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Dear Care and Feeding,
Let me start by saying I think it’s great that other people have pets. I just don’t want one in my house. I’ve frankly never understood the appeal of having an animal who needs daily care throughout its life, especially if that care is going to involve shedding, excrement, and a smelly house. I’ve always wanted children, but part of what excited me about them was that they grow, learn, and slowly begin to take care of themselves more and more. Now I have a child (a toddler), and I adore him. My husband seems to be of the opinion that every child needs a pet. I don’t agree with that sentiment and have explained why. He seems mostly contented with that for now. But what’s really bothering me is my husband’s seeming insistence on the inevitability that our child will someday wear us (me) down on the issue. Is it really so unreasonable to maintain that we are going to have a pet-free household? Is it possible that this is just a version of people continually telling women that they’re going to change their minds about having kids?
I chuckled when you said you don’t want the responsibility of picking up an animal’s poop and dealing with a smelly house when that is literally what raising a tiny human is like. Sure, tiny humans grow into not-so-tiny humans eventually, but it certainly isn’t clear sailing from that point. Also, people have been trying to convince other people to do things they aren’t interested in since the beginning of time. Hell, I think I received five calls in the past week from salespeople trying to get me to extend my car’s warranty. It’s nothing new, really.
Not that this matters to you, but I also share the same belief that your husband has about pets, in that every child should grow up with one. There are plenty of animals that don’t shed and make the house smell (my dog is one of them), and if pets were such horrifically annoying creatures, then 70 percent of Americans wouldn’t own them as they currently do now. That’s because the pros far outweigh the cons in terms of pet ownership, and one of the pros is what pets can teach our children. Responsibility and empathy are two of the biggest ones.
In your defense, my wife was very similar to you and offered the same concerns that you had. I kept pushing because I knew my kids wanted a puppy (especially during the pandemic when we were all stuck at home), and I knew it would benefit them. Then I finally struck a deal with her. I said that the kids and I would handle 100 percent of the walks, feedings, vet bills, poop cleanup, etc., and she could just enjoy the fun parts of dog ownership — namely the snuggles and belly rubs. She ended up taking us up on it, and she completely loves our puppy and couldn’t imagine her life without him in it.
You may believe that you’ll never do what my wife did, and that’s fine—but what will happen when your kid gets older, and he wants to have a dog or cat? It will be two votes against one— so consider the feelings of everyone in your household. Like I said earlier, I think a fair deal would be to have your husband and son handle everything pet-related. The healthiest families I know are the ones who believe in compromise.
More Advice From Slate
As a first-grader I was given an IQ test, scored more than 160, and was declared a “genius.” This led to years of heightened expectations, profound failures, disappointed teachers and family, and ostracism (I was skipped two grades and did not fit in socially.) I eventually dropped out of high school during my freshman year.
I’m now married and have a 4-year old daughter. Because she was somewhat shy and anti-social, we were advised to have her evaluated for autism spectrum disorder. They said she doesn’t have that, but she was given an IQ test. The psychologist literally came out to the waiting area shouting that she was “a genius!” I had a PTSD reaction to this, bundled her up and fled. I have not mentioned any of this to my husband. I feel that once the cat is out of the bag, there’s little hope of normalcy for my daughter’s childhood. She’s a happy little kid right now. Advice?