I have no problem with dogs, or pets of any kind. When I was in college, I had a dog that went everywhere with me. She had a Halloween costume and her own seat belt in the car. I called her by baby and referred to myself as her mom. But, never once did I think that having a dog was actually the same as having a child.
Yet, somehow, the idea has grown so pervasive that it is being used against parents who have actual human children.
In a conversation with his boss, my husband explained that he would be unable to attend many of the after-work social events she was peddling because he was responsible for our daughter while I worked late most nights.
His boss flippantly replied that she understood what it was like to be a parent because she “has dogs,” and all the successful people (like her, presumably) made the necessary time even when it was hard to attend the events.
The worst part is, that is not the first time I have heard that false equivalency since I’ve been a mother. It is offensive and belittling to actual parents. Sure, you love your dog. And, you should. Dogs are lovable. But, so are a plethora of other things (including inanimate objects). So, let me explain some of the ways that it’s different for anyone still struggling with the concept.
- You can leave a dog at home alone. A dog is pretty self-sufficient. Maybe it’ll poop on the floor or dig in the garbage can. BUT, IT WON’T DIE. Or severely injure itself. Or grow up to be a severely mentally and emotionally damaged adult. And, if it makes a mess, you can literally put it in a small cage. So, sure. Maybe you have to go home and let it out after work. It is not even approaching the responsibility and oversight that having a child requires.
- You need to be constantly vigilant with a child. Yes, your dog is there, but it does not require your focus at all times. Do you have to worry if you haven’t seen it for five minutes and it’s really quiet? Probably not. Maybe your kid is fine. Maybe she’s drawing on the walls with crayons. Maybe she’s reading a book. Maybe she’s drinking bleach and she’s going to DIE.
- You do not have to worry about your dog’s future. It doesn’t matter if there is no money set aside for your dog’s college. You don’t have to worry that your dog will be discriminated against in the workplace, have a disadvantage in their adult life because of something you did (or something you had no power over), sexually assaulted, feel unsafe walking in a particular neighborhood, be bullied at school, etc. etc.
- Seatbelts. Diapers. Sippy cups. Tantrums. Constant eating. Picky eaters. Opinions.
- Pets are consistent. They grow from a puppy into an adult and then they are consistent. Pets don’t go through “phases” as they figure out what it’s like to become who they are. They like walks, they like to be petted, they like specific treats. Your dog had a mom. It was another dog. And, that mom (plus any instincts it was born with) taught it everything it needed to know how to be a dog. You may have taught it to sit, heel, walk on a leash. But, all of those things are just teaching a dog how to interact in the human world. It’s a completely different ball game when it comes to teaching someone how to be the best human being that they can be. You aren’t showing your pet how to become an independent person and leave you to live their own lives. And, that takes hard work and immense flexibility to deal with the myriad of phases and changes that your child will go through.
So, by all means, call your dog your kid. Refer to yourself as its “mom” or “dad” if that’s your preference. I’ve done it. And, by all means, do not have children and have all the dogs in the world. No judgment. But, do not tell me that you understand what it is like to have a child because you have a dog. Do not equate your ability to do things to mine because you have a dog. It’s not the same. It’s never been the same.