Pope Francis came out this week with a strongly worded opinion that couples should be raising children and not cats and dogs. He went on to proclaim that marriages without children “come to old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness.”
I’m sorry, Pope Francis, but I think you’re wrong on this one, and here are five reasons why.
1. Marriages often end in divorce. I see the fallout from this every day in my psychology practice, with children being shuttled back and forth between mom and dad while having to adjust to stepsiblings and stepparents. Many kids have a parent who has simply disappeared following a divorce. Bottom line is that marriage does not guarantee the secure, loving nest that Pope Francis suggests that children need to be raised in.
2. Single parents can also do an amazing job. As the Pope says, what a child needs is security and stability, and when a child comes into a single-parent home, especially through adoption or planned pregnancy, he or she is likely going to have an upbringing as rich and loving as one in a two-parent family.
3. Childfree couples have time to give in other ways. Raising a family takes a huge amount of time and money, and making the decision to not have kids means that there are extra hours and extra cash to put outside of the home. Many childfree adults, including myself, have set up scholarship funds to help young people who are working hard in school, donate time to community projects, and take on leadership roles in our neighborhoods.
4. Raising a pet together is a bonding experience for many couples, and it takes a fraction of the effort necessary for raising a child. My husband and I are a more cohesive team since we adopted our puppies five years ago, and this cohesion has in turn led us to be more giving in our community. I’ve enjoyed watching the television show Parenthood this past year and it has provided a keen reminder of the ups and downs of parenting, and of how the demands of parenting can cause couples to focus inward.
5. There’s no guarantee that adult children and grandkids will be there in a parent’s aging years. Pope Francis seems to be unaware of just how many elderly men and women live far away from their adult offspring and receive little or no emotional support from them. Childfree adults, on the other hand, know that we won’t have children to be there for us, and so we take steps to ensure that we have the supports we need as we age.
What do you think?