In Portugal, the translation of the term “pet”, is “animal de estimação”, or, more or less, “animal to cherish”. Although it probably refers more to an animal that is to be kept and not consumed, it’s still quite a nice way to put it.
When our first child was born, my wife and I already had a pup. Our children have basically never lived without a pet, we were of the opinion that growing up with animals was a positive attribute to their upbringing and the notion proved to be correct. Our current “animal de estimação” is an eight-year-old, 36kg Black Lab and he is not just a pet, (by any stretch), he is an integral part of our family. We all love him to death and the feeling is mutual.
A little over a week ago, pope Francis, the leader of the catholic church, stirred up the social pot by claiming that humans were turning to pets instead of procreating and that this attitude was dehumanizing and selfish. In fact, I had noticed a trend, in the last few years, of couples that had, for example, dogs, but no children and had conversed with others on the topic. Why is this? I can´t proclaim to know for a fact, but my money is on the marketing of lifestyles as a major contributor. Of course, those who want children, but are unable to conceive, are not included, for obvious reasons. Adoption is certainly a way to go, but there are those who argue that it´s not the same thing, although there are many kids around the world deserving of a loving home and adoption is beneficial for all involved. More and more, we are told what to think by the powers that be, whether it’s marketing products and lifestyles, or politicians looking to gain advantage over an opponent, just to name a few. Social media encourages us to advertise our lives on a daily basis, selfies, pictures of where we are, what we ate, who we´re with….etc. There was a time when many would cringe at the thought of being forced to watch a friends’ wedding video, or pictures of baby´s birthday, or “our camping trip”. Now, not only are we bombarded with this on social media on a daily basis, but most are participating! Me, me, me. Well, is that influencing individuals who want that convertible, or want to take those yearly trips? Possibly. Life imitates art. The more instances we see on the screens where people we admire are giving up children in the name of individual freedom, the more we may tend to agree. People have been choosing careers over having families for the longest time. Is that selfish? I´m not sure people who choose lifestyle over having kids are being consciously selfish, they maybe be just following trends in society.
When it comes to helping families cope with the balance between raising children and making a living, what side do governments usually take in the tug-of-war between the worker and the boss? The immediate economic impact usually takes precedence over long term gain.
We, like any other animal, are meant to have offspring. That’s Nature, we are part of it, no matter how much smarter we think we may be. Your dog is not a child. A couple very close to me, who have five children, once mentioned they became offended when a friend of theirs referred to her cats as “my children”. Pope Francis’ opinion is that “The emotional relationship with animals is easier, more programmable” and that “having a child is more complex”, in not having children, “we lose the richness of motherhood and fatherhood.” I don’t know how he knows this, but I agree. Only people who have had children can understand the natural change in mindset before and after the fact.
Having children, one can experience the highest highs and the lowest lows. That´s just the way it is and well worth it.