Recently, I read an article that left me feeling enraged, sad, and confused. And surprisingly, this article was not about Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women. No. This article was about how being a pet parent shouldn’t actually be considered “parenting.” The article, which you may have read, was titled Pets Are Not Children, So Stop Calling Them That, and published on The Cut. As a proud dog mom, here’s why I strongly disagree.
1. Those eyes tho.
Okay. First of all, I have no idea how anyone who has looked into the wholesome eyes of a loyal canine, and cared for them in every way possible until their dying day, can dismiss that beautiful bond as anything less than parenting.
2. We do know there’s a difference between dogs and people.
It’s not as if pet moms and dads actually think their dogs are human children. We are not helping our dogs with math homework every night. We aren’t saving money for our dogs to attend college. And we aren’t worried about how difficult it’ll be to teach them how to drive a car – although, admittedly that would be awesome, if it were possible.
3. We may not give birth to them, but that doesn’t disqualify us as moms.
If I’m not my dog’s mom simply because I didn’t carry him in my belly for nine months, then what about all of the devoted and loving mothers who have adopted their children. Also, what about dads?
4. Here’s what the word “parent” actually means.
When I Googled the definition of “parent” I found several meanings, and this was one of them: “to be or act as the parent of.” So this is not an exclusive term to humans who raise humans. And it’s also not exclusive to people who give birth to humans.
5. Here’s what pet parents actually do for their pets.
The article stated, “When people call themselves pet ‘parents,’ they’re not just being playful. They sincerely believe that what they’re doing is parenthood.” Which, like, yeah we do!
I feed my dog three times a day. When he needs to go outside to poop or pee, he looks at me with his big dopey eyes and waits for me to take him outside. When he has diarrhea, I wipe his butt. When he’s sick or injured, I pay his medical bills. I also give him medication and comfort to ensure he gets better. When I took him up north last year for a road trip, I bought him a winter coat so he didn’t freeze in the snow. Please tell me how that doesn’t qualify me to be considered his “parent.”
6. We have the utmost respect for all parents.
And let me be clear: Dog moms (and dads) do not refer to themselves as parents as a way to disrespect parents of human children. If anything, it’s a tribute to you. We know your job is harder. We know you have way more on your plate than we do. We, in no way, compare what we do as dog parents to getting pregnant, giving birth, and raising that very child into a functional and happy human adult who can create a life on his or her own.
But anyone who takes in a creature who then relies on them to keep them sheltered, fed, and loved is a parent. It doesn’t matter if that creature is a child, a dog, a cat, or even a fish. It’s an unpaid job that is based on loving selflessly and unconditionally, and anyone willing to do that job gets the title of “parent.” It’s not an exclusive club, especially if we’re all just doing the best we can to love and provide for the creatures who need us most.