TIME Parenting

Breaking News: Having a Father Is a Good Thing

Hey dads, they like you, they really like you!
Hey dads, they like you, they really like you! Jekaterina Nikitina; Getty Images

A new book 'discovers' the obvious—and the headlines follow. Enough already with the wonder of the dad

Science has a deliciously entertaining habit of stating the obvious. For every ingenious, truly groundbreaking insight that has a researcher sitting bolt upright at 3:00 a.m. entertaining dizzy visions of an inevitable Nobel, there other insights—researched, peer reviewed and published—that you don’t exactly need a double Ph.D to figure out. And so you get studies showing that “Moderate Doses of Alcohol Increase Social Bonding in Groups” or “Dogs Learn to Associate Words With Objects Differently Than Humans Do” or the breaking story that opened with the tantalizing headline, “Causes of Death in Very Old People.” Um, old age?

But the thing about these studies is this: somebody had to do them. Science is nothing if not persnickety about proof, and if you don’t have the data, you can’t officially establish the case. So the work gets done and the box gets checked and progress marches on. It was with that in mind that I tried to read with equanimity a Father’s Day gift from The Washington Post, which led its review of Paul Raeburn’s book Do Fathers Matter? with the headline, “Yes Dads, You Do Matter.”

And so, too, I tried to embrace the idea that Raeburn’s book needs to exist at all.

It’s not that the book isn’t a good, solid piece of science journalism. It is. And it’s not that Raeburn isn’t a good, solid science reporter. He’s been in the game a long time and is the media critic for MIT’s Knight Science Journalism Tracker.

The deeper question is: are we not yet past this? It’s a question Raeburn himself raises but seems to answer with an emphatic no simply by having written his book. There seems to be no killing the idea of dad the extraneous; dad the superfluous; dad, who’s nice to have around the house but only in the way that air conditioning is nice to have in the car — it makes things more comfortable, but you’ll still get where you’re going without it.

It’s as if the steady shrinking of the Y chromosome over the ages is somehow being mirrored by the dwindling relevance of the parent who carries this dying scrap of DNA. That vanishing Y, as recent studies have established, has been both arrested and overstated, but not before giving rise to headlines like “As Y Chromosome Shrinks, End of Men Pondered.” And that bit of silliness came from NPR, not, say, TMZ.

The idea of the father’s expendability has been exacerbated by the persistence of the doofus dad stereotype, something else Raeburn addresses: the well-intentioned bumbler who is still a staple of kid-targeted TV (thank you, Disney Channel). He’s the guy who can’t quite boil an egg and can’t be trusted to go shopping, but is eventually bailed out by mom or one of the kids, who set things right. Eyes roll, dad looks abashed and hilarity ensues. Except it’s not really funny—though not because it’s profoundly offensive or causes deep wounds to the sensitivities of a newly defined oppressed group. There’s enough elective umbrage at large already without adding one more voice of grievance to one more cable news show.

It’s just … off, somehow—like Jay Leno’s cringe-worthy performance at the 2010 White House Correspondent’s dinner, during which he made jokes about President Obama’s courage because (wait for it!) he invited his mother-in-law to live in the White House. There was a time, maybe, when the mother-in-law as harridan image was an apt—or at least fresh—source of humor, but that time is long past. Ditto dad as dunce.

Raeburn’s book is guilty of none of this. It’s stuffed with studies showing the vital role fathers play in their children’s lives from the moment of conception, through the mother’s pregnancy and onward. But there’s still a sense of wonder that comes with it. “The discovery of the father is one of the most important developments in the study of children and families,” is a nice line. But is it true? Is this really something that needs “discovering?” And do fathers really need a new book and a major newspaper reminding them that “You Do Matter?” Not on Father’s Day at least. And certainly not on one in the 21st century.

TIME celebrity

Watch Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban Sing ‘Amazing Grace’ at a Children’s Hospital

A rare glimpse into the couple's private life

Celebrity power couple Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban — whose celebrity couple name, we just decided, is Nikeith — visited Melbourne’s Monash Children’s Hospital last week to visit patients and lift spirits. Nikeith (okay, that works pretty well, right?) also performed a little impromptu concert. Urban grabbed his guitar and sang “Amazing Grace,” with his wife accompanying him on vocals.

Now, we must note that the crowd appears to be composed entirely of staff members rather than patients, but we’ll assume the kids were within earshot, or that they at least got to watch the show on a Jumbotron from another wing.

