Childless or Child-Free?

Don’t you just hate those really basic lesson plans that you find? They might appear in one of the ESL books that you have to use or – even worse – one of the lesson plans that your school or training centre has fobbed you off with.

Nothing inspired me less than seeing one of those boring lessons. So I prepared some that are a little different.

This one is about women in the modern day deciding not to have children. There is an introduction, a reading passage followed by reading comprehension questions and vocabulary. I also include a writing assignment and a great list of discussion questions. Some teacher’s notes at the end to help you out.

Take a look and tell me what you think.


Introduction

Should all women give birth? Is this their role in life?

How are women with no children regarded in your culture?

How about men with no children?

 

Reading

Today, half of all UK women under the age of thirty do not have children.

In America, there has been a sharp decline in childbirth since the 2008 recession.

Compare that with the statistics in the post-war period and we can see a clear trend in the world today regarding women and raising children.

Women today seem happy to postpone having children until it is biologically impossible to have children.

Many simply do not wish to have children.

Women today just don’t want to have kids.

What is going on?

The first question we need to ask is: Is a woman defined by being a mother?

Is that all she is?

Given the times we live in, are women not capable of other things in life apart from giving birth and rearing children?

We also need to be careful of the language we use around this sensitive subject — there is a big difference between childless and child-free.

The former has a more negative, old-fashioned meaning while the latter has a more modern, positive meaning.

Be careful of which one you use!

In a recent interview, the British actress Helen Mirren was referred to as childless by the journalist. But Mirren regards herself as child-free. She claims that she has no interest in motherhood and that not having children was a choice by her alone.

This is why women who decide to be child-free express concerns about the words people use regarding their life choices.

They have made a choice to not have children — so they are child-free.

To them the word childless is archaic. It conjures up a past where people used terms such as ‘barren’ or ‘old maid’.

Women may not have any children for any number of reasons but it mostly comes down to two — financial or reproductive.

If the woman and her family are unable to support a child, then that could be a very good reason why she doesn’t have a child.

And if she is physically unable to have a baby, then the choice has been made for her.

But the stigma still remains.

Regardless of whether she chooses to remain child-free or through outside influences, she is childless, there is still a huge stigma in a woman not being a mother.

In many countries — even in very advanced cultures — there is a great deal of shame in a woman not having a child.

There may be great pressure from the woman’s family to have a baby. And in some cultures, it is just expected that the woman will get pregnant and have a baby.

There could also be religious demands.

But we have to understand and come to terms with the modern idea that many women are making the choice to not have a baby and remain, not childless, but child-free.

 

Essential Vocabulary

a sharp decline

recession

statistics

post-war

trend

postpone

biologically

defined

former

old-fashioned

latter

interview

referred

journalist

regards herself

claims

archaic

conjures

barren

old maid

financial

reproductive

stigma

influences

 

Exercise

Write down all the words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look in your dictionary and find the meaning of each word. Write the definition next to each word.

Then make up your own sentences using each word or phrase.

For example:

Notebook—a small book with pages of blank paper that students use to make notes when studying.

“I left my notebook at home so I was unable to make any notes in my English class.”

 

Questions

  1. What do you think of going child-free?
  2. Would any of you go child-free?
  3. Why is going child-free good for the environment? Name three things.
  4. Is it bad for the person later on in life? Who will look after them when they are old?
  5. What are the advantages? The disadvantages?
  6. Are women who go child-free just being selfish? Why/why not?
  7. Will child-free women regret not having children when they are older?
  8. Having children is the law of nature. Is this true/not true? Tell the class your thoughts.
  9. Do some women with children regret being a mother later in life. How could this be possible?
  10. If more women become child-free in the future, what will happen in society? Think of three effects.
  11. What would your family say to you if you announced you were never going to have children?
  12. Is being child-free only a western idea? What other countries might follow this trend? Will your country? State your reasons.

 

Teachers Notes

Depending on where you are teaching in the world, this may be a highly sensitive subject to talk about in class. I will leave it to your discretion.

I suggest you start by writing the two words Childless and Child-free on the board. Your students may have some idea what each word or part means but still not understand the real meaning.

Introduce the concept of women — and men — deciding to not have children in their life.

If you are teaching in a fairly traditional country, this could be met with disbelief. That could very well mean a lot of questions and discussion later on.

Maybe talk about your own views on the subject. If you strongly agree with the view, then that could help you with much discussion in the class.

For the questions, you could divide the class into two groups—male and female—to find different opinions on the subject. It might also be a good idea to put the students into groups.


I hope this lesson plan is useful in your next English class. Tell me what you think in the comments below.

4 thoughts on “Childless or Child-Free?”

  1. Thank you for this thought provoking article which is becoming more and more pertinent in our time. It addresses an important question in the face of over-population and the role of women. Our students need to be alerted to major shifts in human consciousness.

    1. Thank you Leona. I am trying to make some lesson plans that are outside the usual sphere where the students tend to just discuss very simple things. I think topics like this could easily divide the class in certain cultures but could also create great discussion.

  2. Of course social sensitivities have to be respected but these type of topics are pertinent to any culture because major shifts in human consciousness are not limited to specific cultures and they are impacting the whole planet.

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