There seems to be an onslaught of books on a topic rarely brought up in public conversations-the decision to remain childless. Walk on Seventh Avenue in my neighbourhood on any given day and you will hear endless conversations concerning children, daycare, and schools, play dates, eco friendly diapers etc. These conversations are not only coming from groups of women but also men and nannies. As I navigate through the strollers, herds of running toddlers and the occasional breast feeding new mom sitting outside the Häagan Dazs shop, I smile because I am so glad I do not have children. I have dogs.
During my late teens, I decided not to have kids.
Carefully thought out and an easy choice to make, I knew back then I was too selfish to sacrifice one hundred percent of my needs and especially my wants in order to raise a child. My surroundings helped with the decision. My siblings and their kids allowed a front row view of the trials and tribulations of child rearing. Babysitting dilemmas, erratic feeding schedules, diapers and prams, and the ear piercing levels of screaming/crying for food, to be held and changed, along with other monumental chores, solidified my decision. Of course, there were moments of grandeur: the first word, the first walk, the first solid food, the first curse… that had no effect on my decision.
I saw and still see the negatives instead of positives.
There were teenage female classmates who mysteriously disappeared during the school year only to resurface during the summer with a baby and stroller in tow. There were also neighbours in the old ‘hood’ having more than one child to increase their welfare and housing benefits. In addition, during my teaching years, some of the parents of the emotionally disturbed students whom I taught, viewed teachers as overpaid babysitters, who freed up their time during the day so they could party up with drugs -horrible situations to place a child in!
Having children is a serious decision with serious ramifications.
Children do not fix damaged people. They will not cure loneliness or repair broken relationships. Nor will they take the place of a dress up doll. I live across the street from a playground where I see more nannies with babies than parents and yes in my ‘hood’ it is quite easy at times to distinguish nannies from parents. What is the point of having children if the parents are too busy working or taking care of their needs and especially their wants without the sacrifice? If a nanny takes care of a child on a full time basis, then the parents’ decision to have children was hastily decided.
I chose dogs.
Dogs are wonderful companions who love unconditionally and flourish under a daily routine of food, exercise and love-not necessarily in that order just as long as you stick to the routine. Provide nutritional food, which can be bought or made, exercise them like crazy, because a tired dog is happy and less destructive and finally, lavish them with cuddles, belly rubs, grooming and praise. This accounts for sacrificing sixty percent of my needs and especially my wants although I must say it is more like ninety percent.
Having a dog is a serious decision with serious ramifications.
The same ‘nanny’ concept holds true for dogs. If a dog owner needs to place their pooch for nine hours every day in doggie day care then maybe the decision to have a dog was hastily made. Dogs require bonding with their owners not bonding with the attendant at the day care.
I met a couple who adopted a dog for the sole purpose of preparing themselves for children. They figured caring for a dog would give them insight into the responsibilities of having a child. It was also a test run to see if their relationship was ready for the next level. Unfortunately, they adopted a Jack Russell terrier and did not bother to learn about the breed. The dog’s hyperactivity resulting from lack of exercise strained their relationship. They moved from the neighbourhood and the dog’s fate and if they decided to have children after all remains unknown.
As I got older, traveled, studied, relocated across country and back, the decision was right. Traveling with a child while studying abroad in the Caribbean would have been disastrous. I was involved with my studies, trekking through plantation sites and battling mosquitoes capable of transmitting Dengue fever. A baby in the midst of this would not have made the trips possible or rather; I was not ready to give up the opportunities in order to raise a child. When the settling stage set in, less travel, sticking close to home and financial stability, the decision was made to share my life and enlarge my household. I chose dogs!
The enormous responsibility of child rearing was and still is not on my list of things to do.