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No Kidding: Can You Compare Human and Animal Children?

Before I launch into talking more about sterilization and permanent birth control next week, I want to quickly touch on (and probably later come back to) something that's been on my radar the last week or so. You no doubt realize I read tabloid gossip if I'm able to come up with a photo montage like this one. So imagine my surprise when I read what Italian model-actress Elisabetta Canalis—known lately as George Clooney's girlfriend—said to Italian Cosmopolitan magazine.

[Getting pregnant has] never been an objective for me. My maternal desires are fully satisfied with my dogs.

While this piqued my interest, I was ready to let it go. Though these types of comments don't show up nearly enough in the mainstream press, I figured Clooney's latest squeeze might be a little too random for some readers. But then a friend forwarded me a press release from an animal shelter program that works to find permanent homes for elderly dogs. "In today's 'me-first' society, more people would rather adopt an older dog instead of a younger puppy—or even in place of having kids," it read. It went on to talk about Canalis' statement, how puppies can require a lot of time and patience, and the work the shelters do to make adopting aging animals seem like a more appealing option.

This is where I really get excited—because for a childfree person like me, my animals are my kids. Now, I know a lot of people think you can't compare the two—at least if you do, it can only be a one way comparison à la the sentiment "My dog is my practice child," or, "I'm learning how to parent pets before I have a kid." But in what other type of relationship would it be acceptable to practice? I'm pretty sure no one here condones the idea of actively opting into a "starter marriage," or thinks it's OK to "practice being lesbian" until you figure out your sexuality. After all, real feelings tend to be at stake.

As someone who actively seeks out older animals for adoption, I find this sort of rhetoric heartening. The three cats I've adopted as an adult have been in the double-digits (10, 13, and 10 respectively) when they came to live with me. Yes, two died within the first year, both of cancer. One was extremely neglected and possibly abused before I met him. And yes, losing them both broke my heart so badly that several years removed, it can still be hard to talk about. (My partner and I even went to a pet loss support group.) None of that negates how much they filled my life with joy, or how lucky we all were to have found one another. My partner and I have also been extremely lucky to spend the past two years with our current feline-in-residence, a chunky tuxedo cat named Malcolm who survived some time on the streets before a shelter volunteer brought him in. (He's got a big X-shaped scar—hence the name—and a busted tail to prove it.) Because we adopted him in Denmark, we were also lucky that he was alive when we got there. Unlike many stateside shelters, Danish shelters tend to euthanize older animals immediately, assuming they won't be adopted out.

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This is what gets me in the end. Why are some lives expendable and others not? Why are some relationships valid and others less so? Why is it OK to substitute animals for human children but not the other way around? Hell, it could even be that animal shelters and rescue programs are so full because people see animals as more expendable than humans. How is that not a heartbreaking statement about our consumerist culture that treats the most fundamental relationships as disposable? Wouldn't we be up in arms if families ditched their children in the streets, left them to fend for themselves when they move away—but took their dog instead? It certainly wouldn't be OK to ditch your pets when they "got too old," much like it shouldn't be OK to abandon a human child or partner then, either.

People say that having kids is the toughest job they have or will ever have. If you've ever taken care of sick animals, you might be inclined to believe it's similar. I've set up IV bags on my kitchen table and learned all sorts of tricks to get my cats to take their medication. I've wiped up incalculable amounts of puke in the middle of the night, driven to the animal ER more times than I care to count, and spent thousands of dollars I didn't have on treatments. It's really hard work, but I almost never talk about that aspect of my relationships with my animals because I love it. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. Isn't that, to some degree or another, how we'd describe the most fulfilling relationships in our lives? Isn't a bit of work always required to have the most satisfying, loving commitment?

I don't doubt that people will read her the wrong way, but I think Canalis is onto something, and I'm glad she had the guts to say it publicly.

Photo of Malcolm winning epic battle against some ribbon.

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Comments

32 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Great Commentary!

Great article...as someone who doesn't plan on having children, but has a senior greyhound and fosters greyhounds, (and I plan on having dogs as long as I can)I couldn't agree more. While my friends that have skin-kids work hard and love them, no one can say that I love my fur-kids "less" than they do.

Nice work!

Thank you so much for writing this!

