Last week a British CEO sparked a debate firestorm on LinkedIn by polling users to decide if he should offer “pawternity” leave for a worker who asked for time off to take care of his new puppy. 41% of respondents said yes. One company that does offer leave for new pet owners commented to the Chicago Tribune, “The regular family isn’t everyone’s thing. We have to make sure we’re nurturing people’s family, whether that’s furry families or human families”
Now, don’t get me wrong–I love dogs. Incredibly! I’m a dog lover all the way. I consider having a dog a necessary part of my life, and I’ve always said that if I didn’t have ten children I would have four dogs. But since I do have ten kids, I only have two dogs. And a cat. And a fish. And a constantly fluctuating number of chickens (but that’s a whole other post!).
While I’m not a cat lover, I have a beloved aunt who was never able to have children but who loves her cats dearly. So I have no problem with people loving animals and integrating them into their lives.
And heck, if the employee is valuable enough and the company can afford it, I’m even fine with people taking a personal day or two to be with a new pup.
But don’t compare it to maternity or paternity leave. It is emphatically not. The. Same. Thing.
That’s why those windshield stickers that say “Dog Mom” always bother me. Because there is no way that having a pet is anything at all like having a child.
So that’s why I want to say a word or two in defense of kids, in the “pet versus kid” contest that many couples ponder. The two are not in the same league: not at all. It’s like contemplating a trip to your backyard as opposed to a trip to another universe. Before we had our first child, another mom said to me, “I can’t explain to you what it’s like to be a parent. You just have to experience it yourself.” This was very true! If you are not a parent, it’s very hard to imagine that experience. But if you want to take my word for it, it leaves being a puppy owner far behind in terms of significance.
While I understand that for some people, childlessness is not a choice, deliberately turning down the opportunity to give life to another person and instead getting a pet from a shelter or store is a big, big mistake. But if you’re tempted to get a puppy or a kitten instead of embarking on the terrifying, incredible adventure of parenthood, here are a few random concrete reasons, picked from my own recent life, of why I think kids are better than pets:
- Your pet will never stand open-mouthed as they watch a sunset or the ocean.
- Your pet will never ask you how the stars were made.
- Your pet will never draw you a scraggly picture of two barely recognizable people holding hands and say in an excited voice, “That’s you and me!”
- You will never gaze into the face of your pet and see your mother, or father, or sister or brother in their eyes.
- Your pet will never imitate the things you say (for good or for bad!) exactly the way you do, both delighting and frightening you!
- Your pet will never gaze at their feet standing in the mud and wiggle their toes.
- Your pet will never belly laugh at the silly things you do that no one else will ever see.
- Your pet will never say they want to be just like you when they grow up.
- Your pet won’t randomly ask you embarrassing questions that make you laugh but for which you need to keep a straight face.
- Your pet won’t become an adult and thank you for all the sacrifices and love you have given them throughout their lives.
I could come up with more reasons, if I keep on thinking of all the ways that my children have changed me. They have given me new experiences that brought me and my husband out of ourselves, enriched our lives, and made us better human beings. I could write books about it. Having pets didn’t do that to us. Having children did.