The Dog Mom

Kate

I don’t like children.

It’s one of those phrases that come to my lips the moment someone asks if my boyfriend and I will ever have kids, but it’s rarely uttered. The reactions are nearly always negative and range from a strange look between disbelief and disgust to a twenty minute rant on why children are the best thing since sliced bread and that I’m totally missing out if I don’t sacrifice my life for 18+ years to support a creature with half my DNA.

It’s always been this way.

I was never a child that lugged around a baby doll. My cousin had a little bald, plastic baby named Gracie that she kept swaddled against her and dressed daily. Instead of a stroller or papoose, my room was loaded with stuffed animals. While my cousin had Gracie, I had Whiskers, a progressively piebald stuffed cat who wore a bed skirt-like dress to hide his bald spots. I talked to my stuffed animals as if they were people. I fed them, hugged them, tucked them in at night.

History has repeated itself night after night.

Every night before I go to bed, I take my hair out of its clips and pins, but as I walk through the darkened house, I make note of where my babies are. Edgar is sleeping under my chair in the kitchen, Finny is laying against the backdoor, and Katie right where I left her on the sofa or curled up on my bed waiting for me. Before I go to sleep, I pet each of them and tell them that I love them. A little part of me fears not carrying out the ritual, not reminding them of my love before they close their eyes. As I peel back the covers, Katie with her stubby dachshund legs dives onto me full force before settling at my feet or near my head. Most nights I wake up with at least Edgar and Katie curled up around me, protecting my flank as if I was one of the pack.

Respecting the autonomy of others means no guilt.

My boyfriend and I have never wanted children. I never dreamed of having a family. Hell, I never thought I’d have a life partner until I met mine, but children have never been in the picture. Never did the image of school pictures, birthdays, or trips to Disney with brood in tow come to mind. I’m still at the age where I don’t know whether to reply yay or oh no when someone says they’re pregnant. My reaction is obvious, but I’m quickly realizing that most at least feign joy. It’s expected. It’s the norm. The norm rarely feels like it fits me anymore. In the future, I see myself writing books, going to a gallery opening or event that’s centered around my partner’s art, and doing some traveling. I want a small house with enough room for us and the dogs. Somewhere there will be a house where dogs lounge on the sofa, locking eyes with me from across the room as I read and pet one of their siblings. The floors will be littered with half-chewed dog bones and tumbleweeds of fur.

“To love another person is to see the face of god.”

My babies won’t live as long as yours. At most, they’ll live into their teens and because I’ve rescued them from the shelter, our time may be shorter than I anticipated. Yet their lives aren’t tragic. Their short time on earth puts my life into perspective and makes me grateful for the years I have with them. For all the wet kisses and the adoring gazes that make a shitty day better because somehow they know what I need. Dogs are strange. Part wolf, part toddler, they’re at once all-knowing and innocent. Animals give their love without caveat and present the only true form of unconditional love on earth, and it’s this I crave. I want to love and be loved without judgment. Someday I’d like to be person my dog loves so wholly and able to love as they do.

 

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14 Comments

Filed under Personal Life, Writing

14 responses to “The Dog Mom

  1. You’ve basically just summed up my view on both children and animals. My husband and I have been honest with our families from the beginning that we may never want children, and they mostly leave us alone about the issue. I think part of it is that they believe we will change our minds eventually (and we could, I suppose, we’re only 24 and 27).

    But strangers or extended friends are less accepting. I’ve been on the receiving end of those lectures, too, and there really is no perfect way to handle them. My go-to statement is “Having children is a huge responsibility, and I think it would be selfish to bring a child into this world if I did not want them 100% and could not give them all the love/attention they deserve. So until I can, I won’t do it.” That tends to shut them up, as it makes them realize that being childfree is actually not a selfish choice. (Also, I always react to pregnancies in the ways the couple reacts. If they are happy, then I am happy that they are taking this step in their lives.)

    In the end, I think we all just make the best choices we can and live our life how we want. Some will respect our choices, others won’t, but that’s true of literally every decision humans make. Focus on what’s right for you and your partner. That’s what truly matters. šŸ™‚

    • Kara Jorgensen

      It’s really funny because I say nearly exactly the same thing you do. It’s a huge responsibility that requires a lot of forethought, and it’s not a choice that should be taken lightly because it’s the child’s future that’s at stake. When people get very passionate about you not having children, it seems even more pushy and presumptuous. It’s a decision that doesn’t affect them in anyway, and I’m not saying they aren’t allowed to have kids. It’s like saying you’re full and then getting a lecture on the virtues of cake. It just doesn’t make any sense.

