Friday, January 13, 2012

Just Life, No -Style

I’ve never liked the word “lifestyle” when it’s applied to being childfree. It has a lot of derogatory feeling to it. The word “lifestyle” has the connotation of doing something not only uncommon but also somehow deviant. A lifestyle is something that other, abnormal people have, whereas the good, healthy, normal people just live their lives. “Childfree lifestyle” sounds like we’re all swingers or we are sunk in mindless decadence. (Some of the childfree no doubt are, but not in any greater percentage than any other population cohort.)

People refer to Hugh Hefner as living a “lifestyle.” We would never say that Mother Teresa had a “lifestyle,” though she clearly lived life according to a very unusual plan.

People who are hostile to homosexuality are generally the ones who call being gay a “lifestyle.” We generally don’t refer to a social conservative as someone living a lifestyle, nor do we refer to a “straight lifestyle" or "heterosexual lifestyle."

By the same token, I’ve never heard anyone refer to a “parenting lifestyle” or a “childed lifestyle.” Saying I live a "childfree lifestyle" is to suggest a lesser way of living than a life with children.

My preference would be to make it shorter. Save a few keystrokes. Why not just “childfree life”?


  1. Hi Temujin - First, I want to say I always love reading your comments on my blog - they are among my favorites. So here I am returning the favor.

    I sometimes call the childfree life a "lifestyle" but here's something interesting. When I was writing my master's thesis on pronatalism and childfreedom, my advisor bristled at my reference to "the parenthood lifestyle" in the same way you don't like that term applied to childfreedom.

    In my mind, a lifestyle is something a person chooses, so parenting is just as much a lifestyle choice as being childfree.

    But I totally get your point too. "Lifestyle" can imply something deviant or frivolous. Maybe that's why my advisor was bristling. He actually bristled at a lot of my thesis because he's a parent.

    1. Glad to hear from you. Your site is one of my favorites, too. I don't know how you handle being a lightning rod for all the crazies, but I'm gald you are.

      "Lifestyle" just has too many connotations one way or the other. It also suggests that the person is living in luxury or is really spoiled, e.g., "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." There are a small number of people who are homeless by choice, but we wouldn't say they have a "homeless lifestyle."

      Like I said before, why not just childfree "life" or "life path" or "way of life" or just "status."

      I guess the upside is calling it a childfree "lifestyle" means that we're living it up, and there's no reason to pity us or think that we're missing out on anything.

      I'm guessing your advisor had children....

    2. P.S. By no means am I excluding myself from the list of "the crazies." I'm not passing judgment here.