Have you seen the pink golf shirt that says “Cat Mom” where we usually see a polo player? How about the t-shirt that sports, “Let me get this straight – my grandchild is a DOG?”
These products are obviously marketed toward the child free, and members of their extended families. The appearance of such novelties indicates the recognition of a growing population who is choosing to remain child free – albeit, in a silly and humorous way. But it also shows there are quite a few people out there who don’t have kids, but do have pets.
So is there a connection between pet ownership and being child free?
It seems that there is.
Eve says her decision to get a pet did influence her decision not to have kids. “I’m glad I had a dog before a child because I quickly learned that I don’t want to lose any more freedoms that I have.”
She started out simply wanting to have a dog. But the reality of pet ownership did have an impact. “It was when I brought her home and realized there were some things I had to change. Like being home to take her out and to play with her. It started to make me think about children and if I really want that much MORE responsibility. I soon became comfortable with just having a dog.”
Others say they have pets because they want to have pets – not because they were “testing out” parenthood. “Pets are not people,” says Gigi, “and even though they can teach responsibility…it was not my reason for getting a pet.”
“I don’t think pets replace children in a child-free lifestyle,” says Tanya. “I love my dogs and although I may say they are a furry child, it’s more of an endearing term for them.”
But most make some connection between caring for a pet and caring for a child. “I do see how much work it takes to raise a child,” says Tanya, “and I know it can be very rewarding too. I love the freedom I have with my dogs in some parts of your life that you wouldn’t have with children.”
And the benefits of pets over children are clear to the child-free. “Pets do not suck away your entire lifestyle or financial resources,” says Cathy, owner of four cats. “They do not cause you personal heartache…They are quiet and are not very demanding. You do not have to worry about bad influences on your pet. You do not have to take your pet out to public places and annoy all the surrounding people with their bad behavior.”
Eve agrees. “I love that I can be in whatever mood I am in and it will not scar her for life AND she still wants to be near me. She has been with me through two boyfriends, marriage, moving to another state. I don’t have to worry about what school she goes to and what kind of friends she will hang out with. She won’t do drugs…she won’t get pregnant (she’s fixed.) There is just a lot less worry!”
Perhaps it is just an individual choice, like deciding to remain child-free. No doubt there are lots of child free couples who have chosen to remain pet-free too. But for those of us with animals in our lives, they hold a special place in our hearts.
Eve summed up her feelings by saying, “I think pets are WONDERFUL to have, especially for child-free people. It’s nice to have someone to care for that won’t nickel and dime you to death. I don’t think of child-free pet owners any lesser than parents. There are plenty of parents out there who couldn’t handle having a pet.”
In fact, Diana chimes right in when parents start sharing kids stories in front of her. “I laugh at myself at parties when Mommies tell a funny poopy diaper story because then I tell my Mommy story about the time I chased my Boxer around the yard to pull a string out of his butt from a rope toy he had torn up. They think it’s gross, but hey! Can’t I tell my poopy stories too?”
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