On Childfree Characters

Someone once said I couldn’t create and write about as many childfree characters as I wanted because it was unrealistic.

1) I have no obligation to be realistic in fiction. It’s fiction. Sometimes it’s fantasy fiction. If there can be dragons there can be childfree characters.


(gif: Tom Hiddleston as Loki, arms outstretched as he leans from a car window, text reads: I do what I want)

That said, you want realism?

More than one in five women do not have children. It’s not as rare as fictional media would have you believe. (Also around one in three women have abortions, I mention this for a reason.)

And even if that were not the case, why can’t I write all my characters as childfree if I want to? (Or asexual? Or both?)

I could own a publishing house and a film and/ or television company and pump out books and films and multiple high profile TV shows, every single one with a childfree female protagonist. And it would be nothing compared to the constant stream of media centred on the woman as mother, the media that tells us motherhood is inevitable unless there are tragic circumstances.

Look at the thousands of books with “baby epilogues” (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a good example, are most romance novels), books about women who changed their minds, shows with childfree women who change their mind and have a child/multiple children (Bones, The Big Bang Theory), shows that start out centred on a woman but then it becomes not about her skills about her motherhood (Fringe and its treatment of Olivia Dunham; to a lesser extent, Teyla in Stargate: Atlantis), or a woman who’s got a world to save but if her birth control fails she won’t get an abortion despite her seeming utterly uninterested in motherhood (Wynonna Earp) .

In fact Grey’s Anatomy‘s Cristina Yang is a rare example of a childfree woman, one who did get an abortion to remain so. Remember, abortions do take place, and it is mostly women who have already had children who request them, but there are women without children who have abortions because they don’t want children yet or indeed they never want children. How I Met Your Mother‘s Robin Scherbatsky also remained childfree but had to grieve over being found to be sterile.

I’m talking here about female characters because I’m a woman writing female, as well as male, childfree characters. There are probably more male characters who are childfree overall or those who just never mention wanting children, but they don’t come under the same scrutiny. Captain Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation) and Cormoran Strike (Strike novels; it’s said twice in the first 2 books that he has never wanted children and adds that he isn’t sentimental about them) are just two examples but I’m betting people can come up with many more, far more examples than those of females who don’t want and more importantly never do have children.

I cannot change the world or the media landscape but I can write what I want to. And many of my female characters are childfree. There are no baby epilogues. And I will not apologise for that.  Sometimes you have to write the story you most want to read.


2 thoughts on “On Childfree Characters

  1. I’ve been thinking of starting to watch Wynona Earp so it makes me sad to know this happens on this show too. I think you might’ve been someone who commented on this for the show White Collar too? And yeah. They erased a happily childfree COUPLE there which is its own frustrating brand of this… Trope I almost want to call it.

    I’m not childfree but I hang out with a lot of aces both online and offline. I also have met an interesting group of folks at other meetup.com type groups, mainly relating to atheism. A huge percentage of my new friends and acquaintances are happily childfree, more than half, because of the unusual way I’ve found my friends, I guess, and the representation feels important to me in part because I want the fiction I consume to actually reflect my reality! But also, while I would personally like parenthood in my future, I do not plan to become a parent through pregnancy. I have no reason to suspect I’m infertile; foster/adoptive parenthood is not a second choice or anything like that… And virtually every single time a female character is NOT childfree, she’s thinking about or going through pregnancy. THAT is something that seems to define adult womanhood in fiction too much of the time and it’s not going to be a part of my future. If I were to find myself pregnant I would probably be like Cristina Yang, and I loved that arc on Grey’s Anatomy, honestly. Even though I want to be a parent I really want it a specific way, and I fell at the middle of these communities, at an intersection of childfree and not, because I’m happily avoiding pregnancy, because I’m sex-averse asexual and cannot possibly find myself accidentally pregnant, because I have no plans to ever try to get pregnant… I’d basically prefer to see more characters react to pregnancy in a way that seems closer to how I’d feel, and if I have to choose between childfree or the alternative, I’m always gonna root for the childfree, I guess? It’s complicated for me but yeah. I think you should write all the characters you want childfree, even if that’s every single one.


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