I'm a big pet person, I have 3 cats, 11 rats, 3 fish, and a handful of hermit crabs, and you better believe I would never turn away a stray from my doorstep. A couple week s ago, my favorite rat, Grub, died and it left a huge hole in my heart. He had sick for a while, be we had been taking him to the vet and giving him meds to treat his illness, but one morning we woke up and found that he had passed away in the night, and it literally tore me up for the past couple of weeks. I've been weepy whenever I think about him and it just doesn't feel the same with his sweet little kisses and love. I tried to relate it to my friends, but they laughed it off and pretty much told me to get a grip on myself: he was, after all, just a pet. And a rodent, at that. But I feel like my pets are family. My boyfriend and I live alone with our pets, so we have a very close bond with all of them, and would do anything at the drop of a dime to make them feel better if they got sick or hurt. My cat Izzy has been with me for 5 years, and I don't know what I'll do when she passes away. That will be an ugly time for me. So yes, my pets are my babies. I love them and take care of them, and even talk to them like they're my children. People who don't respect that bond just don't get it.

I'm so sorry. :(

It's so horrible to lose a companion and the fact that folks who knows us blow it off or act like we're overreacting just makes it worse. I'm a rat person, too. I have six currently (and two cats). I've spent literally thousands on dollars on vet care alone for the rats over the years. The number of people who scoff at that and say things like "it's just a rat, spent $5 and get a new one when it dies" are sickening. Number one, calling my family member an "it" when he or she is not just a thing is insulting. Number two, rats aren't just identical widgets that you can replace with a "new one". They are individuals and you love them for their unique personality and relationship you have. Folks don't get that at all. :(

I also get surprise/mocking when I mention mine are spayed/neutered, I adopt from rat rescues (there are rat rescues? HAHAHAH....) and that they get a lot of vet care, including hospitilations, blood work, x-rays, etc.

I've got a sick baby, too, currently. I'm a mess. She's requiring a lot of hand feeding and syringing of fluids, five meds doses a day and attention. People don't get it at all. :(

I'm so sorry for your loss.
Play hard at the bridge, Grub.

Great post-thank you!

First of all, I've really enjoyed all of your posts in this series. I'm childfree and proud of it. This post really touched me for several reasons. First, my husband and I purposefully adopt adult/geriatric cats because we know that most people want kittens. We adopted our first cat when she was ten (three years ago). Sadly, we lost her last year, but she was wonderful and we were lucky to have three years together. Our new addition, a black tuxedo named Murray--looks like Malcolm's twin! I stopped short when I saw the photo--they have the white markings in the exact same places. Our Murray was also found on the street, taken to a shelter, and has a busted tail. He's a happy fella now. I've had a strong bond with our cats, and I enjoy nurturing them, and they give back so much love and companionship in return. Anyway, thank you for this reasoned, insightful series on the childfree. I've really enjoyed it. I'm a Bitch subscriber, and you guys rock!

Thank you so much for this post!

I, too, have been following this series and am glad you've decided to write about human-animal relationships. In our pro-natalist society, I have noticed some steps -- baby steps -- towards accepting companion animals as family members. My husband's company, for instance, now offers a discount on pet health insurance (I know, I know -- and yet there are lots of people who don't have health insurance). I saw a TV commercial recently -- I wish I could remember what it was for -- that featured a couple and their dogs, and the voice-over person referred to them as a "family" several times. I hope we see more in the future.

No comparison

I have a husband, a son and a daughter, and a dog. At one time, we had so many dogs, cats, horses, chickens and other critters that we bought animal feed by the ton. Those are my credentials on this subject.

I respect those who don't want to marry, don't want a partner, don't want children, don't want a pet. I am not going to suggest that any of them are missing a critical part of life, although I firmly believe that we need some relationships in our lives and that some of these need to be human and some of them need to be with the natural world--animals, plants, oceans, mountains, wind, and rain..

There are many ways to nurture, many living things to nurture, many relationships to foster. They are all valuable. But they are not all the same. I believe animals are sentient; that they have emotions and some form of consciousness. They participate in relationship in many ways. We can learn from relationships with them as much as we can from relationships with humans and relationships with mountain trails. But they are not the same.

If someone is sustained by the relationships she has with her friends, her cat, and her garden, she is indeed blessed, and does not need either my additional blessing or my efforts to find her a partner or a parakeet. By the same token, you cannot compare the satisfaction that you have with your life to what I desire or need for satisfaction and say that because we are both satisfied, our relationships are comparable. They're not. And that's OK.

