Am I a Mother?
Not for the first time, I’ve seen comments on social media saying “It really annoys me when dog owners call themselves parents”. Ouch. That stings. I DO consider myself a Mother to my Watson, and let me tell you why – I don’t have human children of my own, but I did and have always had a huge maternal instinct and nurturing love to give. Since Watson came into my life, that instinct has been given a purpose and I have become what I believe a Mother is – more selfless, putting my dependent before myself, and experiencing a love that you can’t even imagine until you have it. Strong doesn’t cover it. Unconditional, and all consuming is getting close.
I’m not saying that being a doggy mama is the same as it is with a human child, of course not. I can only assume that is why people are annoyed. Do they think I’m saying its the same amount of work? I’m not. I have had 2.5 mothers in my life (long story) and I can tell you that the word “Mother” doesn’t have one definition – mothers come in all shapes and sizes. What I AM saying, is that I feel like a mother, and I’m driven to act in the way that mothers should, so why can I not call myself as such? I’m also saying that there are a lot of similarities. Lets look at some examples:
1. My husband and I are solely responsible for Watson’s welfare, and he is 100% dependent on us. Its down to us to provide for him and have enough money to fulfil his needs of food, toys, walks, medication, beds etc. It is up to us to give him the mental stimulation and exercise he needs and do what it takes to make his life happy. Its our responsibility to make sure he knows how to behave politely in public and also give him the skills to be independent and not shy or fearful. Sound familiar? We spend approximately £400 a month on Watson, mostly because of his complex needs but that’s ok because its what parents do. Just saying.
2. He can’t tell us what’s wrong (this is of course only a parallel with a baby/toddler). When he is in pain, or feeling down, or just having a bad day, we have to try and guess whats wrong. Or use Google.
3. We had a week of sleepless nights when we brought him home, and of course that is less than with a human baby (how do you do it?!) but it progressed to waking up at 5am which at the time felt blissful compared to what had come before. I have never felt so tired in my life, since the daytime was a blur of toilet training which involves going outside every 40 minutes, plus after every nap and playtime. In between which I had to clean up any accidents, play with him, walk him, train him, and try to hold down a job because there is no puppy mat leave.
4. If I’m ill, it means nothing to Watson – he still needs to be fed, walked, and entertained. (If he is ill however, or needs to go to the vet, I can’t take sick leave because my dependent is ill, I just have to hope I have an understanding boss and make up the time later).
5. He’s clumsy, and just like toddlers, prone to accidents. He’s had 2 or 3 so far, and they always lead to a debate of “should we let him off the lead” but of course its a fine balance as he needs some freedom. Just like with children, you need to work out how to protect them as much as you can whilst still giving them the freedom to enjoy their childhood. However, if my Watson has an accident, I can’t call 999 to come and help him – I have to pick him up regardless of his physical state, and carry him to the car or vet and then pay a minimum of £50/£200 (depending on if weekend) just to get him seen. I have done that very thing. Several times. #mother
6. As with babies and children, there is controversial advice about EVERYTHING. Should they have their fur cut short or left long? To Vaccinate or not? Crate or not? Raw food or kibble? 3 walks a day or 2? Every area of their life that you comment on, will bring feedback, advices, and often criticism.
7. My husband and I can’t remember the last time we had a conversation that wasn’t about Watson. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you know what I mean. Our conversations are dominated by him, and I’m told thats how it is from Day 1 of baby.
I don’t think I need to go on – I’m sure you can see the similarities but of course there are huge differences also, with benefits and detriment on both sides. Watson will NEVER be able to tell me he loves me, or go to college, or any of that good stuff. In fact he’ll never leave home. My £400 a month 24/7 care, is a commitment of 15 or so years, and the saddest difference is that I’m pretty sure that I will out live him – it breaks my heart even typing it.
Who else in your life do you share your house with, your bathroom, your most intimate and vulnerable moments other than your spouse? I am with Watson every day, and only apart from him when he is with the walker and on my occasional “Mummy’s day off” when I have cocktails with my friend and spend the whole time talking about our boys (Yep, she is a Mother too, to the furry kind of dependent, Watson’s “Cousin”). Watson watches me bath (cause he knows a treat is sometimes forthcoming), and even joins me when I’m having a wee. He is the centre of our world and our weekend plans begin and end with Watson.
Thankfully I do have friends and acquaintances that are parents to both human children and dogs, and consider themselves a parent to them both. I’ve even been told by one mother than raising her son was easier than raising her puppy. Not my words, don’t shoot the messenger!
My final thought is simply that I’m just loving on my dog, and he gives me purpose in life. If that’s “annoying”, so be it. I’m doing no harm. I can only assume those people that are offended, haven’t had the honour and joy of a pet in their life.