I'm sticking my neck out, here, I know. Lately I've noticed a ton of blog posts, Facebook posts, Tweets, and the like, on one side or the other of a particular issue: is parenting a pet the same as parenting a child? There are two extreme camps. Camp A says "my dog is my child," and Camp B says "dogs are not children" (substitute "dog" with "cat" or "mouse," or whatever your preferred critter is). The most common pet in question is the dog, so we'll focus on that. I just don't understand all of the controversy.
what's the gripe?
Some pet parents are furious and insulted that their pets will not be acknowledged by the world as children.
Some parents of human children are furious and insulted that pet parents would dare to call their pets "furbabies," "furkids," or (gasp) "children."
I think we all need to get over it. I am a pet parent and a parent of humans. I don't consider myself a part of either camp. I have friends in both camps. I am campless. I love my dog. I love my tortoise differently than I love my dog. And even the fish get some of my love, but it's different than how I love the tortoise or the dog. I love my step-kid. I love my biological kids differently than I love my step-kid. I love my biological kids differently than each other and differently than the pets. In my world, none of it is the same. Each is an individual, and each must be cared for and loved in it's own way. Does it matter to you what I call them? I love them all.
It seems that most of the people in Camp A admittedly don't have human children, so I'm not sure they qualify to compare their pet parenting to human parenting (I am sensitive to the fact that some of these people can't have children, and some have chosen not to). On the flip side, those in Camp B seem to be extremely offended by Camp A's declarations and are fighting back with a vengeance, which I think is a ridiculous waste of time on something that is really a positive aspect of the lives of so many. Lighten up.
In my opinion, people that see their pets as children seem to be more involved as pet parents, which I think is a great thing. So why do other people care what they call their pets or how strongly they feel about them? It's all good, people. There are plenty of other worthy causes that are actual problems that we can spend our time combatting. What if we took the energy we are spending fighting other parents of any kind and put it toward fighting puppy mills or child cancer, instead?
for the sake of argument
Though pet parenting has many similarities to human parenting, there are also many differences. I don't think we should argue, but for the sake of argument, let's look at some issues surrounding this topic that are most commonly debated:
OUTINGS: Though you can leave your pet home alone for brief periods, you can't do that with the human variety. WHO COMES OUT AHEAD? PET PARENTS. On the flip side, your human children can go everywhere with you, except the bar, so if you're looking for company, HUMAN PARENTS.
ENTERTAINMENT: Pets are usually good with a few minutes of fetch or a daily walk...maybe a bit of TV here and there. Human children must be constantly entertained. PET PARENTS FOR THE WIN!
SOUNDS: Barking vs. crying. Whining vs. whining. Farting vs. farting. I CALL IT A TIE.
SLEEP: Both pets and children will wake you in the middle of the night. Pets sleep a lot during the day, too, which gives them the edge. WHO HAS IT BETTER? PET PARENTS.
COST: Both pets and humans are expensive. Humans eat more, eat more often, require more clothes, require more expensive toys (no dog ever asked for an iPad for Christmas), and, oh, yeah...then there's the whole college thing. WHO GETS THE LONG STRAW? PET PARENTS.
EDUCATION: Pet training can be quite involved, but years and years of schooling and listening to your children whine about homework is a bit more intense. WHO HAS IT EASIER? PET PARENTS.
SUPERVISION: Sure, there are crates for dogs and cribs for babies, but once we're past that stage, it's much more difficult to catch a shower if you're the parent to human toddlers. THE VICTOR? PET PARENTS.
POOP: Diapers must be changed, but typically only for a couple of years. Pet parents have to deal with that shit for the life of the pet. THE WINNER: HUMAN PARENTS.
REPRODUCTION: You can't spay and neuter your human children. And then there are those awkward conversations that must be had. If you're dog is humping the couch pillow, we all get a good laugh and move on. Teenage pregnancy? Not a problem for pet parents. PET PARENTS STEAL THE VICTORY.
LONGEVITY: Typically, pets are only with their families for a relatively short time. We wish they could stay longer. WHO HAS IT BETTER? HUMAN PARENTS.
LOVE: Isn't this what it's all about? The end-all be-all. WHO WINS?
Love is love. And love is the most important thing. The love between parent and child or parent and pet is love, and you can never have too much. No competing here. EVERYONE WINS.
So who cares if pet parents choose to call their pets their "kids?" Who is it hurting? And for those of us who haven't parented humans? Perhaps we should not make strong declarations about how it's exactly the same as parenting a pet. It really isn't. In my opinion, we're kind-of all right, and we're kind-of all wrong.
Parents of any kind need support. Let's all be supportive of each other in our journeys to raise wonderful, beautiful living things. Can we call a truce?