The most important thing is that whatever relationships we choose to have in our lives, that they be ones that nurture and sustain us and that we reciprocate with love and kindness. Because the sad truth is that there ARE people who abandon their animals when the economy tanks, who cannot feed their children or are too high to care if they get fed, who scam their elderly parents out of their resources, who beat and humiliate their spouse. Want to create a better world? Start building better relationships and helping others build better relationships, with whatever or whomever they choose.

My partner and I have 3 dogs

My partner and I have 3 dogs and a cat. I still maintain that the most "kid" I ever want in my house is a Shiba Inu. More than enough for me!

Bravo!

Such a great article, I couldn't agree more. I hear it so much that you can't compare the love of a child for the love of a pet. I disagree, if anyone saw how I reacted to finding my baby boy kitty Keyser on the road dead, you'd change your opinion. Think Sally Fields or something in hysterics. Recently our cat Pilot had a urinary blockage and it sent me into a complete panic. Thinking of Keyser still chokes me up and I only had him 1 year and it was like 10 years ago. Thinking about how much I love my cats Aurora and Pilot is indescribable. I don't care if people think I'm crazy but my feelings are real and I know my cats love me as well.

Animal children and siblings

My mom has three daughters: her two human ones, and her "furry daughter," a German Shepherd who passed away a little over a year ago at the age of 12. As a woman who made motherhood her career and embraced the role wholeheartedly, my mom will still be the first to say that her bond with her four-legged daughter was no less strong than what she shares with her two-legged ones.

When we lost our girl, it was devastating in a way that I don't need to explain. During her last months, it was an honor to do everything for her -- to carry the back half of her 100-lb body everywhere she walked because her hips could no longer do the job, to clean up her accidents when she just couldn't make it outside in time, to hand-feed her food when she was feeling sick. I was so spoiled my whole life that I'd never been outside myself like that -- had never felt what it was like to give every ounce I had to another living creature. Caring for her both awakened and fulfilled something in my heart.

I've known far too many people who got pregnant and posted on Facebook that they have two really nice kitties who are just too much to handle with another baby on the way, and does anyone know someone who will take them, pretty please? I want to scream at these people, at their flippancy, at the almost certain result that their adult cats will end up dying by euthanasia with only the kind eyes of a vet tech to look into as they leave this world and wonder what they did wrong. Animals are commitments for life, not disposable lifestyle accessories. You do not get to give them up when you decide to pop out a second or third (or hell, first) kid.

People need to take the responsibility of pet ownership as heavily as they would that of parenthood. To me, the commitments deserve equal gravity. (This is why, in my present economic and personal instability, I don't own a pet.)

We love our dogs.

We waited so long to get our first dog. We wanted to make sure we had the right lifestyle for a dog and we were lucky to achieve that. Unfortunately, due to geography we can't adopt (we live on an island too far away from any shelter and shelters in our part of the UK have a policy of screening those wishing to adopt). We got our first dog from a local family whose bitch had pups. Our second dog came from working stock on the neighbouring island as a companion for our lovely girl. Like other posters, we've had our share of taking care of sickly animals and spent thousands on vet bills. We'll pay anything to ensure our pets have the care they need. To us, the age of the dog was unimportant, it just had to be the right dog for us. I would definitely consider adopting an older dog if the issue came up.

Saying that the loss of an animal is an easy ride, that's it's 'just a pet' is harsh and cruel. It's bad manners too. All the posters so far clearly love their animals a great deal, whether it's 'just' a rodent or the more traditional type of pet like cats or dogs. I too fear the day when I have to take the decision to put my pets to sleep. My blood runs cold at the thought of anything happening to them. I still shed the occasional tear for my first cat who was put to sleep 25 years ago.

Why yes, I do call them my babies and I've turned into the sort of person who signs birthday cards with their names. We have no plans, never had any plans, to have children. My friends, with and without children, are the first to point out that our pets are our babies. But I don't think it's the same as having (and losing) children. I do not doubt the depth or ferocity of anyone's love for their animals or the pain caused by their passing. I do not mean to belittle the grief of anyone by the following statements and I apologise if I do.

