Children Vs. Pets: Who Wins, Who Loses
I have two friends (a couple) who, for years, doted over their Jack Russell Terrier in a way that was equal parts sincere adoration and ironic worship. This dog was very well cared for and given every sort of dog toy, dog treat, and even immortalized in an old masters-styled oil painting. Then this couple had a baby and everything changed. On my first post-natal visit to meet their baby girl, I noticed their Jack Russell Terrier’s bed and toys had been moved into the laundry room and the dog seemed to be somewhat starved for attention, as was evidenced by her repeatedly jumping into my lap uninvited. After sensing the relative marginalization of the dog, I asked my friend (the new mom) how the dog was contending with the new baby, and she responding with something along the lines, “Oh, we still love her, but she is really just a dog.” Just like that, once deified, the lamplight of ardor that once illuminated this sublimely lucky canine had been pivoted and resituated upon the new baby. If dogs could talk…well lets just say it would not be pretty.
I am happy to report that both the dog and the baby (now 8 years old) are living in harmony and both well attended to. But this scenario, with preexisting pet competing for the attention of new parents against the overwhelming presence of a new baby, is hardly new. Many new parents, who had previously had well cared for pets, are faced with having to juggle the responsibilities of being a loving parent to both animal and human alike – and that is if the pets are lucky. Many pets are often neglected upon the arrival of a new baby, and they act out accordingly with everything from aggression to small-scale vandalism. Some owners successfully balance their love and affection accordingly, whereas some owners just opt out and pass the pet along to a relative or trusty friend. And there is a sad irony to this fact, because for many years prior, this pet most likely served as a mammalian training device to make this person/this couple a better, more attentive, parent.
A new illustrated blog effectively titled, Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures, provides a humorous and pointed investigation into this phenomenon and shows how tricky, and particularly annoying, the balance between pet and baby can be. With crudely illustrated drawings that reveal the humor and difficulty in the situation, blog author Amber Dusick brings to the light the challenge of dealing with everything from a cat underfoot to a cat sullying the baby’s bassinet (as seen below):
While the blog doesn’t actually offer solutions (if you want those you may want to consult the Humane Society website) it does provide a bit of levity and kinship in the struggle between parenting and pet care (the blog also delves into other issues concerning parenting as well, not just having to do with pets). But as I mentioned above, pet care is a lot like parenting, but without a lot of the immediacy, biological bond, and profound existential lessons. I know people who have opted out of procreation, and instead focused all of their nurturing and parental abilities on caring for their dogs, cats, what have you. Some of them (bless their souls) even refer to their pets as their children and make comparisons between pets and children that just shouldn’t be made. That said, the child/pet conundrum can be a problematic one, or can be navigated without much drama or upset. How have you contended with this challenge? Are you poised to become a parent and concerned about the emotional wellbeing of your pet? Have you had to give up a pet because they were too disruptive to your new family identity? Have you been able to find a balance between the two?