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Susan Maushart

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Pet Parents are NOT Moms

Posted: 04/27/2012 1:42 pm

"Because Pet Parents Are Moms Too!"

I hate to be a bitch about this -- but hey, female dogs are people too, right? -- but when I read that subject line on an ASPCA email this week, it really gave me hairballs.

I am a pet owner and I am a mom, and frankly, my dear, the two have about as much in common as a goldfish does to Godzilla. Rub my nose in it if you like, but it's about time this whole "Pet Mommy" thing got some serious yanking back.

For years now, it's been accepted usage for pet owners -- invariably child-free pet owners -- to refer to their dogs and cats as their "kids," and to do so without apparent irony. And an estimated $50 billion a year in pet-related goods and services currently fuels this delusion. Doggie daycare. Pet strollers. Halloween costumes. Veterinary insurance.

What? No college fund?

There's even an entire new literary genre riding on the back of our boundary confusion: "dogoir" -- a heartwarming, first person narrative centering on the relationship dynamics between ordinary pet-owners and their spiritually gifted-and-talented woofspring.

Do you feel your ears perking up? Think about it. When's the last time you picked up an inspirational book about child-rearing? Never. Because there is no such thing.

Real parents write bestsellers with titles like Go the F**k to Sleep and The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Real parents write survival guides. Field notes. Training manuals. Not freaking fantasy fiction with fur.

It's become ideologically unsound to say so in public, but you and I both know that pets are stupid. Not just "slow" or "differently intelligent" -- just plain stupid. (When we say a poodle is intelligent, we forget that we are speaking in purely relative terms. Compared to a pincushion, sure.) That's not a moral failing. It's not something we love them in spite of. It's something we love them because of.

These "kids" of ours eat their own vomit, run straight into oncoming traffic and hump the furniture. Hello? Is that a reflection of their intelligence? Even more to the point, is that a reflection on our "parenting"?

I could be wrong, but it seems to me significant that we cannot crate our children. Nor can we expect them to heel, appreciate table scraps or take well to shock-collaring. At the same time, we do not fight for Angry Birds access with our cats. Our dogs waste little time on social media, and can almost always be counted on to say 'no' to drugs. And if they dress provocatively, I think it's fair to say we only have ourselves to blame.

This Mothers Day, let's remember that, as much as we adore our animals -- and full disclosure: I dressed my pug as a monarch butterfly last Halloween, and it was awesome -- they are not our children. To pretend otherwise makes monkeys of all of us.

 

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