Tragically, my mother lost two of her adult children. My sister and brother died way before their time. The same brother followed his son to the grave just over a year after the loss of his son. The pain I felt over the loss of my siblings was almost intolerable. I can't imagine what my mother felt but it cast a shadow on her life and she spends her final years grieving for the loss of her two children and a grandchild. My brother could not cope with the loss of his son and effectively committed suicide by drinking himself to death within months of his son. I was prepared for the loss of my siblings at some point in my life but I didn't dream it could be so soon. Still, I coped eventually as we all have to do with grief. The loss of my nephew is something different again. I was not prepared to lose him. He was meant to go on after all of us. Despite the passing of time, I find the pain near the surface every day and I can easily be reduced to a screaming wreck if I let the thin veneer crack for a second. And I'm 'just' his aunt. I see the pain on the face of my mother and saw written on my brothers face what drove him to drink himself to oblivion and an early grave. I do not tell this story for pity, I genuinely hope no one reading this ever has to go through anything similar. My own personal experience is this - that I will simply never be as happy as I was now that child has left my life. I loved him.

We know the day we meet our wonderful pets that one day we will lose them far sooner than we would like. The thought makes me physically sick and brings me to tears. When a parent has a child losing them is not in their plan. Choosing to bring a pet into our lives or a child into the world has similarities - the love, the care, the staying up at night to soothe a sick animal or child. We gladly make sacrifices in both relationships. Some people scoff at the love we have for our pets, they can all just piss right off. I don't care for their opinion. I do agree with Canalis, loving my pets is perfect for me.

As much as we love them, it's not the same as having a child.

I'm delighted when people can

I'm delighted when people can say, this is what I want and what's good for me. Not everyone wants kids, not everyone is great with animals. We've loved the animals who have lived with us, been deeply devastated by their loss, and years later the room still goes silent if one of us mentions a name. This is real, deeply felt grief. Still, I have a fundamental objection to the idea that these are comparable commitments, or that caring for animals can fulfill the same needs as parenting a human child.

With respect, parenting cannot be understood in the abstract, without doing. It's not just about responsibility, nurture, compassion, affection, and respect. It's not hard just because you lose sleep and have to clean up poo and tear off bandaids. An animal can be smart, brave, kind, loyal, idiosyncratic and wonderfully demented, and you can love and take care of them and be challenged and grow in the process, but a dog or cat will never be in the process of becoming an adult human person. A cat will never flip your logical argument so neatly you almost die of pride and admiration, never ask about the evening news and be lit up with the thirst for justice. Parenting a human being is the intense, intimate, personally challenging work of co-creating culture with someone of radically different perspective. The stakes are ridiculously high, you have little control, and you can fail a child doing your level best.

It's big and wild and hairy and it's not even close.

You say "parenting cannot be

You say "parenting cannot be understood in the abstract". I disagree and I could write you volumes to sustain my argument. We can understand everything in the abstract, unless we completly lack empathy, which is almost impossible. I think that most of the parents give themselves an exaggerated importance for being parents. A parent is not a better not a more enlightened person than any other person. Parenting is just a personal choice, for those who feel capable of it and can be great, yes, but not for everyone. It is definitely not the only complete relationship that we can have. It may be the only complete relationship FOR YOU, but definitely not for everybody. Love is not all about "co-creating culture with someone of radically different perspective". Love is not necessarely about any feedback or reciprocity at all. You do not need a reason to love and it is quite passive-aggressive to think that you love more than others, or have more complete relations just because you are a parent.

Like someone said before, the most important thing is that whatever relationships we choose to have in our lives, that they be ones that nurture and sustain us and that we reciprocate with love and kindness. We do not have to judge who loves more or who has better & complete relationships, because it`s a disharmonic attitude which just generates conflict.

(PS. Pardon my english - it`s not my native language)

"Hell, it could even be that

"Hell, it could even be that animal shelters and rescue programs are so full because people see animals as more expendable than humans."

Actually, there's some truth to this. I've heard many, many rants from people who work in shelters and rescue programs about people who abandon their animals because they consider them expendable. There are some pretty whacked myths about pets harming babies, along with misunderstanding about cats being dangerous to pregnant women (due to that pregnant women shouldn't clean the litter box), so I have heard a lot of rants about parents-to-be ditching their pets because of some myth, misunderstanding, or pressure from other people based on such. Then you have the parents who purchase the cute pet for their kid's birthday or holiday... until the kid gets bored with it or the parents realize the actual commitments of caring for a pet.

It's really infuriating.

