Ugh — even that term is an irritant to me. We use the suffix “-free” when we promote the lack of something as a positive: fat-free, sugar-free, interest-free, debt-free. The “-less” suffix is fairly neutral: yes, there’s homeless and jobless, but there’s also effortless, for instance.
People who promote the term “child-free” ultimately show, not their claimed plea of being neutral about the fact of not having children, but their opinion that children are bad and that it is positive to not have children.
And somehow it seems like lately I’ve been running into multiple articles. There’s Time’s article on The Childfree Life (link goes to a commentary on the article; the article itself is mostly behind a paywall). A facebook friend “shared” a link to this from a facebook page about “GINKs” (Green Intentions, no kids — here’s their Twitter page) — full of criticism of “breeders.”
And the thing is: kids are a lot of work. Some moms are just born to be moms, and it comes naturally to them, and their kids are easy to mother anyway. Some moms aren’t — and either become moms because, well, they had sex, and these things happen, or because of a belief that marrying and parenting are a natural part of adulthood.
If we leave that behind — if, as a culture, the child-free, children are a nuisance mindset becomes the majority way of thinking, what then? In a world in which to have children is “just another lifestyle choice” I imagine that two frequent motivations for starting a family — “fear of missing out” and “having children is a natural part of being married and being an adult” — would fall by the wayside, heavily outweighted by the greater freedom, both in terms of finances and free time, the childless life provides.
The stats I cited from What to Expect When No One’s Expecting included the different birthrates for highly educated (1.6 TFR) vs. uneducated (2.5 TFR w/o a high school diploma, 1.9 for high school graduates). Look, I’m not a eugenicist, but what does happen when the rich stop having children and the poor pick up the slack?
Or maybe the increasing percentage of childless women (from 10% to 20% from the 1970s to 2010) will level off, once the part of the population that truly dislikes kids but in the past couldn’t avoid parenting is accounted for?
In any case, it’s another example of my prior statement: there’s nothing magical about 2.0 (or 2.1) TFR and a stable population. Are we headed the way of German and Japan (or prevented only by the inflow of immigrants, who may or may not be educated enough to keep our economy strong, and may not necessarily care about providing for the native-born elderly)?