Commentary: Pets & Children

Pets and Children

By Jayne A. Hitchcock

If you don't have a pet and never had one, skip this. You won't understand. If you do have a pet or had one as a kid, I think you'll sympathize and maybe even agree.

I've had pets since I was a kid. I can count several dogs, cats, lizards, geckoes, butterflies, a parakeet, a horse and my husband. . .just kidding on that last one. Currently, I have two dogs, Bandit and Guin. They're Shibas, a Japanese breed of dog. If you want to see what they look like, go here and click on Shibas in the righthand menu. Bandit and Guin are the best pets I have ever had. They're sweet, intelligent (at least Bandit is), fun to be with and very obedient.

Guin has her own "couch," an actual mini-loveseat. It's in my office and she lies on it most of the day while I'm busy writing and working on the computer. She's very patient. She sleeps a lot.

Bandit is more independent and considers the area under the bed his domain. He lives up to his name by "stealing" toys from his toy basket and taking them under the bed. Once a week I take all the toys from under the bed and put them back in the toy basket. Sometimes I find things I've been missing all week. I've found shoes, underwear, pens, videotapes (don't ask me why he takes those), books and magazines. And they're not damaged. He just likes to collect things.

(WARNING: Boring background before we get to the good stuff:)

At an early age, I decided I didn't want to have children. I don't know why, so don't ask. No, I don't hate kids. As a matter of fact, I love 'em. I even wrote a children's book. I like talking with them and playing with them. When I go to a friend's house, I'll play with the kids in their room for a while before interacting with the adults. It's a lot of fun and I love listening to kids talk. Call it the writer in me, inquisitive at all times about people of all ages. Heck, I don't know. Anywho, I remember announcing to my mother at the age of 11 that I would never have children. Of course, she was aghast. How could I not want children? But she knew I was very independent, stubborn and strong-willed, so she shut up and let me be. I think she hoped I'd change my mind. I never did.

What I announced was also a premonition of sorts. In my early 20s I began to have "female problems." I was in the hospital several times for ovarian cysts that burst, heavy bleeding and other lovely things. One of the surgeries resulted in my right tube and ovary being removed and my left tube being tied. It was too risky to let me even think of conceiving the doctors told me I had a higher chance of having a tubal pregnancy than a normal one. I didn't want kids anyway, so I let them do what they had to. Even after that operation, I still had problems and just learned to live with them.

When Chris, my husband, and I began dating, he knew I couldn't have children. That was fine by him. He didn't want any either. Here's the difference, though. Where I love kids, he doesn't. He's the youngest in his family and was a "late baby," so he never knew his older brothers and sisters they were already out of the house by the time he was old enough to communicate with people. He grew up fast and preferred hanging out with adults than with kids. We were a match made in heaven.

We got married and Chris and I have been very happy. I had my share of more "female problems" and finally convinced my doctor to perform a hysterectomy. The pain and problems outweighed my sanity and physical well-being. I've been fine ever since. And I've not had any of those "horror" stories some hysterectomy patients talk about. My bladder is fine, my sex life is wonderful and I'm very happy.

So what does this have to do with pets and children, you ask? Read on.

Most of our friends either don't have children or their children have grown up and are in college or out of the house. Our friends that do have kids know why we don't have any and don't condemn us for it, nor do they fawn over us in sympathy. We have good friends.

One Easter, we went to Michelle and Rob's house for dinner. It was a yearly thing when we lived in Maryland. They give us Easter baskets with candy and goodies and we have a ball. They had three kids then, a girl age 1, a boy age 6, and an 11-year-old girl. The older daughter loves to talk about ghosts with me (one of my books is about ghosts). The son likes to show off his toys and play war with me. The baby coos and is adorable. This Easter, there was another couple at the house, with their year-old baby girl. After eating a delicious meal, we gabbed about everything under the sun at the dining room table.

Chris loves our dogs as much as I do, if not more. He opened his mouth and began to say, "Bandit did the cutest thing today. . ."

He never got another word out. The mother of the year-old girl snidely said, "Oh, we used to talk about our cat all the time before we had kids, too. You'll see."

There was silence. It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Michelle stood up and cheerily asked if anyone wanted more coffee. We left soon after. Chris was really pissed off. So was I. It took a long while for us to cool down.

Why do some people with children like to be so snide to those of us who don't have any? I am not snide to people who have 10 kids or 6 or whatever. But it seems that couples with kids tend to be snotty to couples without kids. It happens more often than not to me and my husband. We inevitably get the questions: "So, when are you two going to have children?" "Why don't you have kids yet?" "Your parents must be waiting for a grandchild."

What business is it of theirs, anyway?

We were invited to a barbecue at Jamie and Susie's. Susie is Scottish and is a fireball. She's independent like me, so she and I get along great. Their son, Erin, is a ball to be with (Thomas the Tank Engine was his favorite back then). But being with them for a small dinner and being at their house with a lot of guests are two different things. Chris accepted the invitation anyway and we went.

There was only one other couple there with a child, a little girl (who was a total monster, by the way). The rest of us either didn't have children or weren't married yet. After eating, "us girls" settled in the living room to gab over tea and cheesecake. One of us brought up pets and soon we were all happily talking about the cute things they did, what kind of pet we had, etc. One of the girls turned to me and said, "You don't know how nice it is to go to someone's house and not talk about babies and children. No one ever talks about their pets and I always feel left out."

So, this is a little word of advice for those of you with kids: Don't alienate your childless friends. Don't push them to feel like they should have children. Many can't or don't want to have kids and it's none of your business as to why. You could talk about something else. I mean, you do things in your life that don't have to do with your children, don't you? If you can talk about your children, we want to talk about our pets, so let us.

For those of you busybodies who like to ask childless couples "20 questions". . .STOP IT! We don't like your rude questions, and yes, they are quite rude. Why should we have to explain why we don't have children? You wouldn't ask me what the result of my last pap smear was, now would you?

For couples like my husband and me, take heart. There are kindred spirits out there. I know. . .I've met them.

J.A. Hitchcock is a regular contributor to Compute Me. Visit her web site at

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