my 20s I would get pregnant and live the rest of my life in a mothering role. I was never against having children, and my careful pregnancy prevention methods were only a measure to delay an expected, eventual and wanted pregnancy. I’m pleased that my sexual encounters with cis men didn’t result in any unplanned pregnancies, but that’s mainly to do with timing and the fatherhood abilities of previous sexual partners. It’s only recently that I’ve questioned whether I would be a good parent; previously the notion of me with a baby seemed pretty solid.

During a recent workshop on identity and equality, one activity forced me to choose in a split-second whether I was “child-less” or “child-free”. Child-less was defined as having intended to have children but things having not gone according to plan. For these people, not having children is experienced as a loss. On the other hand, child-free was defined as having never intended to have children. For these people, the non-existence of offspring is liberating. I didn’t enjoy having to choose. I have complex feelings about the two statuses, as they both resonate with me.