A few days ago, my friend Dorian at Catster pointed out a rather mean-spirited post over at Huffington Post entitled, “Pet Parents are NOT Moms.” I am trying to give the author the benefit of the doubt here; maybe she intended it to be sort of tongue in cheek. She starts by pointing out all the sometimes over the top things we do in the name of love- and I get that, been there, bought the membership card- but the overall tone of the post just skewed off left and went straight to mean. And that just rubs me the wrong way.
I don’t know if Susan Maushart requires one to provide their credentials before pontificating on motherhood, but just to be sure, yes, I have human kids as well as some furry ones. I still refer to myself as Brody’s mom. I like that better than owner, though that works too. I go back and forth. I guess that makes me a monkey (though I would prefer to be referred to as a great ape.)
I need to make one thing clear: We all know that pets are not small humans in fur. They are, in fact, dogs, or cats, or ferrets or whatever. We relate to them differently than we do humans. I have yet to meet one person, and I’ve met a lot of people, who seem unclear on that distinction. Even the ones who dress them up because it makes them happy- yes, even those people know that it is an animal in a dress and not a human. So what? It’s not hurting you. The day I see one of those people wheeling the said dress-wearing cat into the pediatrician’s office for an MMR, then we’ll talk. Who cares if someone relates to their pet in a maternal way and wants to call them their kid?
Maushart’s main reason, as far as I can tell, for objecting to calling pets kids is “you and I both know that pets are stupid.” Is that the only criterion? Because I have to tell you, and this is confidential, but I’ve met a lot of stupid kids too, the kind who show up with peanuts lodged in their nostrils or pencils shoved through their eardrums because they want to know what lead sounds like. If I were to fall unconscious on a railroad track, for instance, this is the only eight year old I want by my side.
So who anointed Maushart Grand Vizier of the Ministry of Motherhood anyway? And what are the membership requirements exactly? Is it as strict as, “you must have birthed a human child from your own loins, and the child must then be smart, and raised on organic produce after you’ve nursed him for four years“? Oh yes, those moms are a blast to be around.
Motherhood is not a black and white concept. It just isn’t. I’ve spoken with adoptive mothers, who have shed tears when their child was asked who their “real” mom was. I’ve hugged women who have wept after a miscarriage and been told, “Well, you don’t get to celebrate Mother’s Day, you’re not a mother.” That hurts. It hurts because they felt that bond, regardless of whether or not you were empathetic enough to acknowledge it.
Some people, like me, have pets and kids. Some have pets instead of kids, because they don’t want them, haven’t gotten around to it, or maybe they can’t. I had clients once who were unable to have children of their own. They shared this freely when they brought in their Akita Bonnie, and laughed as they told me, “Bonnie’s our only child.” And was she ever.
Bonnie was involved in an accident. I have never seen two people so devastated. For a month, she was in the hospital, and for a month, her mother came in. I watched as she rotated her to keep her lungs inflated, massaged her legs to keep the musculature from contracting, listened to her whisper in her ear as she stroked her fur in order to get a happy thump of the tail. Every day she came in, and nursed Bonnie.
And when she unfortunately died, I leaned over Bonnie’s mom as her head was buried in her motionless chest, put a hand on her shoulder, and whispered, “Calm down. It’s not like you’re a real mom.”
Oh wait. I didn’t. Because I’m not that cruel. Couch it however you want in smug rolly-eyed condescending cheekiness, that post was mean.
So wear your Mom badge proud, moms of the world, and if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, pity them. Because one day their kid will roll their eyes at them and tell them they hate them and do all sorts of other pleasant human-child behaviors, while yours will lick you on the face and pull your body off the railroad tracks. And have a happy Mother’s Day!