Hello, my name is Jamie and I don't have any pets but I love animals. I'm one of those weirdos who can barely restrain her joy as she cautiously approaches a dog and asks to pet it. If I see a cat at a party, well, that cat obviously needs a cuddle. I also love children, so much so that I up and had two. While some people can juggle both sets of babies, fur and human, I choose not to. And, as a parent, I'd like to talk about your "fur baby."
I am very aware that there there sometimes exists a tension between pet parents and actual parents, and I want to say that I think it's a tension that serves no purpose and could be ameliorated significantly if everyone would just calm the you-know-what down and be respectful of one another. Seriously, you guys, it's not that hard! Like, this is a "problem" that involves children and animals! This should be adorable, not tense! Silly babies?! Dopey puppies and kitties?! We have all the ingredients for a YouTube video utopia, folks.
Having said that, I do believe we have to clear up a few misunderstandings if us pet parents and actual parents are going to live in baby/puppy/kitty harmony. So, it's time to lower our guard, stop being jerks, and just let everyone chill. For example:
"I Get It"
Before a certain age, children are basically pets who eat from the table (though, like many pets, they are perfectly happy to eat food and non-food items off the floor, too). There's a lot of commiserating and mutual gushing that both kinds of parents can be caught doing. Children and pets bring similar constraints, joys, challenges, and, frankly, logistics into our lives, so we can relate to each other, and that's cool!
"Please Do Not Make This A Contest"
This seems to be at the heart of most negative pet parent/human parent interactions, and I think if we talk about it head on we can avoid a lot of tsuris. If I talk about my kid, it's not to rub it in your face or assert superiority or anything like that. I'm talking about my kid because they take up a ton of my time and energy and will, as a result, enter a whole bunch of my stories. I will be mindful not to say obnoxious and untrue things like "you've never known love until you've had a child" if you don't take every mention of my offspring as a sign that it's time for you to one-up me with a story about how your dog is really smart or how your cat is toilet trained. Like, tell me about those things! That's great! But don't do it in a weird competitive way.
"It's Kind Of The Same, But Not"
So many similarities, but definitely not at all the same thing and that's OK. Again, it's not a contest, and our experiences don't have to be perfectly analogous for us to take one another seriously. So in addition to not getting competitive, let's just be up front that there are some things about one another we won't get and that does not take away from either of our experiences.
"Please Don't Think I Don't Care About Your Pet"
I love anything fuzzy, honestly! Do I love my kid more? Of course. You probably love your pet more than you love my kid, which is reasonable. But my love for my kid doesn't preclude liking your little fur child or the idea that you sincerely love your fur child.
"Show Me All The Pictures"
Who doesn't want to see adorable animal pictures?! Like, honestly, though? Cats, dogs, little miniature ponies? Whatever you've got, I'll take it. Animals are adorable.
I say this to human parents who go overboard, too. I mean, there's a limit, people. Just like I can't go on exclusively about my children 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you need to come up with some topics outside of the dog park or the status of your cat's tapeworm.
For one, it's really annoying for everyone around you. But, more importantly, if you cannot think of who you are outside of your pet or child then you need to take a step back and reassess a few things, because maintaining an individual identity, one that is not dependent upon another entity, is really important. (Not to be a downer, but generally both pets and children will leave you in one way or another and you should have the well-rounded fortitude to stand on your own afterwards.)
"Please Don't Act Superior"
This applies to very few pet parents, but I've encountered enough to bring it up. (If you see something, say something, right?)
There's this weird contingent of pet owners who thinks that anyone who has a child is a garbage human who doesn't care about the environment or whatever, and that they have done the Universe a favor by sticking with pets.
Stop. It. You. Insufferable. Jerk.
I'm delighted you have a pet and are happy with the decisions you made in your life, but this does not make you a heroic savior of all humanity. Get over yourselves, seriously.
"I Find The Party You Are Throwing For Your Dog Weird, But I Will Play Along"
If I'm being honest, I find big birthday parties for anyone below or above a certain age sort of odd, too. But hey, do you, folks! If there's alcohol and/or cake I'm good.
"Please Don't Tell Me I 'Stole Your Name'"
Look, we live in a day and age where pet names are getting more human and human names are getting more pet-ish, and I am here for it because, damnit, a dog name Kevin and a baby named Juniper is amazing.
Plus, no one owns a name. I know some people who won't name a child something if they know someone else with a child of that name. I am not one of those people. IDGAF because, I'll repeat, no one owns a name. So if your dog's name is Riley and that's what I decide to name my new child, you don't get to be miffed. It goes the other way around, too. This just isn't a big deal. If anything it's adorable, and encourages an adorable relationship between child and animal that will inspire a whimsical book series.
"Please Communicate With Me About Child/Pet Interactions And I'll Do The Same"
A similarity between pets and children: is that they often don't know how to act and, more often than not, need certain accommodations that people don't always realize. Moreover, there is a decent chance that they really don't know how to act around each other. So let's talk about the rules of engagement between our two offspring (furry or otherwise) at the outset so we can each do our best to minimize harm while protecting the interests of our respective charges.
"Don't Let Anyone Tell You What Your Relationship With Your Pet Should Be"
Some parents (and non-parents) are total jerks about the idea that someone can love their pet. On behalf of all those folks, please let me say: twirl on your haters and love your pet as much as you want and I will take that love seriously.
"Who's A Good Boy? Who's A Good Boy?"
Yes you are. Yes you are. Just wook at dat widdle face. Yes you are a good boy.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.