When it comes to my home and my personal relationships, I like my life. A lot. Granted, sometimes I come on here and talk about various arguments I have with my husband and how we’re working on making our marriage awesome, but when I take a step back and look at the big picture, my life is great. We have a very nice apartment that we keep stylishly updated and clean. I sit in the mornings after my workout and drink coffee while I write and read blogs while the dog sleeps beside me. I cook meals I’m proud of in my kitchen, and we eat them at a nice table with fresh flowers and candlesticks. When I want to go do something with my husband, we do it. When I want to go hang out with my mom or my friends, I go. Granted, now we have to find somewhere for the dog to stay if we’re gone longer than a few hours, but we’re still relatively free and living in the lap of luxury.
So when conversations about children come up, I’m reluctant to say I want them. I’m fairly certain that, if we did have children, a lot of the things I love about my life (along with basic human needs… like sleep…) would go by the wayside for a little while at least while we become consumed with being good parents and raising children. I think of some of my friends with a baby and a toddler at home – and I think of my mom doing the same thing (my brother and I are only 18 months apart) – and I wonder, how do they do it?!
People say having a dog is a test for how it’ll be to have kids. I don’t really think that’s true, although I do see several parallels. Dogs need boundaries and rules, just like kids. You have to pick up a lot of poop when you have a dog, same as with kids. You can’t leave dogs alone for too long, and you can’t leave kids alone ever. Dogs ruin things in your home by chewing; kids can ruin things in your home by getting hold of the marker box.
We got lucky. We have a really good dog. We’ve had her a month, and she doesn’t chew, bark, or pee on things. She’s not aggressive, nor does she have any anxieties that we can’t pinpoint. In short, she is pure awesomeness.
But we were at Tim’s parent’s house this weekend, and they have a dog, and even though their dog is also extremely well-behaved, just the fact that there were two dogs there changed things. We had to watch them. We had to let them in and out of the house when they felt like going in or out. We had to separate them when it was time for their dinner so they didn’t eat each other’s food and get territorial. Tim, who originally wanted two dogs, leaned against the fence as he was watching them play outside, and said, “I think one is enough.”
The reason I don’t really think having a dog is a test for how it will be to have kids is twofold. First, having a kid is A LOT more work than having a dog. Second, I’m not really surprised by the responsibilities of dog or child care, which I think is a reason people say that – they say “Oh, you think you want kids? Try a dog first and see if you can handle it.” We approached this a little differently. We waited until we were over sure we were ready. We talked about how we’d split up the responsibilities. We talked about boundaries and rules. We talked about how we’d handle the extra costs. We talked about literally everything we could think of before we brought Penny home. It was not an impulsive decision.
This is absolutely how we will be if we decide to have children, as well. Even if we are surprised with a bundle of joy, we’ll have a good portion of a year to discuss how we’re going to handle it – what rules, boundaries, costs, responsibilities, etc. we’ll change and how we’ll share them. And we will probably discuss all of that and more ad nauseam.
And we already know, from a multitude of discussions and seeing two dogs at play, that we’re probably planning to only have one child, if any at all. We both have siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles and love seeing family and talking with people who share the same DNA. Sure, being an only child can be lonely, but there are so many reasons why having only one is beneficial to the child and the parents. Nona Willis Aronowitz explains these reasons so much better than I ever could in her article, “The Future is Lonely: Why I’m Only Having One Kid”:
Nowadays, both men and women of Generation Y prioritize being a good parent even more than we prioritize getting married. We care about spending time with our kids and sharing the responsibility with our partners. Things are far from perfect, but women are no longer culturally expected to bear the entire burden of childrearing.
Still, the system makes it way easier to have only one kid. The United States has no universal child care, no paid maternity leave, and not much paternity leave (paid or unpaid), so the pressure is on to be financially stable before your first child arrives. And as everyone knows, it’s getting harder and harder to do that. A recent Guttmacher poll shows 64 percent of American women say they couldn’t afford to have a baby now, with the economy the way it is. Forty-four percent say they plan to reduce or delay childbearing for the same reason.
For me, this doesn’t only boil down to money. It’s also about making sure I’m able to do everything I want to do. I want a fulfilling career, a well-stamped passport, and alone time with my partner. This means I’m going to have to wait quite a while before having a baby. And that means I’ll have less time for popping out kids.
Read the whole article; it is chock full of awesomeness and research. All I can say to Ms. Aronowitz is, “Seconded.” But for all the logic, research, and reasoning, there’s something to be said about following your heart, too. There is nothing wrong with showering one child with all the love in your hearts, while still having time to love your work and your partner and your free time. There is nothing wrong with wanting to give one child everything you can while still having some left over for yourselves. Sure, there are many reasons to have more than one child, and if that’s what you want, go for it. But, for now, we’re going to stick with one or none. And that’s cool, too.
So. Maybe having a dog has taught me more about having children than I originally thought.