June 21, 2007

Something Missing?

I don't know why all our post titles this week have question marks. Perhaps it's a way of saying, "we don't have all the answers". That withstanding, I do have a bright idea (blogable thought if not completely original) based on a comment recently added to an older post titled Pets as Kids?

Furthuring the dialogue about the "child-substitute" label that has been applied to pets owned by childfree adults, Anita writes:

"A friend of mine saw a picture of me looking down at my dog who was laying upside down and said, 'Girl, you need to start having babies.'"
Purple WomenTM know pets and kids are completely different packages of obligation and responsibility. I think that applying the label "child-substitute" makes childed others more comfortable around us to think we are fulfilling a natural urge, but it's none too flattering in implying that something that is lacking.

Is it really so hard for people to imagine happiness in leading a life based on a conscious choice to live differently, say, without children? Sounds a lot like some of the issues gay and lesbian couples face. Hey, at least childfree adults can marry!

[Photo: Buttercup, pictured above is Teri's favorite pet chicken.]

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Sara said...

My parents call my cat and my brother's dog their grandbabies. I think it helps them cope with their loss of a dream of having grandchildren. I think it is a perfectly good solution as long as they use it to stop asking me when I am having children.

Funky Smith said...

Oh lord! I recently adopted two cats I love very much, and my family/friends say, "Don't you think you could love a baby just as much?" I get you--two totally different things. Not everybody wants babies. But maybe they want cats!

Teri said...

Yeah, I hear ya. My Mom and step-Dad got a dog named Charlie and they call him my little brother -- ha, ha.

Robin said...

My cats are not a substitute but they are little beings that need my care and attention. I need to help raise them and keep them safe. I love them as if they were children of my own, I adopted them and chose to raise them. I think it's similar but not a substitute. I don't need to have cats to fill something but they certainly bring more to my life.

LauraS said...

I'm currently writing an article on pet-free CF folks that will tackle the "child substitute" issue. I'll post a link when its published.
The consensus I got from my Childless by Choice Project participants is that pets enhance their lives, but do not necessarily function as a substitute for kids. "Child Substitute" can imply that the person wanted kids but instead settled for a pet. I don't think so!

Anonymous said...

My hubby and I are pet free childfrees. Although I adore cats, birds and other animals, I had many many pets when younger and do not relish that responsibility anymore. To me, it is strange that a childfree person would want a pet as they are so tying and expensive (albeit not half as much as a child), but to each her own! Bonus: no one can accuse us of 'baby-substituting'. I do like looking after my neighbour's or in-law's pets when they are away. My sister, who doesn't have children either, has a mini chihuahua, who has become my mother's 'granddog'.

Lynn said...

I have a dog and I've told my parents that he's the nearest they'll get to a grandchild. I agree with Robin: he's not a substitute but he enriches my life.
On a lighter note, can I just say that Buttercup is the cutest!

Teri said...

I actually have four chickens. It's okay to have favorites with chickens!

AnitaD said...

Thanks for quoting me.

My parents have known for a long time that I didn't want to have children. My Aunt saw some pictures of our dog and cat that I sent to my father and she said, "Are these your grand children?"

I told my husband this morning over breakfast that I found a terrific blog for women who choose to be child free and we are called Purple Women and that there is a Purple Woman day in June. He was amazed and surprised that it was a big enough deal to discuss. He said, he doesn't like sports but hasn't joined a club for men who dislike sports. I explained that I feel the need to bond with other women who look at life similar to the way I do. I guess I'm sick of meeting with my old high school/college friends and hear them talk about their children all the time. Booooring!

Teri said...

AnitaD - Welcome back and thanks for weighing in. Your husband sounds very pragmatic. I think he is in the club whether he knows it or not! He really picked an interesting example.

Men are expected to bond over sports, much like women are expected to have children. Please tell him thanks for helping me illustrate that point.

I also think that childfree women are feminists, regardless about how they feel about the much maligned term. This applies more to Purple Women, that is, women who acknowledge their choice in the matter. This does not apply to childless couples who are seeking fertility treatment. Pets definitely are no substitute for them.

Alicia said...

My family and friends joke about my cat being my adopted child. It's really funny because I think THEY care about her more than I do. There is no "substitute" for having children... either you do or you don't. I feel very successful in my life because I am able to concentrate on the things that are most important to me and I have reached most of my lifetime goals. In my case, having babies is not one of them. I love kids and I love being able to give them so much attention. Surprisingly, my (very large) family has been accepting and supportive of my decision not to have kids. I suspect that they are so accepting because it allows me to help their families out. When I tell my family or friends, they don't react at all; it was as if I told them I had brown hair. I think everyone knew it all along. It turns out they are proud of me for deciding what I want with my life and doing what makes me happy. I feel silly now for thinking it was a big deal to reveal my "deep, dark secret" to my family and friends. Strangers and acquantances on the other hand tend to be very patronizing and interrogative towards me as to why I don't want to have children. Double standard here. What if I asked them to explain why they think they should have children? Maybe someday I will have the guts to turn the discussion around and ask them to explain why they live the lives that come natural to them. For now, I take comfort in the fact that I am so lucky to have such loving and supportive people around me who applaud me for living a life that some people see as "taboo".