Earlier this week, Pope Francis straight-up shamed me and my childfree, pet-owning kind.
“Today…we see a form of selfishness,” the Pope told a general audience at the Vatican. “We see that some people do not want to have a child.”
“Many, many couples do not have children because they do not want to, or they have just one, but they have two dogs, two cats…Yes, dogs and cats take the place of children,” he continued. “This denial of fatherhood or motherhood diminishes us, it takes away our humanity. And in this way civilization becomes aged and without humanity…and our homeland suffers, as it does not have children.” This isn’t the first time the Pope’s said nonsense like this. In 2014, he claimed that couples who get pets, travel the world, and remain childless by choice end up alone, “with the bitterness of loneliness.”
But hold on—the Pope is childless, too. So how are we selfish by refusing to do the very thing he ain’t even doing himself?
As a 44-year-old woman who’s never wanted kids, I can’t tell you how hard it’s been to not have them. I’m not just talking about condoms, IUDs, and birth control pills. I’m talking about living in a society that constantly shames and pressures women into motherhood while simultaneously worshipping and shitting on mothers. Besides simply not wanting kids—which should be reason enough for not having them—I constantly have to explain why I’m not willing to risk becoming a maternal mortality statistic or losing a majority of my income after giving birth. I’m also not psyched about the possibility of having to house adult children forever because the economy sucks so bad. Yes, I have a supportive, emotionally intelligent partner (and a dog) but my husband doesn’t want any kids either, and that’s our prerogative. Besides, it’s not a stretch to say that many childless women who are coupled with straight men might as well be mothers. Sure, they’re not technically rearing kids—just, you know, a man-child.
Growing up with my dad taught me that weaponized incompetence is one of the most manipulative and effective tactics men use to exploit women for labor. He would brag about the perfect bed-making skills he learned in the Navy, yet feign ignorance when the time came to fold a damn sheet or do any basic house chore. Today, wives have taken to social media to complain about their grown-ass male partners who also act like they don’t know how to wash clothes or the dishes.
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A 2019 global report found that a whopping 85% of men said they’d do anything to be involved in caring for their new child, and yet found that men rely way more on their female partners for knowledge and information on parenting than vice versa. And lest I remind you that women in the United States reportedly spend two hours more each day cleaning, cooking, taking care of children and doing other unpaid work than men. Men clearly have this fantasy about fatherhood and being the head of the household, but fantasy does not a father make.
In 2019, I wrote an article explaining how men are emotional golddiggers. The older women I spoke with whose children had become adults revealed they were secretly waiting for their husbands to kick the bucket so they could go live their best lives with their lady friends, Golden Girls-style. They were over being unpaid therapists, cheerleaders, life coaches, porn stars, best friends, entertainers, maids, and mommies to adult babies. Raising kids is way harder than it should be, especially in the U.S. where mothers receive little to no help from the government or their employers, but women are also getting sick and tired of raising men. Yet, women are more likely to stay with a lazy, entitled husband if there are kids involved.
So the Pope is actually right, in a way. It is risky for hetero couples to not have kids, specifically for the men. Who’s gonna take care of all these straight dudes if women don’t want them anymore?
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