DO PETS ACT AS A GATEWAY DRUGS INTO PARENTING?
Back in 2015, several Facebook friends cried, "Family is everything!" as they shared photographs of their newborn infants in post after post on my news feed (and, well, today). It genuinely offended me back then. As a youngster and as an adult, being a part of the family I grew up in was hard. It was one of the factors that led to my decision to never have children. I never wanted to put someone else through the anguish of my own childhood.
I had three cats, a dog, and a well-paying job at a large media corporation. Despite the wealth of love and responsibility that came with it, the desire to have my own kid began to grow. Friends were becoming pregnant at an increasing rate. I had friends who had struggled with infertility for years, which just added to the intensity of my biological clock ticking. I continued pushing the idea of having children out of my mind, insisting that my pets were the only children I'd ever have. It was a much more straightforward connection, and I was a fantastic pet mother.
This occurred at a critical juncture in my comic career. I'd spent seven years climbing the comedy pyramid at a theatrical company I adored, and when I was finally invited to join the group, my castmates assured me, Now that we're in this show together, we're family for life.We'll always be family, says the narrator. I was overjoyed. I'd found the family of my dreams. Our initiatives were like children to us. I was fired from the ensemble six months later and never heard from my "family" again.
I was depressed to the point of becoming suicidal. My three elderly cats then died in quick succession, and my dog subsequently developed a fast-moving, incurable disease.
As I saw my colleagues repeatedly upload cheerful photographs and videos of their children, panic set in. After tormenting myself with a social media binge, I mumbled to myself late one night, "I wish I had a family."
It was only a matter of time before I had my own human family. I was a 30-something woman who was consistently ovulating and had a boyfriend who would make an excellent father. I was terrified of becoming a human mother, but it became evident that if I wanted human children, I could definitely make them myself. On the first try, I was knocked out.
It's difficult to identify exactly what led me to that point, but having three pets that I adored and cared for was undoubtedly a part. Parenthood, as I now understand it, is full of love and laughter, as well as all the lovely things that people put on Instagram, but it's also stressful, taxing, and downright heartbreaking at times. All of this has happened to me before with my pets. I was prepared to take the next logical step. Were my pets a stepping stone toward human parenting? Was it possible that pet rearing had fuelled the fires of human baby fever?
It's no longer the American goal to have a "traditional" family with human children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, birth rates in the United States have decreased by 20% between 2007 and 2020. One important motive could be financial. Before the pandemic, the expense of raising children was already rising, but since 2020, parents have faced a 41% increase in child care prices. Some parents spend up to 30 percent of their earnings on child care.
There's also the minor matter of the world catching fire. According to recent surveys, a large proportion of would-be parents are deferring childbearing due to climate change. Having a pet, on the other hand, can be argued to be a noble, healthful, and financially smart alternative - especially if it's a rescue. However, there is something to be said about how caring for a cat or dog can open your heart to the possibility of caring for a small human. Caring for my pets helped me achieve this, but it is not for everyone.
Melissa Geraghty is a health psychologist in Illinois and a self-described happy-to-be-childless fur baby mommy. While she doesn't believe dogs to be a "gateway drug" to human parenting, she has noticed a pattern among couples who practice their parenting abilities on a pet before attempting human conception.
LOVE FOR A CAT OR DOG CAN OPEN YOUR HEART TO THE OPPORTUNITY OF CARING FOR A TINY HUMAN BEING.
A lot of couples want to start out with a dog to test out fur baby behaviors and see how they do with a puppy— attempting to iron out certain techniques before having a human child, she says. It's a very deliberate practice run with a baby that you can return if things don't work out. Furthermore, having a child jointly necessitates a great deal of compromise; we've all been raised differently, and our cultural beliefs reflect this. Learning to negotiate these differences can be difficult, and practicing with a pet can be beneficial.
Geraghty has noticed a significant shift in couples who have decided to parent their pets exclusively rather than having children. Issues such as the high expense of childcare, concerns about climate change, and a desire to pursue professional endeavors rather than parenting are all powerful motivators for those who choose pet parenting to kid parenting. She also mentions the large number of newly disabled persons with lengthy COVID who are dealing with additional physical and mental difficulties that may cause them to postpone or abandon their desire to have children.
Yes, there are many practical reasons to avoid having children, but what about the biological need to reproduce and spread the word? The strain, according to Geraghty, is more societal than biological.
What I've observed in recent years is a lot of people talking about how they don't have a maternal or paternal urge to parent, but they didn't feel comfortable stating it before because of society expectations and conventions; this is especially true for women. People who do not have or want children are frequently mislabeled as selfish, according to Geraghty.
Michelle Harris, a 35-year-old copywriter from Buffalo, New York, is the proud mother to Zoey, an 11-year-old rescued shih tzu terrier mix. She knew she wasn't cut out for human parenthood when she was in her mid-twenties.
I remember assuming as a child that I would have children of my own since that is what society expects, but I never wanted to have children.When I was in my twenties and all of my friends were thinking about marriage and families, I took the time to reflect on my own sentiments, Harris recalls. I kept asking my pals 'how' they knew they wanted babies. Everyone expressed a great desire to become a parent. "I just couldn't connect."
Harris claims that adopting Zoey from a shelter met all of her wants to care for another living being while also allowing her to live her life to the fullest. "I just want to have a childless life. I didn't want to subject my body to the stress of pregnancy and childbirth. I didn't want to have to plan my calendar around nap periods, play dates, school functions, or anything else. It's extremely vital to me that I have my own life.
Pet parenting could be a stepping stone to human parenting, a replacement for human parenting, or even a human baby deterrent for those who recognize that caring for a child is simply too much work, but it doesn't appear to be a gateway drug. Whether you're a parent to a fur baby or a human baby, it's all about building a life that feels rewarding — and rejecting any form of judgment that comes your way.