I spent this past weekend in Jackson, MS, visiting with one of my besties. It was a great few days, but for one thing: the dogs were boarded at “Camp.” Like any good mother, I miss them when they’re not with me, though I also guiltily enjoy a few days, here and there, where I don’t have to worry about where they are, what they’re doing, or whether they’re exercised enough.
I would have missed them less if Jackson wasn’t such a “family friendly” city. Everywhere we ate – everywhere we turned – little people* were running around, braids and pig tails flapping in the wind, ice cream staining baseball jerseys, sticky little hands giving hearty miniature hugs to legs and arms and anything else they could grasp. Teeny tiny Baby Gap sunglasses were perched on little button noses, tucked gently and adorably in Safety First strollers. It was absolutely joyful, except for that jealous little knot in my gut that screamed “MINE!” approximately every 30 minutes.
Yes, I admit it: I am one of those “horrible” and “selfish” and “thoughtless” women who adopted her first dog in part as a salve for her baby fever. Nasty things are said about women like me. That we don’t care about our dogs, that we got them for the wrong reasons, that we’ll eventually lose interest and our dogs will suffer. I say, “Bologna!”
I’ve wanted a dog since before I can remember. I know that by the time I was 4, I was asking for a Doberman for every Hanukkah and birthday that passed. I also know that by the time I was 6, I knew I wanted to be a mother. My love for animals and my love for children go hand in hand. I want to take care of things – I’m far better at taking care of others than I am at taking care of myself. And I am far better at taking care of myself when I know I am responsible for the care of others. It is an integral part of who and what I am, and I embrace it.
I understand that dogs are not a substitute for children. In fact, I’d argue that my life won’t be complete unless and until I have both children and dogs in my heart and home. But I am tired of people questioning my love for my dogs simply because I admit to myself and others that my “baby fever” played a role in acquiring a pet.
Is it really such a bad thing to be a natural born mother?
*Side Note: Yes, I call children “little people” – not kids, not children, and certainly not PITAs. I don’t do this to offend people who are short. I do this because I clearly recall feeling that my opinions and desires were discounted when I was a child, because I was a child. It’s like we forget they’re people at all – we treat them like chattel! So I call children “little people” to remind myself and others that they are human beings, they are individuals, that they are people, albeit little, and that they should have their own opinions and desires, and be cherished for them. Otherwise, we’re just not raising them right.