I have had pets that I loved

I have had pets that I loved with all my heart, I have taken care of sick animals, and I have a child. I still hold that having a child is more demanding. It isn't just the late nights or body fluids you have clean up--children are more complicated than pets because of how much they change. Pets might need more attention at certain times in their lives, like old age or puppy/kittenhood, but children continue to change throughout their and your life, they become gradually more independent and eventually are adults. This isn't true of pets, they will be your dependents for the entirety of their lives (this is the experience of parents whose children have certain disabilities, but I wont pretend to know anything about what that's like).
When you have a pet, decisions you make about health, behavior, training, etc can have long-term consequences for that pet, but there are far more, and more complicated, decisions parents make about childrearing. It is of course debatable how much influence the way your parents cared for you as a child has on the way you live as an adult and your emotional/psychological/social well-being, BUT, it would be ridiculous to deny that mothers (and to a lesser extent, fathers) are held responsible for how their children "turn out" as adults, how happy they are, how well they do in school, etc. The pressure to be a good parent is huge and far-reaching--it has been deeply embedded into our consciousness and is one of the many reasons that becoming a parent drastically changes one's life. I don't think you can argue that there is a comparable pressure for pet owners.
Also, with parent child/relationships, we expect to have a relationship with our children for the entire course of OUR lives, hoping that eventually they will give back to us. I'm not saying that this means that having children is better or more meaningful, but it does mean it is extremely different than having a pet.
I'm not going to get into whether you can compare the love for your pet for the love I have for my daughter. But I really don't know why you felt the need to open up that topic...it feels a little like you're trying to piss people off. There are so many interesting issues you could be exploring on the topic of pressure to have children and the stigma of being childless. Why this?
I was excited, and very nervous, when I saw the first post for this blog series. In that first post, you talked about how you didn't want to turn this into a space to bash parents. On the few occasions I have read the comments on these posts, I always leave the page feeling so angry and hurt. I sometimes feel that way when I read your posts, Brittany. I hope that this doesn't sound disrespectful or petty, but I don't think you have a very good understanding of what it is like to have kids, and it doesn't seem like you have done much research to educate yourself about this experience from a feminist perspective. This is an extremely sensitive topic that I think would be better explored through collaborative writing, both by people who choose not to have kids and people who have them.

There are so many interesting

There are so many interesting issues you could be exploring on the topic of pressure to have children and the stigma of being childless. Why this?

Because it's her space, and because it's a relevant topic to that space. You can feel free to criticize her for her arguments, but it's not fair to attack someone for the topic they chose to write about.

I'm not attacking her, but I

I'm not attacking her, but I absolutely CAN be critical of her choice of topics. I am criticizing this particular choice of topic because I don't see how this conversation can any result other than increasing tension between people who are childless and people who have children. She said in an earlier post that she didn't want this blog to be a space to bash parents or the choice of having children, but it seems like what it has turned into.

pets/kids

I love children. I don't have children. I don't want to be a parent.

I have a cat. I love my cat. My cat is my pet.

A pet is not a child. Children are human beings. Human Beings are complicated. Pets are simple.

I would never run into a burning building to save my cat. I would run into a burning building to save a child.

Yes yes yes!

I couldn't agree more!

I was about to respond when I saw your post, and now I don't need to because you summed up my thoughts perfectly.

People love their pets, people love their children, but that doesn't mean the two types of love (or relationships, for that matter) are the same.

lol, wut?

I have gone into a burning building to save my cats. As has my husband.

Just because they aren't -human- doesn't mean they won't experience pain. I can't imagine being the type of person that would willingly stand by while another life suffers, just because they aren't human. Animals aren't simple, at all. I have five cats, and each of them is very different from the next. It would be a disservice to them, as their caretaker, to treat them all the same.

I have lain awake nights

I have lain awake nights trying to figure out how I would rescue my 11 degus (in their giant cages) in the event of a fire. I would most definitely go back into a burning building to save them. They drive me crazy sometimes, but I love them, and would certainly risk my own safety to keep them alive.

If you wouldn't run into a

If you wouldn't run into a burning building to save your cat, you shouldn't have a cat.

Ok you don't love your cat

Ok you don't love your cat you like your cat. If loved it you would take the risk.

My husband is only just

My husband is only just finally starting to understand my deep love for my dogs and my cats. He used to understand it in the sense that he knew I loved them immensely, but he did not share those feelings up until recently. It's been kind of fantastic to see the little signs that told me he was starting to really fall in love with my ten year-old dog, and because of it he's begun to understand why I deeply value the lives of animals in general. In the past he's seen me cry at the memory of having lost beloved pets of mine, and he often did his best to comfort me. Recently, however, he told me that the day Pebbles, the one he's in love with, actually dies he'll probably be crying right there with me. So I think it's perfectly possible for a person to love their pet more or equal to how much they do, or could, love a child. I know several people that would be happier having a dog than to fall into the pressures of having children.

