The other day, I was chatting with a client, who was telling me how frustrated she is with her friends and family. Why, you may ask? She has dogs, but she’s in a steady relationship, in her 30s — and childless. It seems all her relatives want to know is: When is she going to conceive?
A parent myself, I’ve never been subject to the not-so-subtle inquiries of those who are perhaps more interested in my familial standing than they should be. But this conversation with my client certainly opened my eyes to just how frustrating it can be.
It seems that there is a set pattern our lives are intended to follow: college, relationship, parenthood. Many of us were certainly raised to follow that particular timeline, but the problem is that this isn’t always a viable — or even attractive — life pattern for many people.
Let’s address college, since it comes first in the “grown-up” timeline. When an individual attends college nowadays, they’re not just getting an education — they’re also accumulating massive debt.
According to the Pew Research Center, as of June 2017 Americans had accumulated over $1.3 trillion worth of student loan debt. And that struggle doesn’t end with college graduation. The center claims that “About one-in-five employed adults ages 25 to 39 with at least a bachelor’s degree and outstanding student loans (21%) have more than one job. Those without student loan debt are roughly half as likely (11%) to hold multiple jobs.”
According to Time.com, as of January 2017, the average cost of raising a child (to age 17) is $233,610.
A person exiting college with staggering debt is going to need time to stabilize their own personal finances, and this can take years. Why on earth would someone who’s struggling take on the added cost of having a child? All this means is that now 2 people will be struggling instead of 1.
I’m no Einstein, but these basic facts and figures may play into why your cousin adopted a cat instead of birthed a child.
An Investment of Time
Having children takes a great deal of time, and time has become one of the most precious commodities we have. Busy professionals may not be able or willing to set aside their career to have children.
In the past few decades, women have charged into the workforce and fought for opportunities. Their work opening doors means that more young women can have careers in a variety of fields: law enforcement, medicine, corporate and more that were previously male-dominated.
Some women find this life path more appealing than the traditional parenting role, and some simply don’t want to burn themselves out by trying to have the career and the kids all at once. Others may want to go the arguably traditional stay-at-home mom route, and still other women find fulfillment in having both kids and careers.
The important thing is that it is each woman’s individual choice and she should be able to make it without familial or societal judgement.
According to the Washington Post, the millennial generation in particular is delaying parenthood and adopting pets instead, with 75% of people in their 30s keeping dogs and 51% keeping cats.
Some, like my client, just aren’t ready for kids. Others aren’t sure they want kids — and as having kids is one of the biggest life decisions a person can make, it’s a pretty responsible move to wait until they know for sure.
Here are some reasons to consider adopting a pet:
It’s Your Choice
It was my choice to have a child when I was younger. But this isn’t the same choice another woman would have made in my shoes, and that’s OK. In fact, if someone wants to get married but not have kids, that’s OK. If someone wants to have 12 kids, that’s OK. And if someone decides that having children is not right for them, guess what? That’s OK too.
What’s not OK is the continual barrage of questions, comments and insinuations made by people who should stop and think about why they feel the need to ask these invasive questions. Having a child isn’t the hallmark of success. Having a child doesn’t mean you’re going to have a rock-solid marriage or a perfect life. It’s a very personal matter that should be respected as an individual’s decision.
(And it should be noted that some people simply can’t have children, so asking them about it may only bring about pain and/or awkwardness.)
The next time you’re at the family barbecue, rethink your query about conception to Cousin Jane — and ask how her job is going or how her pets are doing instead.