Increasingly, there are couples who have cats and dogs instead of kids. That's not because one partner is infertile, or because they are postponing kids until they achieve financial security. Instead, they never intend to have kids, even though they are physically and financially able to start a family.
I can't help thinking to myself that this is a way of never having to grow up emotionally or psychologically. Raising kids is a maturing experience in a way that having dogs is not. Kids are demanding and challenging in a way that dogs are not.
But beyond that, I wonder if what motivates some of them is the subliminal or in some case conscious denial of their mortality. Having kids reminds you of your own mortality. To some extent, having kids is a way of reliving your childhood. You do with them or for them what your parents did with you or for you. You see them doing what you used to do at that age. They get into the same arguments with you that you had with your own parents.
Due to family resemblance, you can literally see a part of yourself in your kids. A reminder of what you looked like at that age. If fact, they reach the age you were when you had them.
Take a father who played football in junior high or high school. Now he's in the bleachers, watching his son. He swells with pride. Yet there's a twinge of wistful recollection. Time is passing him by. That was you, just twenty years ago. That's now forever behind you.
It's like training your replacement. You must move out before they can move up.
You see the lifecycle repeating itself. You're just one car-length of ahead of your kids, and your parents (if they're still alive) are just one car-length ahead of you–approaching the dark tunnel of death.
From a secular standpoint, that's unnerving. Having dogs and cats doesn't remind you of your long-lost youth the way raising kids does. You were never a puppy or a kitten. So you don't see the grim reaper gaining on you in the rearview mirror by having pets.
It's understandable if godless couples avoid that depressing, fearful prospect by substituting pets for kids.