MONEY First-Time Dad

For Father’s Day, this Millennial Dad Wants Absolutely, Positively…Nothing

Luke Tepper

After four months of dad duty, this first-time father thinks fatherhood is its own reward.

This Sunday will be my first Father’s Day. And believe me (wife and world) when I say that this year, and every year after, I don’t want anything.

This isn’t a flippant decision, and I’m as much of a hedonistic materialist as any other red-blooded American. Books and ties and whisky are as important to me as they are to anyone else. I love sweaters and tickets to basketball games and urbane picture frames.

(One thing I would never, ever want is cash, like one father in Kit Yarrow’s piece.)

I realize that I’m a new father and don’t really have a lot of legitimacy among those who’ve been parenting for decades. (Although all of the hard work is front-loaded.) Maybe a nice chunk of new-fangled technology makes the veteran dad’s day a bit easier. Do I really want to eschew the thrill of opening something wrapped?

In a word—yes.

Why? Well, a little over four months ago I was in a hospital room at two o’clock in the morning. My responsibilities at that time included making sure the lights stayed dimmed and repeatedly counting to 10.

My wife was also in the room on that day. Her responsibilities were a little different. She spent the better part of five hours actively pushing our son out into the world.

Subsequently, she’s been his sole source of food, enticed him (every night) to sleep, and administered medicine when he was sick. She hasn’t had a full night of rest since he was born (and it’s not like pregnant women sleep that well anyway) and has watched over him for his entire life.

Of course I’ve helped. I’ve fed him occasionally and risen pre-dawn every so often. I’ve held him as he wailed in the doctor’s office after getting his shots. I change diapers.

But I’m a supporting character (the Tonto to her Lone Ranger) in the story of how he’s made it this far.

Which brings me back to Father’s Day.

Receiving a present from my wife (or my son when he’s older) will just feel rather silly. Almost like Randy Brown (Who? Exactly!) earning a championship ring for being on the same team as Michael Jordan.

The existence of Father’s Day is not written on the heart of man by the hand of god. It became a national holiday about 50 years after Mother’s Day, and President Obama’s birthday predates it. So, it’s not like I’m breaking Tevye-like tradition here.

This Sunday I will think about my kid and my new family, and relish my luck and good fortune. That is my present.

MONEY Odd Spending

What You Wish You Could Give Dad on Father’s Day — But Shouldn’t

Your dad might really be in need of a hearing aid, a fitness regimen, or some form of anti-snoring assistance. But Father's Day is probably not the day to tell him.

Father’s Day is an excellent opportunity to give your pops something he’ll really love. And, like all gift-giving holidays, it’s also a great chance to send him not-so-subtle messages about his lifestyle and habits via passive-aggressive presents.

This might sound like a funny prank, but be warned: While you may wish to give such gifts, it is not advisable to do so. Handing Dad a cheeky present is all fun and games until he turns the table on you. And make no mistake, he will.

When he does, you better brace yourself (especially millennials out there) because he has more ammo than you can possibly imagine. By the time Dad was your age, he’d already moved out of his parents’ home, got a first job (maybe even started a business), found a partner, and had a child or three. He’s the spitting image of the American dream—he’s bullet proof! You? Maybe not so much. Your latest brilliant idea involves buying your dad snarky presents on the day established in his honor. So if you go this route, don’t be surprised when your birthday present from dad is an all-expenses-paid trip to boot camp, a job search guide, or “How to Get Married Before It’s Too Late.” Remember: You started this.

So you probably shouldn’t go there. But if you were to do so, here are some ideas.

Protein Powder and Fitness Magazines

A huge tub of whey and a subscription to Muscle and Fitness might be a great gift for a dad who’s already extremely into working out, but could seem a little sarcastic if your father’s workout routine consist of one sit-up per day (when he gets out of bed). Another, more covert option? A Fitbit or other wearable fitness gadget. Everyone loves new toys, and dad will be forced to go outside for a while in order to play with this one.

Anti-Snoring Gift Box

If you really want to make your point about Dad’s power to wake the entire house with one deep unconscious inhale, be sure to give dad a real sampling of anti-snoring products. That means anti-snoring spray, anti-snoring nasal strips, an anti-snoring pillow, and my favorite: an anti-snoring jaw strap. Who cares that many snore stopping products might not actually work? As the Joker said, it’s about sending a message. Put them all in a pretty basket, with a bow on top. Dads always appreciate good presentation.

