Human beings really enjoy setting goals and standards. While some of these goals are attainable, others have developed into challenges that clearly exclude those who are unable to compete. Survival of the fittest has evolved into a true competition, where the winners are praised for their physical beauty, wealth, relationship status, and, of course -- their success at bearing and raising children.
It's quite daunting to be regarded as a failure for not producing offspring, and though society hasn't exactly come out with an official statement of disapproval, it's rather obvious that adults who don't make babies are looked upon as sad, somewhat bitter variations on the human theme. If you are a childless adult, then you know what it's like to be pitied and condemned by a nameless, faceless crowd.
And, considering that nature has provided us with an instinctive need to nurture and love things that are small and helpless, it's rather unfair to pass judgment on those of us who, for whatever reason, found ourselves living a life without children.
I have a daughter, so I cannot say from experience that I know first hand what this feels like, but I can tell you this: I have many, many friends who do not have children, and believe me, the last thing they want is pity. I've seen the longing in them, the acceptance, and I've also seen how this instinct to nurture has manifested in their lives as pure, undiluted compassion.
It's no big news that human beings love their animals. Some folks love their pets so much that they perceive them as family members, even as children. Does it matter that these "children" are of a different species, especially when the human adult's need to nurture is met by the animal's need to be nurtured?
Whether you are gay or straight, single or in a relationship -- the desire to parent is deeply programmed into our nature. Yet, some people can't have kids because of biological reasons. Some can't afford to raise a kid alone -- or as a couple, for that matter -- and in a conscious decision, they choose not to bring a life into the world. Adoption is a noble path, but it's not available to everyone. Ultimately, that which makes life bearable to us lies in our potential to give love. And we tend to focus that love on something that is open to receiving it, like a child or an animal.
Life doesn't always give us the perfect conditions for a fairytale existence. And though we may not be living in a perfect world, I know a lot of people who proudly admit that they would die happily, surrounded by their furry friends.
For those who fight for the rights of animals -- good for you! For those who donate to shelters, who adopt pets and give them loving homes -- my hat goes off to you. For those of you who talk to your pets in baby voices, wheel your Poodles and Chihuahuas around in strollers, and allow your Great Danes and German Shepherds to sleep in the bed with you -- you have my total respect.
And so, for everyone who thinks of their animals as their children, know this: You are being the best human being you can be. And seriously -- think of the money you've saved not having to worry about giving them a college education!
As I wait for my human daughter to wake from the lengthy slumber that is only possible in the world of teenagers and cats, I look down at the floor by the side of my desk chair, and there they are -- my other two kids, Sugar and Angel, the feline fatties. If I make eye contact with either one of them, it'll be all over. They'll want love and lots of attention, all of which I'm only too happy to give.
Let the love fest begin.