Have a Happy Mother’s Day- and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise

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.Β 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.

The author with her eldest, who will never ask to borrow the car or wonder why the other kids get more posts on the blog.

So who anointed Maushart Grand Vizier of the Ministry of Motherhood anyway? Β 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!

Filed: Blog, Daily Life, Mother of the Year, Musings Tagged: , ,
  • Tabitha

    You know. I am not a mother. I don’t have any children of my own. I do have my fur babies who I love very much and who I believe I play a mom role with. But I also have my “kids”. My girls that I have nurtured, loved, held while their heart broke, snapped a million pictures as they went off to prom, helped move out to school and back again, taken to the doctors, cooked endless meals for, been disappointed in, and rejoiced in their accomplishments. Taken baseball bats to scary boys and driven from pillar to post, picked up from police stations, sat in emergency rooms and slept on bedroom floors. I am not their mother, they have mothers, some who gave up on them and some who gave up on their selves. I don’t pretend to be insulted when I don’t celebrate mothers day, all I ask is that people realize that anyone can birth a baby, that’s not the difficult part, its what is in between which either makes you or breaks your. I am proud to be an influential and strong woman in these girls lives, whether I get called mom or not. But don’t you dare tell me that my cats are not my babies.

    • I love that you do that. Title or no, you are amazing.

  • I read that post on Catster, but not the original. At the time, I didn’t want to read something so mean-spirited. It’s hard to fathom that people are still arguing about what entails motherhood. What about adoption? Are aunts raising their nieces and nephews, or grandparents their grandchildren, not parents to them? What about people in mother figure roles in group homes?

    Mom is a title that is earned through love and care. There are many mothers who don’t mother at all; and many non-mothers who are the best at their “jobs”. I don’t think any one person should get to dictate who is a mother and who is not.

    I may not refer to myself (Often) as Peach’s “mom”, but I feel that way. Especially since I helped birth and raise her when her real mom wasn’t that good at it. I’ve nurtured her, loved her, taught her, fed her, held her gently when her tummy ached and she cried, wiped her bum, provided her with toys and learning experiences, set up playdates. I don’t care if she’s hairy and thinks he reflection is an intruder: she’s my baby girl.

  • Deborah Mendez

    I hope you don’t mind that I posted a link to this post on the Calming Collars FB page. You said it better than I ever could!!

    • Mind that someone shared this? I’m honored!

  • Kristen Seymour

    Thanks for this. My husband and I don’t have kids, and I don’t know that we will, but even if we do, it won’t change the enormous amount of love in my heart that I have for my pets. Of course kids and pets are different, but it doesn’t mean we love pets less — it’s just DIFFERENT.

    Myself, I have big Mother’s Day plans. Triathlon in the morning, and a long, snuggly nap with the dogs in the afternoon. Not so different than the moms to humans, except when I leave the house at 4 a.m., I can leave the kids at home alone!

  • I am giving you a STANDING OVATION!!!!!!!!!!

    • ME TOO!!!! Wonderful, incredible, outstanding – and everything I wanted to say in defense of the fact that I AM TOO A MOM!

  • Rose D.

    My Eesa is the love of my life. My husband and I refer to ourselves as her Mumma and Dadda. No, I didn’t birth her, because she is a cat. I know that. But she is still my baby.

    Thank you for this. I will hold onto it as my in laws try to convince me to become a “real” mother this Sunday.

    • LB

      Oh my gosh I feel for you. Growing up I was always told to stay away from guys and I would be disowned if I had children. As soon as my marriage certificate was signed I have been bugged about having children. My father hates that I refer to my dog and cats as babies, but I have learned long ago I don’t care because it makes me happy. That and I will have human kids if and when I am ready. πŸ™‚

  • I could not possibly love this post more. I mean, seriously. This may be the greatest blog post ever. I want to hug you.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you! I thought that post was just down and out mean. I also had the feeling the “author” of the article was just bitter about her own lot in life. Seriously, what harm does it do to her if someone with a furrybutt says they are their furry kid. I’ve known people who only have furry kids that are better parents to them than some mothers are to their human children! Being a mother is being a caregiver, a nurturer. I do that to my cats and dog. I don’t have human children, and at my age, I doubt it’s ever going to happen. So for me, these ARE my kids! I’m fine with that, and anybody who isn’t can go take a long walk off a short pier.

