Cats on the Keyboard – Alternatives to Child-Rearing

cats on keyboard

Couples choose to raise cats and dogs over babies

My twenty-seven year old daughter and I were sitting having one of our late night chats when the subject of babies came up.  She and her boyfriend had just recently adopted an adorable tuxedo kitten, whom they had named James T. Kirk.  Thinking that since the two of them were now settled away in careers, and had moved into an apartment of their own that the next logical step might be to consider starting a family.  When I broached the subject, all I could do was sit there and blink as she informed me that they had decided not to have children.

“I’ve never really liked babies.”

“Babies are really expensive.”

“You know that when babies come, the man’s life hardly changes, while the woman’s focus is totally on the childcare and raising and they are so dependant on you that you lose your own identity.”

“We wouldn’t have the freedom to travel and do the things we want to do.”

“What if we move to New York ? I wouldn’t have anyone to depend on besides Andrew to help me raise a baby.”

“I don’t have the patience to go through the whole school thing with a child.”

“Andrew is so over-protective, he’d probably end up in jail if anyone looked at his kid sideways.”

….were some of the reasons she had for staying out of the parent game.

frustrated mother“I see all kinds of women come through the spa stressed out and exhausted from trying to deal with working, managing a home and a husband, and trying to deal with one or more kids at the same time.  I’ve even asked a few of them if they had the chance for a do-over, would they choose not to have kids (barring the emotional guilt) and so many of them have said they would not have had kids, or at least would have waited longer.

Wow, I thought, seeing all of my plans for cute grand kids, (not to mention  revenge for  all of the trying moments she had me suffer, during her childhood!), going up in smoke.   Having heard stories of Andrew’s antics  as a child, I could envision Heather with irascible twin boys, running around the house like miniature ninjas, plotting the demise of teachers, schoolmates and possibly several law enforcement agencies.  I had been kinda looking forward to how she and Andrew would handle that, to tell the truth.  There’s one thing for sure, any offspring born of these two would definitely be a challenge to raise.

“But don’t you think that you would miss having a family around you as you get older?”  I asked.

“No, the family you choose is just as close as those who might be born to you, Mom.”  She countered.

“But there’s nothing like the bond between a parent and child.” I put forward, cautiously, expecting to be told to mind my own business.

“But we have Jim,”  She said, snuggling the precious ball of fur who lay sleeping in her arms.

“Look at the advantages:  No nine month gestation period, with stretch marks, breast feeding and horrible morning sickness;  The kitten can walk almost right out of the box, and within a couple of months, can eat solid food, walk on his own, and use the bathroom.  By six months, he knows everything there is to know about being a cat.  You don’t need to pay for a college education and you get all the love his tiny heart can give.  What more do you want?”

“Well it’s kinda fun to watch a baby grow into their own personality, and be able to recognize traits in them you see as coming from you or your husband,” I replied.

“But is it worth the power struggles and the temper tantrums and the terrible twos?”  She asked, “Keep in mind that my best friend is a day care worker and she loves kids, but is the first to admit that they are walking bags of germs and snot.”

Well she kind of had me there……..but I still wasn’t convinced.

“Look, I know we had our share of disagreements and times when we really didn’t like each other when you were growing up, but you know I wouldn’t trade you for a farm out west, right?  I hope that nothing about your childhood would have convinced you to live your life without allowing yourself the joy of having a child of your own?”

misbehaving children“No, mom. I just choose not to go through all of that.  I hate it when the women at the spa tell me “Oh you’re only young, you’ll change your mind,  children are different when they’re your own.”  Meanwhile their own kids are out at the front end, running around and poking at everything, driving the girls nuts.  I’m sure they come in to get a break from them.  No, we’re totally happy with Jim. I couldn’t love him more if I had given birth to him.”



The more I look around, the more I realize that this attitude to pet parenthood over child rearing is a modern phenomenon.  The financial considerations are huge.  Who can afford to take a major (like 60 percent) cut in salary for a year in which child care expenses, feeding, clothing, diapering, equipment, etc. etc. etc gobbles up your income like the Cookie Monster chomping through a bag of Oreos!  Then when you get past the one year maternity leave, the cost of baby daycare is at least $250 a week, if you’re not lucky enough to have a stay-at-home granny willing to help you out. The pet alternative looks a lot better with a bag of kibble costing $25 a month and a box of kitty litter $10 or less.  Kitty can stay at home on his own, as long as he has some familiar things, like his bed, his food and water dishes and his litter box, plus a few toys around to amuse him.  He will be there to great you with purrs and head rubs when you open the door at the end of your work day.

petstorePet companies have hit the jackpot with this new trend towards pets taking the place of children!  Walking into a national brand pet store, the products and services available to pet parents are overwhelming!  The choices in foods, toys, litter, treats, (even clothing!) are mind boggling.  Grooming and obedience training are all offered on site, and pets are welcome to roam the aisles (on leashes of course) and pick out their own favorites from the myriad of products available.  Seasonal holidays are all exploited as the displays come alive with Hallow’een costumes and Christmas stocking stuffers.  Think  the pet stores are exploiting the hell out of people’s need for family love?  You betcha.

Well, as Heather and I made our way back to the car today, with our arms laden with our pet store purchases, totalling over $100, I bit my tongue about the price tag attached to caring for one small kitten.  To each their own, I thought.  People ought to know what they are able to handle in their lives.  Quite often people take on the responsibility of raising children, which is a life long commitment, when they probably should have stuck to the easier (and shorter) alternative  of caring for a pet.  Nobody should judge you for the choices you make in whether to have babies or not.  It is a personal decision and one not to be taken lightly.  People usually have to study several years, do practical training and write a final exam in order to be qualified to do a job, yet all they have to do to become parents is to jump in bed without birth control.  Ironic, isn’t it?  I wish more people would figure out what their limitations are and live within their financial and emotional means.  There would be a lot fewer messed up people out there!  And while you’re at it, if you decide to adopt a pet, do a little research to see exactly how much effort you are going to have to put into caring for it.  It’s very easy to decide, “Oh this is way too much work, I don’t have the time, I’m going to get rid of Tabby.”  Think of the impact that has on the little cat who is going to get dropped off at humane services or at the SPCA, and taken away from everything that is familiar to her, including her people.  You can’t do that with a baby, by the way, or you will be charged with abandonment.  It’s too late, in either case then, the damage has been done.  Time for people to be held accountable for their actions.  Put some thought into parenthood, whether it be of children or animals.

Oh, and a few points for some people who take pet parenting a little too far.

love, norma

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  1. Oh, a nanny you are … albeit to a fur baby! 🙂 Great post!

  2. Charmaine hartley says:

    Awesome post 🙂

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