Soap

For whatever reason, giving nice soap (as opposed to other personal hygiene products like toothpaste or shaving cream) is actually pretty standard Father’s Day fare. This is good because you can achieve your objective—more, or at least better, bathing by the old man—without causing offense. Well, not too-too much offense. The standard route is an organic soap sampler, but if you’re interested in giving the clearest possible hint, it’s hard to beat a single bar of Dove in an otherwise empty box.

Cooking Lessons

The offensiveness of cooking lessons really depends on how hard everyone else in the family laughs during the reveal. If it’s more of an “ahhhhh” reaction with lots of head nodding (and maybe a few snickers), then you’re all clear. If everyone spits out their soup guffawing over dad making anything other than reheated Mac N’ Cheese, then your message will get through. But don’t expect any gifts from dad next Christmas. Or ever.

Hearing Aid

There’s no subtlety here. This is something many fathers need but do not actually want because it suggests they’re getting a littttttle over the hill. However, if you’d like to avoid yelling whenever pops is in the room, you might just have to force the issue. Before you do, though, consider this: Does your dad actually want to hear everyone’s dinner-table squabbling at family gatherings?

MONEY Shopping

Just Plain Awful Father’s Day Gifts, and What to Buy Instead

There are the Father's Day gifts that you think are funny or cute or clever, and then there are the Father's Day gifts that dads actually like and will use. Which kind are you giving dad?

Here’s a list of common Father’s Day gift categories that dads really don’t want, followed by what you should buy instead:

Gag Gifts
You might be tempted to have a little fun with dad on Father’s Day by purchasing something silly and embarrassing like “meggings,” denim swimwear, or another joke from this list of gifts so bad they’re awesome. You might think it’ll just be hilarious to see the look on dad’s face when he opens up an inflatable toupee, or a “Senior Moments” memory workout book, or adult diapers, or something else that makes a show of how old your old man is. Ha-ha-ha. Joke’s on you, uncool, bald, pathetic, incontinent old man! You know, dementia and death are probably right around the corner! Ha-ha-ha.

Granted, some dads might think this stuff is really a laugh riot too. But … probably not. Same goes for gag gifts that burp and fart. We don’t want them, nor do we appreciate the message sent when we’re given them. As one dad blogger put it on his list of Father’s Day gifts dad doesn’t want, “I understand that I don’t hide my body’s venting. But I realize every Father’s Day that’s how you see us. I’m just a cartoon fart machine to you.”

What to Get Instead: Almost anything, really. Heck, even some stupid “World’s Best Dad” T-shirt or mug—often on Bad Father’s Day Gift lists themselves—would be way better. Far better than that, though, would be something genuinely thoughtful and practical. It doesn’t have to be something the average person would consider a “gift.”

If you’ve noticed your dad’s wheelbarrow wobbles, or his favorite work boots have no more tread, or his college alma mater baseball hat is falling apart, go and get him a new replacement. Save him the trouble of a trip to the store. The elimination of a headache or a chore is a wonderful gift the average dad deeply appreciates. Above all, be sure that whatever you do or give implicitly demonstrates you see him as more than just a silly old fart machine.

Useless Gadgets
Just say no to anything that you’ve seen in the Sky Mall catalogue, and anything that you imagine might has or ever will be in the Sky Mall catalogue. Again, this basically comes down to knowing who the gift recipient is: Is your dad (or spouse) really the kind of person who would want—or even know what to do with—a wrist fitness monitor or a voice-activated golf cap?

Most dads hate to see money wasted, and hate it even more when the money is being wasted in their honor. Think about that before presenting dad with a dubious doohickey that’ll sit unused, unopened, indefinitely.

What to Get Instead: Some piece of technology that’s actually useful, and that dad actually wants. Dads aren’t tech idiots. They just like what they like, and they’re skeptical (for good reason) about the value of any hot new “must have.” Father’s Day, which should be a day of relaxation and enjoyment, isn’t the day to prod dad into embracing something unfamiliar. That’s sorta like giving a high school student homework on the day he graduates. It’s cruel.

If you know your father (or spouse) well, you should be in tune with his likes and dislikes, and what’s in his comfort zone. In some cases, it’s a great idea to give dad the newest version of his favorite e-reader or tablet, or perhaps even to splurge on the 70-inch HDTV you know he’s been dying to see in his living room.