Thanks for these articles, i

Thanks for these articles, i never knew there was so much stigma about not having kids until my husband and i married, starting right at the reception party we were asked when we would start..and now, two years later we are still having to "explain ourselves" when the topic of babies comes up.

we do however have 4 wonderful pets, 3 cats and a pug. we take our responsibilities for our family very seriously and things got really hard for us in october. i was laid off from my job, my husband had just gone back to school and within a week our dog was attacked by another dog and a lot of our savings were spent on vet bills, so money was tight but our lil' guy was ok, until january, something went wrong with our dog, a rush to the ER (during a snowstorm no less) showed pancreas problems they told us this would be in the thousands to deal with (fuck!)so my hubby and i start a mad list of everything we can sell quick to get everything started, but then, as if a dream, in walked my mother (this is at an emergency vet clinic,i called her in a panic right before we left ) and she said, "don't stress, it's all on a credit card for now, whenever you guys can pay me back ,10 months,10 years,it's not what's important right now, we need to focus on getting our little guy better,after all he is my only grandpuppy!"

our dog stayed at the vets for 4 days, is on a strict diet and needs medical injections twice a day, but he's home and happier than ever, and i just got a sweet job that starts next week!! things are looking up, and i'm so thankful that my mum sees our family as what it is. (now to start paying her back!!)

I'm another reader who agrees

I'm another reader who agrees that there is nothing to be gained from comparing pets and children. On either side.

"Hell, it could even be that animal shelters and rescue programs are so full because people see animals as more expendable than humans. ... It certainly wouldn't be OK to ditch your pets when they "got too old," much like it shouldn't be OK to abandon a human child or partner then, either."

The key word here is "shouldn't." Your argument seems to elide the fact that people do abandon other humans. Perhaps not with the ease and temerity with which some abandon animals, but infants, children, the sick, the elderly--they do get abandoned, neglected, and abused. There are children languishing in foster care; there are elders sitting lonely in nursing homes. And there are tremendous number of homeless persons, many of them with physical and mental health care needs. There are youths on the street who have been turned out by their families--and a disproportionate number of them are LGBT. Neither humans nor animals should be treated in such a fashion.

If...then...

I dig your series, and strongly support both your desire to not have children and to speak about it honestly and publicly. My only critique of your articles so far is that I think you've taken a bit of a hard line against women who chose to have children, rather than accepting them for their own decisions. I can hear in what you write a plea to be understood and accepted - something we all search for on a daily basis. Feeling "different than" and being personally and publicly shamed/humiliated/ignored/hated/misunderstood/etc. is no fun and causes an almost unconscious and uncontrollable fight or flight response. My caution here, though, is to not turn around and aim those same emotions at others who have chosen something different from you. Women who have (or will have or want to have) children have made their choice, too. And they deserve no more criticism than you do.

In this particular article, I have one key "logic" argument with what you write. You are clear that you don't want children. However, you compare your pets to children. You go on to describe how important your pets are in your life and how you treat them as though they were human children. But if you don't want children and you consider your pets your children, then don't you already have children? Do you not want them? You're walking on both sides of the argument here. If you are going to take a staunch position that you don't want children, then your comparison of pets to children and your strong need and love for your pets are at odds with your choice to not have children. So, I'm confused. Which is it?

Yes

I'd really like clarification on that, too. I said this over on FB, but I feel like saying that pets are kids undermines the childfree stance.

Child same as pet? No way.

So, I appreciate that some people dont want kids too. Great. I also agree that if you say your pets are your 'kids' then you already are wrong because you HAVE chosen to have 'kids.' My thought is this though, I cannot lock my child in a kennel for 8 hours and go to work, or tie them up in the shade in the back yard to go out with the girls, or put out a bowl of food and water for the day and go shopping... see the difference? A pet can be loved so much if feels like family, I totally agree! But it is NOT the same as having a child. You have to see that, right?

Definitely, thank you!

My husband and I don't have any children yet, but we feel that the duties and responsibilities towards our animals are similar to those we will have towards our children; we both believe that animals' lives are as valuable as humans', and while I anticipate my maternal instinct will be powerful as all hell, my love for the animals who share our household will not be swept away by having a baby. They aren't practice anything; I have genuine relationships with each of them.

