parenting pets vs. parenting humans: can we call a truce?

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? 


10 reasons being a dog's mom is better than being a kid's mom

Some of us choose to be dog moms, some of us choose to be kid moms, and some of us (like me) choose both. Have you ever considered the similarities and differences or stopped to consider what you got yourself into?

A few days ago, I had lunch with my friend, Amanda, of Dog Mom Days. It was the first time we'd met in person after following each other's blogs and then realizing we lived close to one another. Since we bloggers are often buried in our computers, it was nice to take our "online relationship" to the next level–so to speak. She brought her dog, Wynston, along, mostly because I told her the date was off if she didn't. The three of us had a fabulous lunch, and Amanda and I chatted afterwards while Wynston occupied himself by staring at the man with the chicken salad at the table next to us.

Amanda of Dog Mom Days (left) and me (the other one).

Amanda of Dog Mom Days (left) and me (the other one).

Aside from the fact that Amanda is intelligent, a talented writer, and a lot of fun to talk to, one of the things I like best about her is that she's unapologetic about the fact that she chooses to be a dog mom rather than a kid mom. Wynston is her "son," and she does much of what we do for our human kids with Wynston, such as providing him great care, many toys, and a variety of extracurricular activities. Wynston likes modeling and agility class. And staring at strangers with chicken salad.

Amanda's son, Wynston is hard to resist.

Amanda's son, Wynston is hard to resist.

So in honor of Amanda and the other dog moms out there, I was inspired to jot down a few reasons why being a dog's mom is better than being a kid's mom just in time for Mother's Day.

10 reasons being a dog's mom is better than being a kid's mom

1. No pregnancy, labor, or delivery. (Are you sold already?)

2. If they barf, they usually eat it, so cleanup is minimal.

3. You can cuss in front of them without fearing they'll repeat it.

4. If you have more than one, their arguments are usually quick and dirty, so there's no need to referee.

5. If they think you're fat, they keep their mouths shut.

6. They come the first time you call them for dinner, and they clean their plates with no expectation of dessert.

7. After six months of age, they never outgrow their clothes.

8. They don't hog the electronics.

9. You can put a leash on them without looking like a total parental failure.

10. When they get older, they still kiss you, even if their friends are watching.

Happy Mother's Day to all of the dog and kid moms out there! What's your favorite thing about being a dog mom?

do our girls need doll-people dog dolls?

When I was pregnant with my first child, a couple of my friends gave me some lovely gifts in a beautifully-lined wicker basket that was about the size of a laundry basket. I deemed that the toy basket for my newborn son and vowed that he would never have more toys than could fit in that basket. My children would not be spoiled. They would play with blocks and other unbranded toys that would challenge their imaginations and grow their minds. And then I became an actual parent, not just a hippie fantasy parent.

We outgrew the basket immediately, and soon we couldn't live without Transformers, Diego, and Superman. Things felt a bit out of control, so I had to draw the line. No guns. Absolutely no guns. Then came friends. And they had guns. Water guns, Nerf guns–you name it. So then, the things in my house that were not guns became guns. Sigh. And then we got a Nerf gun as a gift, and now we have a gun collection and a glass jar full of various ammo.

You might think I have no backbone when it comes to my kids. You might be right.

I do my best to get all of these things from our favorite kids' consignment store, and my kids swap toys with their friends all the time, so while we consume and consume, we try to be as conscious about it as we can.

I thought all this toy stuff would get even worse with my daughter, but it didn't. She was surprisingly happy to play with the blocks and Hot Wheels we already had. At four years old, she's now into anything dress-up, including makeup, jewelry, and tattoos. I'm cool with that. She's expressing herself by making up all types of scenarios about going to work and being royalty ad being a dancer/rockstar/doctor/teacher. With tattoos and lots of lip gloss.

She has a couple of beloved stuffed animals, but, aside from that, she's never really been drawn to anything doll-like.

I have never been so happy about that until I saw the commercial for Pinkie Cooper and the Jet Set Pets.


I'm not versed enough in child psychology or feminine perspectives to write a Pulitzer Prize-winning article about all of the negatives or positives this toy can do for a child's self esteem, but I will say that my gut reaction was, "WTF?"

So here we have dogs–no humans–no, dogs! Oh, I don't know...I'm so confused. They don't look like dogs or humans. What do I know?

They are dolls targeted toward young girls. They have Barbie-like bodies, fashionable clothes, dog-like heads that are not proportionate to the body...Oh, what am I saying?! How do you make a out-of-proportion dog head proportionate to an out-of-proportion female body. And then there is the hair/ears. I mean, if it's a dog head, it should have ears, right? But, no. In place of dog ears, we have long, silky hair (oh, and you can switch out the hair with the other dolls, ensuring consumer purchase of the whole collection of dog-people dog dolls).

They seem to have makeup on, don't they? Does makeup apply well to fur? Because it is a dog head, right?

Okay, so it's a toy and doesn't have to be realistic. I've often been accused of not being able to let go of my adult brain and go-with-the-fantasy-flow. So I ask myself, what's my problem with these toys? And why did I tell my daughter "no" before she even had a chance to say she liked them?

Is it the sex part? I mean, these dog-girls are sexy. But then, they have these big baby eyes. So now they're child-like and sexy at the same time. Why am I semi-okay with Barbies and okay with dog toys, but am having a visceral reaction to these toys? If not the sex part, then maybe it's the creepy part. They are creepy, right?

What message are we sending...that's always the question. I'm not claiming to know. But I know that our little girls need not be this sexy, and our dogs need not be this sexy, and they definitely need not be sexy and babyish at the same time. I guess their creative aspect is that they can switch their hair. But what do they do? At least Barbie has a career or two. Maybe the uplifting self-esteem affirming message to our girls in all this is that it's okay to be sexy even if you have a face like a dog?

If you expected this to be some in-depth psychological study, I'm sorry do disappoint. I have none of the answers. What I feel, however, is that this toy is insulting to dogs and to young girls, and I'm not buying it.

you never know what might happen when your mom is a pet sitter

I try to make most of our food and avoid the processed stuff. But sometimes you just have to break the rules. When my four-year-old daughter, Campbell, saw the angel food cake with a dusting of pink confectioner's glitter on top at the "regular" grocery store bakery today and looked at me with those "mommy, can we keep her?" eyes, I couldn't resist. Sometimes happiness is worth a bit of guilt.

She had me pull it out of the fridge to take a gander about every five minutes until the boys got home from school. She was quite confident that they would share her excitement. Our teen thing, B, told her there was no way he was eating it. 

Fine. No desert for you.

She hoped that her six-year-old brother would be on her side. "Po! We got a cake at the store, and it has pink glitter!"

"WHAT?" he demanded. "It has KITTY LITTER? I'm not eating that, either!"

When your mom is a pet sitter, your mind just goes there. Next time we'll opt for the Almond Rocha surprise cake.