If you’re pursuing this route, go the extra mile and make dad’s transition to the new tech as smooth, simple, and easy as possible. That might mean importing his contacts or e-book library, or taking care of the wiring and installation of the TV or video game system (yes, some dads are big-time gamers). Remember, Father’s Day isn’t the day to give dad extra work to do. Speaking of which …

Gifts That Put Dad to Work
Whereas moms may get “a dozen long-stemmed, obscenely expensive flowers” for Mother’s Day, the corresponding gift for fathers, according to Detroit News columnist Brian O’Connor, is “an entire flat of tomato seedlings from the farmer’s market for you to plant, weed, water and fertilize for the next three months.”

What to Get Instead: Feel free to buy those tomato plants—or some other gift that’s really something of a project—but volunteer to take responsibility, or at least share the responsibility, for them. Not just on Father’s Day, mind you, but for the long haul. Come harvest time, make dad his favorite homemade sauce, or if you can’t cook, slice those tomatoes up and serve them with fresh mozzarella, basil, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.

Gifts That Tell Dad He Should Change
Even worse than gag clothing gifts for dads are some of the clothes that givers actually expect dad to wear—and that cause him extraordinary discomfort as a result. Sure, traditional dad fashion may be embarrassing (black socks and sandals anyone?), but it’s even more embarrassing to see a blissfully uncool, out-of-it dad try to pull off donning the latest trends, be it skinny jeans, floral prints, or whatever else someone deems as “hip” at the moment. Or rather, to see a dad being forced to wear such clothing because one of his children decides it’s in his best interest.

Father’s Day is about fathers. It’s about celebrating who they are, not who you think they should be. The day you’re honoring your father is not the day to implicitly send the message that you think he should be more fashionable, or lose weight (would you buy your mom a treadmill for Mother’s Day?), or learn to cook, or try some cocktail that’s all the rage, or stop snoring, or change in any way. Yet some gifts unsubtly send just those messages, and they come across not as helpful, but as disrespectful and insulting.

What to Get Instead: His tried-and-true favorites. Whatever brand of cigars, Scotch, craft beer, sunglasses, or sandals he favors is a can’t-miss gift. Stop fooling around and get the man what he likes. By doing so, you’ll demonstrate you know him well, and that you accept and love him for who he is.

Or you could just get a “World’s Best Dad” T-shirt. At least he can mow the lawn in the T-shirt without drawing snickers from the neighbors. That’s more than you can say for skinny jeans.

TIME Children

Why Polio is Doomed and Gun Violence Isn’t

It's hard to spot the heroism—but it's there
It's hard to spot the heroism—but it's there Randy Plett; Getty Images

It shouldn't take too much courage to stop a scourge that is killing children. Washington's gun cowards could take a lesson from the heroes battling polio

A century ago, the quickest way to diagnose polio was with the belly button test. A doctor would ask a suddenly feverish, bedridden child to lift her head from her pillow and look at her belly button. If she couldn’t do it—if the muscles in her neck and stomach and pretty much anywhere else could no longer contract and lift the way they should—the odds were that the news was bad. Within the day, the child would be paralyzed.

There has always been a particular ugliness to polio—a virus that robs a child of the simple ability to move at what should be the most restless, kinetic, exploratory stage of life. Mercifully, in most of the world that ugliness is gone—though not everywhere.

Meantime, in the U.S., a new kind of horror has taken polio’s place: the school shooting. This one also strikes at children and defies what should be one of childhood’s givens: that school is a place for learning, a place for play, a place that counts as a so-called safe space, even before we became a nation that required such formally designated asylum zones.

Both polio and school shootings are acts of violence—one viral, one human. But only one, polio, is doomed to lose, as I realized yesterday when I attended a briefing by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative at U.N. Foundation headquarters in New York, just a day after the latest school school shooting, this one at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Ore.

The big players at the polio conference were familiar names: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the international consulting group Global Health Strategies. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the progress that is being made to eradicate the last case of polio anywhere on the planet—making the disease only the second one, after smallpox, to have been vaccinated into well-deserved extinction.

The polio hunters are tantalizingly close to their goal: In 1988, polio was endemic to 120 countries and claimed 350,000 people—overwhelmingly children—each year. In 2013, there were only 416 cases worldwide and the disease was endemic to just three countries: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. But the year-to-date-numbers are higher in 2014 than they were last year, thanks mostly to attacks on polio workers by extremists in Pakistan and unrest in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere, which is allowing the virus to slip across borders.