That's probably the number one practical reason I married my husband; so few people share our convictions, his kindness and compassion really stand out. He spent $2000 on surgery for his cat's knees, even though his mother urged him repeatedly to just put her down. (She was just a year old at the time.)

Anyway, we are confident that parenting is right for us. We have so many blessings to pass on, and we look forward to meeting our children, both biological and adopted. But just as adopted children are not "lesser" than bio-kids, adding animals to one's household via adoption doesn't mean that they are lesser either.

Just went off about the same thing...

...when my cat got sick last week. I'm childfree by choice and my two cats are indeed my kids. The post actually started off by saying:

"I’ve often said that having pets is much like having kids (except way cooler and rewarding) and yesterday was a fine example. "

I went on to point out signs to look for, if you suspect your cat is ill (because they're masters at hiding illness or injury) then a huge rant about how if you decide to get a pet, you're taking on responsibility for a life form for the next 15-20 years and that yeah, it's JUST like having a kid. My point was that if you don't feel "mature" enough to handle having a child, for god's sakes, don't get a pet, because it's not like buying a chair or a book or a car.

It's pretty much the same level of responsibility except like I said, way cooler and more rewarding. It's all the parenthood I'll ever need or want.

Cooler and more rewarding?

Cooler and more rewarding? With respect, how do you know? Do you know many - any - people with both who believe that their pets are cooler and more rewarding to raise than their children? And when you say "cooler and more rewarding" FOR YOU, again, with respect, how do you know? How can you say anything you're doing is "just like" something you've never done?

See? This post has provoked a lot of discussion, but I'm with those who say that framing it as a comparison is problematic and unhelpful. You can explore the satisfactions and challenges of nurturing pets, and the role that might play in a childfree life, without invoking a comparison that won't be meaningful for people who choose to nurture animals primarily, and is apparently irritating to those who have done both and don't find the comparison legitimate.

I've wondered sometimes whether some people choose not to have children because they know just how bad it can get... so they become remarkable pet parents, not realizing that the same traits that drive their strong, nurturing commitment to their pets would make their childrearing a completely different experience, as well. I'm not at all suggesting that such folks *should* have children, merely that the difficulties of the imaginary kids vs. the joy of the real pets is kind of an apples to oranges comparison. I mean, I love other peoples' kids, I think all kids are "mine" in terms of my responsibilities as a citizen and when in the position to care for them, but that feeling is a shadow of my commitment to my own. It's not something you can compare without knowing. I realize that is just one of those freaking obnoxious things parents say, but we say it because it's true, for most of us.

As for me, I would have run into a burning building (and I have stepped in front of a car) to save an animal - before I had a child. It's not that the animal has become less, not at all, and it would kill me, but I'm not risking leaving my child motherless. The child is unimaginably more.

Dogs over Kids

I agree with George Clooney's girlfriend. Her famous quote has helped me realize she's absolutely CORRECT. Since getting an ACD dog, I realized I am NOT cut out to be a parent and that caring for my dog is the full extent of responsibility I want in my life. If I didn't get my dog, I might have gone on blindly to become a parent and regretted it without understanding how much TIME and MONEY and self-sacrifice would be in it. I do love my dog and animals over children. I can easily approach and speak to dog owners. Kids and parents baffle me from the poor to the wealthiest.
I love and care about animals and love volunteering at the Annex Cat Rescue and socializing with the dog-owners without kids at the parks. Dog owners with kids usually ignore me since my dog looks aggressive (but he's a big suck, really. Just ignore the teeth).
I think dogs are wonderful and if young couples got a dog first, half of them wouldn't have kids! Dogs are a 12-15 year investment and with their medicals, obedience training, microchipping, registering, dog toys, quality dog food, etc they are a lot of money and a lot of time investment like mental stimulation, exercising them, playing with them and housetraining them. If you can do all this and STILL want a child, you're cut out to be a parent. Some people abuse and abandon their pets and later on become parents (I swear I know people who do this). Can you imagine what kind of kids they'll unleash into the public when they realize the baby is MUCH more effort than the dog....as well as time and money?!

I love my dog, and I would get another dog. Babies? Not even one. Ever. Period.
Please check out my Childfree by Choice blog

http://childfreefeminist.wordpress.com/