Just when you think you’ve heard it all, along comes this headline from the New York Post (04/10/14), “More young women choosing dogs over motherhood.”
Now it’s true that when we’ve had a particularly rough time with one of our kids, my husband has been heard to say in jest, “Puppies would have been easier,” but these women actually mean it. “It’s just less work and, honestly, I have time to go out,” says one 30-year-old.
“Dogs are better,” says another. “A dog is easier to transport than a child.”
Easier, less work – this seems to be the unifying theme.
It’s not that I don’t understand (especially on some of those aforementioned tough days!), but unfortunately, these women don’t know what they’re missing – and seem unlikely to find out.
While not judging all the women who own the 40.8 million small dogs in America, yes, dogs are easier (fish are easier still!). But who said the goal of life is to do what’s easiest?
Marriage and children are the two most powerful opportunities for growth that we have in this world. Dogs don’t force you to dig deep, to find those hidden resources when you think you don’t have any more, to constantly put someone else’s needs before your own, to grow in compassion and selflessness.
And, even though we don’t welcome those nighttime feedings or two a.m. runs to the emergency room, it’s during these moments we discover who we truly are and our expansive capacity for love. It’s those times when we sit with them, just hugging them when someone breaks their heart or support our spouses when dreams are shattered that we grow, that we become truly loving and truly giving.
The Torah teaches us that the first man, Adam, named all the animals. He got to know the essence of each one and, in so doing, he recognized that none would be a suitable mate. His giving to the animals wouldn’t be meaningful enough because it wouldn’t be demanding enough.
Not only would they not appreciate it (there’s only so much emotion that can be conveyed through a wagging tail) but Adam wouldn’t have to dig down as deeply, wouldn’t have to harness untapped resources and discover unrealized potential.
It wouldn’t be as transformative. Yes, it would certainly be easier but what an opportunity missed.
Before the hate mail starts, let me clarify. I’m NOT saying that no one should have pets. I’m just suggesting that the role of pets is more limited than that of children and that the opportunity for personal growth is much more limited.
And I am also not saying that every single person should have a child. I recognize the fact that this is not going to be everyone’s choice, and that some people are not cut out for parenting. But the choice should be a carefully examined one.
Frequently when a family grows from one child to two, the parents are concerned. Will they ever be able to love that second child the way they love their first? And then they discover that their love is not a finite quantity and that their capacity to love is so much greater than they had imagined.
Without any children at all, not only is this insight unrealized but this tremendous capacity for love remains untapped, leaving us all a little poorer. (Those who desire children and are unable to have them are very different and frequently channel their love to their students or children in need and of course are able to learn and grow through the experience.)
Of course it’s an individual choice. And while the opportunity to own a dog is almost never foreclosed, the same is not true of having children.
I’d hate to see these young women discover in 20 or 30 years from now that they made the wrong choice and that, in fact, it is not true that a dog “brings her as much joy as a baby would.”