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Are there any established words for people who have kids but regret it, and for people who don't regret it? In other words, can you complete the following table?

Don't have kids Have kids
Don't want kids Childfree ?
Want kids Childless ?
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    What justification is there for such words? As opposed to phrases?
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 6 at 21:22
  • Childless Living: The Joys and Challenges of Life without … -Lisette Schuitemaker · 2019: "My impression is that childless and childfree living has a slightly better reputation in many places now than two decades ago when Madelyn Cain did her research." According to this book there is a difference between "childless" and "childfree", but then, as the two can be combined (singular verb "has"), there is a contradiction if we take your definition as valid.
    – LPH
    Commented Jul 7 at 6:13
  • @Lambie You're right, adjective phrases are okay as well. Maybe "child encumbered" is a good fit for the top right table cell. Commented Jul 8 at 14:26
  • There aren't four words in English that neatly fit the matrix in the question; the words that do exist differ in the ways that are not captured by this four-way classification. For example, the people in the top left cell would describe themselves as childfree only when they want to emphasise that they welcome not having children, and make that the topic of the conversation. There may be differences between how the people in each column identify themselves and how they are seen by others; very few people would say that they are 'child encumbered', even if, in some way, they are.
    – jsw29
    Commented Jul 9 at 15:08

2 Answers 2

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People who don't have children are referred to as "childless" whether they wanted to have children or not. If someone said, "I am glad that I am childless", no one would consider that an odd combination of words in any way.

"Childfree" is used but rare. According to Google Ngrams, "childless" is about 25 times as common as "childfree". "Free" implies absence of a burden, so someone who wanted children would be unlikely to call themselves "childfree".

The word for people who have children is "parents". Again, whether they want them or not. You can say, "I really regret becoming a parent", or "I am very happy to be a parent."

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  • I suspect, but have neither the inclination nor the capability to confirm, that many of the uses of childfree are in reference to locations and events from which children are excluded, childfree holiday resorts, that kind of thing. I can imagine too that sometimes people with children describe themselves as childfree on the occasions when they tie the children to the legs of the kitchen table and head out for a night on the sauce without them, so only temporarily childless. Commented Jul 6 at 19:31
  • @HighPerformanceMark True that someone might leave their children with a babysitter and say, "I am childfree for the night!" But someone could also say, "My wife and I decided not to have children. We enjoy a childfree lifestyle."
    – Jay
    Commented Jul 8 at 9:49
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I would argue the term “Baby daddy” has been used to describe fathers who regret having their children and “baby mamas” for mothers who regret having theirs.

It’s an infantile and derogatory word that I think disrespects the dignity of the child in question.

This is majorly anecdotal, and because I’m chronically online, I have noticed people who are passionately invested in raising children use words like parenting or co-parenting. And bio-father bio-mother and technical terms.

But when speaking to people or watching content of people who seem frustrated or annoyed with their children and regret it, I found refer to their other half as their baby mama and/or baby daddy.

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    – Community Bot
    Commented Jul 7 at 0:19
  • That's not what those terms mean. Baby daddy according to NOAD: "the father of one or more of a woman's children, especially one who is not her husband or current partner"
    – Laurel
    Commented Jul 7 at 0:20
  • majorly anecdotal? baby daddy and baby mama are not disrespectful.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 7 at 15:08
  • Hmm. I don't have a source for this, but it seems to me that the term "baby daddy" is used to refer to a father who is not married to the mother, whether either of them wanted children or not. I've never heard a married woman refer to her husband as a "baby daddy". Maybe someone would in a joking or affectionate way.
    – Jay
    Commented Jul 8 at 9:53

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