That’s part of the reason the group assembled yesterday—to review their plan to push back against the resurgence, a plan that is breathtaking in its scope: there are the 105 million doses of oral polio vaccine that have been administered in and around Syria; the 3,176 hard-to-reach communities in Nigeria that are now being reached by health care workers bringing oral vaccine; the 2,000 health camps that have been held to educate and vaccinate in the ground zero state of Kano in northern Nigeria and the 10,000 more that are planned; the millions upon millions of children in 126 countries who will be receiving at least one dose of the injectable form of polio vaccine, which uses a killed virus and thus eliminates even the small risk of the weakened virus used in the oral version escaping into the wild.

And then, of course, there is the sheer, literally death-defying brass of the vaccine workers who regularly trudge into the Pakistani tribal areas, knowing that some of the workers who have come before them have been gunned down in drive-by shootings, and that every day they go out with their vials of drops there is a risk they won’t come home. But they go all the same.

Eradicating a viral disease is nothing less than an act of hunting molecules—protein particles so simple they don’t even qualify as technically alive—and destroying them anywhere they are hiding in the world. That’s an almost surreally difficult thing to accomplish, yet that’s what the Gateses and Rotary and WHO and others have decided must be done. And so they’re doing it.

And then, on the other side of the decency and courage arc, are the gun cowards. They are the American legislators who dare not cast a vote that will anger the National Rifle Association; the governors who walk away from the problem even as the children in their states—whose welfare they have sworn to ensure—are being murdered; the political parties that, if they acknowledge the problem at all, consider it too radioactive to take up this year, this session, this electoral cycle.

“‘No Way to Prevent This,’ Says the Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens,” wrote The Onion, in a brilliant riff on the what-can-we-do faux-helplessness of the political class. But in case they’re really wondering, here’s what they can do: they can think less about locking down their base, expanding their majority, dodging the 30-second attack ad and more about the simple safety of children. Because here is a hard fact: there are babies and young people alive today who will be dead soon because of the choices now being made. If that isn’t enough to turn an election night victory into ash, America’s politicians are beyond help.

TIME human behavior

Study: Kids Know When Adults Are Keeping Secrets

88302964
Father and daughter having a talk Nick Daly—Getty Images

A new study from MIT shows that kids won't trust adults who don't tell them the whole truth

Lying about Santa Claus, how babies are born or whether there are cookies in the cookie jar could get parents into trouble. Children are extremely perceptive: past studies have shown that kids can tell when adults are lying to them. But telling children only part of the truth can get adults into trouble too. New research suggests that youngsters can tell when people commit “sins of omission” and even learn not to trust those people.

Researchers at MIT studied how 42 six and seven-year-olds evaluated information. They conducted two experiments. In the first study, the children were separated into two groups: one group got a toy that had four buttons, each of which performed a different function—lights, a windup mechanism, etc.; the other group got a toy that looked the same but only had one button, which activated the windup mechanism.

After the two groups of children had played with their respective toys, the researchers put on a show: a teacher puppet taught a student puppet how to use the toy, but only showed the student puppet the winup function. For the kids playing with the one-button toy, this was all the information; but for the kids playing with the four-button toy, the teacher puppet had left out crucial information.

The researchers then asked all the children to rate the teacher puppet in terms of how helpful it was on a scale from 1 to 20. The kids with the multi-functional toy noticed that the puppet hadn’t told them the whole story and gave it a lower score than the children with the single-function toys did.

The second experiment began with the same premise—splitting the children into two groups, letting them play with their simple or complex toys and then giving a puppet demonstration. But then after the demonstration, the researchers brought out another, totally different toy and gave it to both groups of children. This toy had four functions, and the teacher puppet demonstrated only one.

Children who had the multi-functional toy in the first part of the experiment—and therefore had seen an incomplete demonstration from that teacher puppet before—explored the toy more thoroughly than the children who only had the single-function toy. These children, it seems, had learned to not trust the teacher because of the first uninformative demonstration.

“This shows that children are not just sensitive to who’s right or wrong,” lead author Hyowon Gweon says. “Children can also evaluate others based on who’s providing information that is enough or not enough for accurate inference. They can also adjust how they learn from a teacher in the future, depending on whether the teacher has previously committed a sin of omission or not.”

So watch what you say parents: if you lie to your kids—or even keep secrets from them—they’ll learn to not trust you.

