My eye fell upon the expression “child free” today, and I felt the usual thrill of annoyance. In short, a man who saved and invested cleverly enough was able to retire at 45, and he believes his decision at 20 to remain “child free” was the best guarantor of his financial independence. This was not, I gather, a decision to practise chastity in continence, for although he is not married, he writes of a “lady friend.”
It seems to me that it is not particularly original for a 20 year old man to decide he doesn’t want children. What 20 year old these days feels ready to have children? Of course, in another sense the decision is entirely original to the past 60 years, for pre-Pill, the only way anyone could be sure of not having children was not indulging in activities that invite them into existence. No wife or mistress for you! A decision to be sexually active and yet perpetually frustrate the powers of generation is thus both banal and moderno-creepy. It is sterile in all senses.
Meanwhile, the expression “child free” annoys me very much, for it implies that children are an encumbrance, an expense, an environmental catastrophe on par with mass-ownership of automobiles. (N.B. Mr Child Free has a car, new.) The adults who throw around the word were, ahem, children themselves, so this self-congratulatory rejection of children smacks of hypocrisy or, worse, a tinge of self-hatred.