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Belinda Etezad Rachman Headshot

Are Animal Parents Better Than Humans?

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As a divorce attorney I am very clear about the kinds of issues that create tension in a marriage. The top two disputed areas that cause the most divorces are money and children. While animals don't have money, they do have to deal with limited resources such as food. Animals who bond for life, have to deal with child issues too. Having no knowledge or experience of Barn Owls, it was quite a revelation to find the live video feed of Molly and McGee.

Owls bond for life and jointly care for their offspring. By the time I found "The Owl Box" live feed, Molly had laid six eggs, eaten one (speculation that it was "bad") and was sitting on the remaining five. Her role was that of constant caretaker. McGee's role was to hunt and bring the food to Molly. Because owls are nocturnal, McGee is only seen after dark and supposedly he hangs around the outside of the box in a nearby tree during the day.

Stacey O'Brien, author of New York Times best seller, Wesley the Owl, is a biologist who raised a barn owl for 19 years and is the expert on all things barn owl. When told that this story revolved around what animals can teach us about relationships and parenting she said, "You're right about the absolute faithfulness of barn owls to their mates! I have seen cases, as have other scientists, where if the mate dies, the other one died of grief within a day, just literally turning its head toward the wall or tree trunk and willing itself to die, long before it would have died of starvation or dehydration. If there are babies involved, of course, the surviving mate will hunt and take care of the babies."

Owls, unlike people, keep their commitments. Stacey O'Brien gave the perfect example of this point. Father owls are so committed to their mates and protective of their children that in raptor rehab centers, there is always an influx of baby owls during nesting season, and the best way to raise those owls is to put them all together in with a male barn owl, who will leap to the task of feeding all of them, no matter how many there are. All the rehabber has to do is provide the box and the huge pile of mice, and the male barn owl will ferry the mice to the babies and make sure all are fed. This is perfect, because the adult owl teaches the babies that they are barn owls, and they don't imprint on humans.

After what seemed like forever and me making bets with my husband that Molly was sitting on unfertilized eggs, Max was born, then a few days later, Pattison was born, next came Austin and then Wesley. Suddenly there was a LOT more to do and a LOT more mouths to feed. So far we had traditional sex role stereotypes in place. Mom stayed home with the kids while dad brought home the "bacon" (mice, rats, rabbits and other rodents). But one night last week, instead of bringing home a headless rabbit, as was McGee's habit, he brought home a live one. Fortunately for my tender soul, I was not a witness to what happened next, but from what I hear, Molly showed the children how to dispatch the Bunny from this mortal coil and with extreme prejudice. Mom's role expanded to that of killer/teacher/provider.

As the children got older and were able to regulate their own body temperatures, Molly left the nest to hunt. She now shares the responsibility to "bring home the bacon" with McGee. She will no longer be the stay at home mom, but has transitioned into "working mom" so that the children don't starve. From what I have seen, these parents go hungry themselves so that the children are fed. They cooperate without complaint about doing what ever is necessary in order for their flock to survive. While I have seen a bit of fussing and fighting between the parents, (Molly adamantly rejected a partial bunny one night and let McGee know she was not pleased with that particular offering) dad doesn't run off with some other lady owl and keeps coming back, night after night, all night long, with as many small animals as he can catch.

While humans sew the seeds of their own destruction by chasing after strange tattooed women, strippers or mailmen, animals like Molly and McGee just do what ever they need to in order to protect their young. They don't complain about one not staying home with the kids more or the demands of fatherhood, they just take care of business, every day, no matter what. If more humans were as self sacrificing and child focused as these owls, there would be no need for divorce lawyers.

Stacey O'Brien said that she was glad this blog would be talking about how barn owls are such good examples to people because she has always thought so. As an expert she thinks "Owls are completely sincere, completely in earnest, passionate, faithful, and, loving. They're also very intelligent. It's high time someone used them as an example of how we could live our lives if we chose to do so!"

So if you get hooked on watching Molly and company and you see belindaesq in the chat room each morning asking, "Do the kids have enough food for today?" you will know that is me, worrying about the kids and hoping they are going to be ok, but then again, that is exactly what I do for a living. Back to the discussion of the Peaceful Divorce movement next time.

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