  • Thank for the great post Dr. V! I’ve never really understood the Mommy Wars. When my daughter was little, it was SAHMs vs. WAHMs. Now I guess it’s “real moms” vs. “pet moms”. Why do some people feel the need to attack other people’s choices to justify their own? I am a mom – I have 5 furkids and one “non-furry” kid. I love them all, and I don’t need to justify that to Susan Maushart or anyone else.

  • Thank you, Dr V.

  • Lorie Huston, DVM

    I’m joining Caren in giving you a standing ovation. And Dorian too!

  • Love, love, LOVE this post!!! I also posted something today about this very thing. I don’t have human children, but I will *always* think of myself as a Mom. My dictionary doesn’t say that you need a human child to act with motherly devotion. I feel all the same emotions that other mothers do. And besides, like you pointed out…why should anyone else care if I choose to think of myself as a Mom. To each their own.

  • Tamara

    Some people just are mean-spirited. You, Dr. V, are not. You are wonderful πŸ™‚ Thanks for understanding us ‘pet moms’ aka, the lucky ones πŸ˜‰

  • Lisa W

    I do consider myself my dogs’ mom. I do all of the things for them that a mom does for a human child, and I don’t consider myself an “owner.” So if someone wants to roll their eyes at me for that, let ’em. I know the relationship I have with my babies and the people in my life know about it as well, so I couldn’t care less what some priss-pot nose-in-the-air of a human mom thinks. I feel sorry for her that she doesn’t understand that type of relationship with an animal.

  • Love this post.

  • I think your response is perfect. I feel sorry for that poor woman and I feel sorry for her dog. She obviously has no clue.

  • LB

    I don’t care if I don’t have human babies yet, I am a parent. I have to wipe their butts, make sure they are comfortable when sick and snuggle them when they feel bad.

    It started with my older feline that is about 17 years old sometime this year. She has been through almost everything with me, graduating high school, moving out, marriage, college EVERYTHING. Even though she is a cat I feel she is more like a best friend. I didn’t quite feel like a parent yet, but I would do anything for her at the time just like a parent of a human baby.

    Then came my littlest kitty, Trooper. She was found by my dog in the middle of my yard crying for help. It seemed as though she had an eye infection and never opened her eyes. We think her mom kicked her out and couldn’t help her. I used a warm wash cloth to slowly open her eyes, and at the time I didn’t realize I was the first being she had seen. She has been my “baby” ever since. If I act like I lick her she snuggles so hard up to my neck that she leaves claw marks on my chest. She really made me believe in the furry kid idea, because of the little things she does for me. I am sorry it took me so long to realize my furry babies made me a mother, but I am grateful for it.

    I don’t care if your babies are adopted, furry or even a niece or nephew, if you take care of them or help them grow you really do feel like a mother. πŸ™‚

  • I don’t refer to myself as my pets’ mother but I certainly never, ever judge others for doing so. Whenever I read posts like these that tell other people how they can and cannot define themselves, my hackles go right up. There are no strict rules or regulations on motherhood. If you feel like a mother then as far as I am concerned, you are one. End of story.

    Great post!

  • I certainly call myself a “mommy” and it seems Jasmine sees me as one too.

  • Anonymous

    Great post. BTW, I’m not a dog mom but I am a dog aunt.

  • I don’t think day care is over the top; I think it’s a great idea and allows a lot of us who work to be pet “parents” too. If I didn’t have a place I trust to take my giganto Pyr puppy to a few days a week to get the jitters out and be socialized, he would have eaten my couch by now for sure. He gets plenty of exercise, is watched over by people who know and love dogs, and has a lot of friends to play with. As a result, I have a lovely, well-adjusted dog who is described as “the happiest dog I have ever seen” and “so sweet and gentle” by those who meet him. And surely vet insurance isn’t a bad idea; pet illnesses can bankrupt either your heart of your wallet or both. Good care is not cheap and without insurance, a lot of pet owners would have to choose to put a loved animal to sleep, regardless of whether or not the illness or injury is completely treatable and the animal would otherwise have a long, happy life. I also don’t have human kids; just wasn’t in the cards for me. But my doggies provide me so much enjoyment and companionship, they are members of my family. I think this woman columnist was probably trying to be funny and missed the mark by a country mile, but in case she wasn’t I have words for her: who are you to judge what makes a family, or gives comfort and enriches another’s life? I can call myself a pet “mom”. It isn’t robbing you of your human motherhood that I do. It’s not like they’re going to support me in my old age – although I keep threatening to put sandwich boards on them and sell ad space so they can earn their keep. πŸ™‚

    • also, my mom refers to herself as a pet grandma. So there. πŸ™‚

      • Lisa W

        +1 on all of your comments! My youngest is 3/4 Pyr and a maniac if he doesn’t get enough play time!

