First, let me say this: I am an animal lover.
I don’t have any pets at the moment, but I have had them in the past, and it really is just the best. I love slappin’ paws with the cute pup at the park, and I firmly believe that to communicate with, tend to, and make a family that includes something “other” is super valuable for kids while they’re growing up.
I truly look forward to being able to offer my daughter that very experience.
That being said, “fur babies” are just not a thing. Dogs — the animal that inspires the most intense faux parents — can switch homes and owners with relative ease as long as they continue to be well loved and cared for. So enough of the dramatic media show during public celebrity splits over who gets the dogs — it’s absurd and it minimizes the real trauma that happens when families split and children get caught in the middle.
People are the masters of domestic creatures. Let’s not forget that animals will generally remain loyal no matter what their owners say or do.
The same certainly can’t be said for children. The behavior, needs, and expectations of animals are also mostly unchanging.
If only that were true for children.
Now, I know most of you pet owners are aware that having an animal under your care is not the same as parenting a child. I have to say though, as someone who is earning her parenting stripes in a very real way, I’m totally over even making the comparison.
The urge to commiserate with an actual parent of actual children regarding actual parenting responsibilities when you’re simply a pet owner? Well, it’s misguided at best. If I asked a neighbor to occasionally walk my crate-training toddler once a day while I was at work, protective services would be at my door before I could type “neglect.”
Part of the problem here seems to be rooted in the ever more fluid definition of family. Love has so many shapes, and I honor and value all of them. However, pet owners who call themselves parents trivialize the very real, ever-changing lifetime commitment that is parenting.
It’s essentially like taking a CPR class and deciding that it qualifies you as an MD. I believe if you’re gonna have a pet, you should love it unconditionally and offer it the same loyalty it offers you. But I work effin’ hard to call myself a parent, and not even everyone who has kids can actually say that. That means you can’t either.
Just to hammer the point home (yes, it’s become necessary), here are 15 things that are wildly different about being a parent from being a pet owner so we can put this to bed once and for all.
1. My daughter ages one damn year at a time, not seven. She’s not gonna be a sweet, deaf old girl by 13.
2. Sure, leashes have been adopted by parents. Now, I’m not about that, but I get it. Either way, I certainly can’t leave my kid tied to a pole outside of a store until I’ve finished my business (although I certainly wish I could sometimes).
3. I can’t drop my daughter off somewhere and pay to have someone bathe her. Even if I could, it would definitely be frowned upon.
4. I can’t just keep her in the yard either — and I certainly can’t just leave her home with a wee-wee pad and a couple of bowls of food and water. Just forget about dropping her off at some kid hotel to be pampered and fed while I skip town for the weekend.
5. I can’t write a Facebook post that includes a cuddly photo and a description of all of her positive attributes and then advertises that she is in need of a new home because she doesn’t fit in my new apartment.
6. I can’t have her “fixed” to avoid unwanted early grandmahood.
7. I can’t stick her in a small bag under the seat in front of me on an airplane.
8. I can’t breed her pretty little self and sell the offspring for a mint!
9. Clothes, shoes, underwear, socks, and so much more — it’s all required when parenting a child and must be replaced with often alarming frequency.
10. All of that “role model” stuff and the need to lead by example? It’s no joke. The weight of shaping the next Michelle Obama or Mae Jemison is all on me now.
11. Dealing with other parents is nothing like hanging out with friends at the local dog park. Nothing.
12. Puberty. Enough said. Fingers crossed I come through that with at least some of my marbles.
13. That $60,000-plus per year that parents need to come up with to somehow, someway send their kids to college? Try sleeping at night with that weight on your shoulders.
14. I will get to be a grandma. I will get to keep being challenged and held accountable for everything I say, do, and believe. She will make sure of it.
15. Silver lining: It will be my turn to harass her when I get old.
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