      • Exactly. I think a lot of it is that people are intimidated/frightened when others question things that they never did. I got a decent amount of flack for other “unconventional” life choices like keeping my last name and wearing a red wedding dress. But I hope that, through people like you and me, others will question the status quo and learn to tailor their lives more to their own dreams than what society expects of them.

      • Kara Jorgensen

        Same here. Also, I love your red wedding dress. I thought it was so bright and cheery.

      • Thank you! I figured, it’s my day, I’m wearing my favorite color! Though, my grandma did ask me if I wore red because I wasn’t a virgin. That was pretty hilarious.

      • Kara Jorgensen

        Lol! I’d be like, “It’s dyed with the blood of my enemies.” If the color was any indicator of virginity, then white wedding dresses would be out of fashion.

      • amo

        That’s too funny about your grandma, Kate. I didn’t think anyone would still hold by that today. You’ve got those third or fourth weddings with the the bride in the most elaborate frothy white creations – it gets a little silly. And yeah, your red dress was gorgeous.

  2. In a similar boat , at least most of my close friends and family know better than to ask about kids or marriage now. Even as a kid I was never really the one to play “mommy”. I have never felt the burning desire to have children.

    I was told by a past partner once that I didn’t want to have kids because I was afraid to try new things…as if having children was on the same level as trying a new kind of food or something.

    I’m happy with my fur baby for the time being. I’m just starting to get over the “omg what are you going to do?” reaction when people tell me they’re pregnant lol.

    • Kara Jorgensen

      Oy. The trying new things comment made me cringe. Having a child isn’t something you dabble in. Maybe for some men it is šŸ˜›

  3. Well said, Kara. I do have 3 children and had my first just before I was twenty years old, now two are teenagers and the youngest 8yrs. I’m just starting to do things I want like go back to work, my writing and hobbies. It’s a hard slog at times and as you said, a great responsibility. I wouldn’t be without my kids, they’re funny, intelligent and all individual. However, I have never expected my kids to just grow up and pop out kids of their own, rather I’ve encouraged them to be independent and to follow their dreams. I hope they will live to the full and enjoy life. šŸ˜Š

  4. amo

    Hehe, it’s funny – one of the reasons I wouldn’t want a dog is that I say I’ve been there, done that, with the baby thing. At least human babies grow up. šŸ™‚ I’m a cat person, they’re more like roommates, not babies – you get all the furriness and petting and fun without the guilt of the woeful brown-eyed look that says “You’re neglecting me!!! How could you when I love you so much!!!” Cats just kind of stare at you and go “Hey, human. Fill my dish. And scratch my belly while you’re at it. Okay, enough. I’m going to nap now.” They’re self-sustaining.
    But yeah, I agree. I love children, always have ever since I ceased being one myself (physically speaking) – I just like them as a variety of human – but I don’t think that means everyone should have them. Kids aren’t pets or dolls or trophies, they’re people. I think that’s something that tends to be forgotten. Though not by you, from the sounds of it.

  5. Imho it’s super important to consider what you really want when it comes to these things. Too many people take drastically life-altering steps just because they feel it’s expected of them. Though it looks like they’re doing things, ultimately it is a strangely passive way to live.
    Personally I’m not in the no-child camp, but I AM firmly in the no-marriage camp, which tends to render similar reactions. It’s mainly because of legal reasons – I’d rather not have to deal with the mess when in one way or another the arrangement inevitably ends – but also because quite frankly I don’t want to change my life to conform better to someone else’s. (Yes, I realize the irony, since I will very much have to adapt to accommodate the needs of future child – but that’d be for someone who shares half of my genes, so it’s different.)
    It’s a bit funny really how I think our underlying reasoning is probably very much the same, but the conclusions so different. But that’s the beauty of living in freer times, I think – both of these attitudes are very much valid and I think it’s just a matter of time before more and more people dare to speak openly about it.
    So kudos to you for breaking some of the ice!

    • Kara Jorgensen

      I’m also in the no-marriage camp despite being in a relationship for nearly 11 years now with the same guy. I think it’s an outdated institution that isn’t necessary anymore. I will say my life has changed very little in terms of blending ours together. If you and your partner respect each other and can respect boundaries, I would think that blending your lives wouldn’t take too much effort or compromise. It seems a lot of that is knowing what you want, knowing what they want, and knowing how make it work so both can happen.

      • Those are some very good points, of course. I should add that another factor in my decision is I’m not much of a romantic relationship person, period. (That is insofar as it relates to me, personally. Not that life partner relationships necessarily need to BE romantic, but at some point I also decided that finding someone who resides along the same coordinates on the (a)romantic spectrum may just not be worth the effort. Idk, though. I guess in this regard I actually MIGHT change.)

        That long parenthesis aside, my bottom line is I agree with you. Communication and mutuality is so important. I’m glad for your sake you’ve managed to find a setup that works well for you. ā¤

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