  • I think the best part was this comment below the article:

    April 29th was the two year anniversary of the death of my beautiful 26 year old son. I would not have been able to bear it without the love and support i get from my two cat children, who have both sat on my lap and grieved with me.I will never have grandchildren. My cats are the closest things I have to children. So screw you, Susan.

  • sandy weinstein

    my 3 little girls (min. schnauzers) are my children, in every sense of the word. they all have health insurance, go to the dr (vet) for reg. checkups, the senior, almost 10 has 2 senior check ups a yr, she even gets her blood pressure checked. they are in my trust and money is designated to care for them and who will be their caregivers if something should happen to me. they have more food, toys, hair products, etc. than i do, they take more vitamins and supplements than i do…..they get acupuncture and other homeopathic treatments, they have raincoats, booties, a blowdryer, mouse, hairspray, whitening shampoos, black shampoos….they are truly my girls…i would mortgage my house, take out loans if they needed anything….right now i am waiting for the results of a carcinoma that was taken off the lip of my eldest, if she needs radiation, she will get it….the baby needed braces b/c she had a crooked tooth, i did not want it pulled, so the vet sent me to a dog dentist, he said she did not need braces, the oldest has a chipped tooth so she get radiographs every yr to watch it, if so, i would rather she have a root canal than pull the tooth…i cook a lot of their food, i spend more money on their food than i do for me….so what, they are spoiled, but i love them as if i had given birth to them. the oldest i have had since she was 8 wks old….i talk to them, when i cry, they came and sit in my lap, they know when they do something wrong, and hide under the couch, (not that i spank, they just know from my tone of voice and my look that they did something wrong….then they came out and try to get back on mom’s good side again….the oldest and i play kick ball in the house, she loves to play ball….they all sleep with me. when i say bedtime, they all run to the bedroom and go up the steps, they like to sleep under the covers….sometimes on the pillow with me…now if they could only talk….evie, the oldest even picks up some of her toys….when my oldest my hospitalized at the vet school, i went to visit her everyday….they get their teeth brushed, have mouthwash, etc. they are “real” humans to me….my 3 girls….

  • guinness 416

    Great post, but I couldn’t concentrate much past the link to the hero pit bull story. What a champ.

  • JaneK

    amen and amen!

  • Holly

    I don’t have human children. Cleaning up after more people than my husband is not on my list of things to do in life. My dog, though… He is my heart. Bailey is my first dog and I knew he was mine and I was his as soon as we saw each other. He laid in bed with me for four months when I broke my back. He comforts me when I’m sad or sick or having a bad anxiety day. In return he gets good nutritious food, walks as far as his old bones can go, treats just because, and all the affection I can possibly lavish on him. If he’s in another part of the house and I yell out,”Bailey, where’s momma?” he come hurling at me like a ton of bricks. When the garage door opens in the evening I say,”Daddy!” and he sits patiently by the door while my husband gathers his things and comes in. I love my dog. I love being his mom. People give me crap all the time for not wanting kids but they don’t often know about my health stuff and that i truly just cannot handle them. I have my boy and he is all I need.

  • Anonymous

    I think I’ll pass on reading the stew of crap that she spewed and hope that she never has the love of an animal because she doesn’t deserve it.

    My dog is super lucky (and so was my first born furkid). Not only does she have a momma and daddy she has a Mammaw, Pappaw, aunts, uncles, Grandma, Grandpa and cousins. And all love her just as much as we do.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know how I missed this post on Friday, but cheers to you, Dr. V! Well said! When we talk to our dog and cat, my husband and I refer to ourselves as mom and dad. I do it when calling the vet too, introduce myself on the phone as Clyde’s mom. Owner just seems like such an impersonal word. I own my car. I own my house. But my pets have personalities, and they own me as much as I own them.

  • I love this rebuttal. I ranted on my blog about it, too, but you were much nicer. πŸ™‚

  • Abby’s Mom

    Lovely post. My parents love it when their grandcat comes to visit and my fiance and I have a picture of our fur-niece up on the refrigerator. Animal lovers must just have bigger hearts to have room for all kinds of family.