TIME video

‘My Father is an Assassin': How a CIA Spy Told His Kids About His Job

They did not all respond well to the news.

Jack Devine is 32 year veteran of the CIA, working on the operations side. He helped oust Allende from Chile; he gave the mujahedin the stingers with which they shot down the Russian helicopters. He trained with traitor Aldrich Ames. But in his new book Good Hunting, he also talks about being a family man, a father of six.

He developed a method for the delicate job of explaining to his kids what he really did. (Officially, he was “a diplomat”). He liked to have “the talk” in the U.S., to prevent unanticipated leakage, and he had to catch each kid at just the right age. But for his middle daughter, he didn’t get the timing quite right.

In the interview, which is available to subscribers here, Devine also talks about what spies do when they don’t agree with their mission, how they get people to betray their countries and the mishap he had with invisible ink. (HINT: it involves a receipt for a payoff.)

Here’s a longer version of Devine’s chat with Time.

 

 

MONEY deals

Cheap Flicks: Air-Conditioned Movie Theaters and Kid-Friendly Films for $1

kids at movie theaters
You can't beat a $1 movie ticket, even if the film isn't a brand new release. Fuse—Getty Images

Two big movie theater companies are showing kid-friendly films, and tickets (for kids and adults) are just $1 each, sometimes cheaper.

The average movie ticket runs about $8 nowadays. For that same amount, you could pay for eight admissions at hundreds of movie theaters around the country this summer.

Granted, the movies that you’ll see aren’t this summer’s newest, hottest blockbusters. But hey, what would you expect for tickets that sell for a fraction of the price of a small popcorn?

Cinemark, which runs movie theater brands including Rave, Tinseltown, and, of course, Cinemark, is hosting a Summer Movie Clubhouse series. At hundreds of participating theaters around the country—64 in Texas alone—admission is $1 per person (kids and adults) for 10 G- and PG-rated films that aren’t new releases, but are child-pleasers nonetheless. Among the movies in the new program are “Walking with Dinosaurs,” “Epic,” and “The Lego Movie.”

The special shows and special pricing are typically available during the middle of the week, early in the day. For example, the $1 shows at Cinemark in Colorado Springs, Colo., are for 10 a.m. showings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from June 3 through August 6. If even the $1 ticket is too expensive for your blood, Cinemark is offering more bang for the buck via a ten-pack of tickets for $5, or just 50 cents per show.

Meanwhile, the Regal Entertainment Group is hosting a similar midweek $1 family-friendly movie program, the 2014 Summer Movie Express. For nine weeks this summer, participating theaters are screening movies such as “Rio 2,” “Hotel Transylvania,” “Madagascar 3,” “The Croods,” “The Lego Movie,” and “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m., with a flat admission of $1 per person. A portion of the proceeds goes to that mainstay of movie-theater fundraising, the Will Rogers Institute.

TIME Religion

Pope Francis Urges Couples to Raise Kids, Not Cats and Dogs

Pope Francis Holds Weekly Audience
Pope Francis Franco Origlia—Getty Images

Pope Francis said that staying childless will ultimately bring married couples nothing but "the bitterness of loneliness"

Pope Francis had a message for married couples on Monday: four-legged friends don’t offer the same opportunities for love and godliness as raising a child.

The Pope addressed a group of 15 couples that have been married between 25 and 60 years during daily Mass on Monday, held in the chapel of the Santa Maria residence in the Vatican. The Pope stressed the importance of three qualities in a successful Christian marriage — faithfulness, perseverance and fruitfulness — during his remarks, according to Vatican Radio.

But the Pope also counseled childless couples to be fruitful and multiply, and not spend time raising pets when they could be raising children. Mentioning the “culture of well-being,” similar to one mentioned in the 2013 TIME cover story “The Childfree Life,” Pope Francis said that while a childless life offers better vacation opportunities, it will end in solitude:

This culture of well-being from 10 years ago convinced us: It’s better not to have children! It’s better! You can go explore the world, go on holiday, you can have a villa in the countryside, you can be care-free … it might be better — more comfortable — to have a dog, two cats, and the love goes to the two cats and the dog. Is this true or is this not? Have you seen it? Then, in the end this marriage comes to old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness. It is not fruitful, it does not do what Jesus does with his Church: He makes His church fruitful.

In other words, all the effort you spend caring for your furry friends would be of better use if Fido or Fifi were children.

[Vatican Radio]

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