Pop Francis recently got into hot water over his comments that people without children or ‘just one’ child are ‘selfish’, and that having pets instead of children ‘diminishes us, it takes away our humanity’ (see the full article here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jan/05/pope-couples-choose-pets-children-selfish).
This provoked an onslaught of outraged online responses, particularly from the childless and childfree communities. Including me.
Not only do I take issue with the Pope’s denigration of furparents like me (since when is looking after a rescue cat bad for humanity?), I object to the assumption that childless people choose pets over children, and to the recommendation that we *should* adopt.
I object to the assumption that childless people choose pets over children.
Yes, many childless people have pets.
No, most childless people do not prefer to have pets over children.
Yes, there are many parentless children in this world who need a home.
No, they are not easy to adopt.
The adoption rates in Australia are horribly low, and not because of a lack of willing volunteers. In Australia, you have to prove you cannot have children naturally before you apply to adopt. Then there are the hurdles to clear before you are approved. It is not an automatic process.
I know of several childless people who have been turned down for adoption because, for example, their BMI was too high, or they did not have a backyard, or they had no parenting experience (go figure). Or they are too old.
Adoption is not always possible.
Adoption is not always possible. And telling people off for not adopting betrays the assumption that you can pop into the adoption store on the way home and give needy children their forever home.
Even people who meet the criteria can end up without a child. They never get selected for adoption. I know some people who have even applied for overseas adoption and have been unsuccessful or ineligible.
When someone is childless, it is usually not for lack of trying.
The other problem in telling people to adopt is that some childless people do not want to adopt. My desire to have children was about having biological children with my husband. I wanted to see what kind of children we would create together.
I wanted to see what kind of children we would create together.
Would they look like us?
Would they share our love of music?
Would they enjoy the same childhood books I enjoyed?
Would they take after my nerdy, introverted interests?
What kind of children would they be?
This is part of my ongoing childless grief: I wanted *my* children, not anyone else’s. Is that selfish? (Spoiler: it’s not. It’s grief.) Plus, since when did the homeless and orphaned children of the world become the responsibility of childless people by default?
I wanted *my* children, not anyone else’s.
In my experience, childless people are seldom selfish. The childless people I know are actively reaching out and supporting one another in their grief. I see open-hearted, generous people, coming to terms with a life without children, giving to their childless community.
Maybe we shouldn’t diminish their choice to have a pet.
Have you been judged or told you are selfish for not having children? How do you respond to that? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation.