Pets aren’t people, but that doesn’t mean you love them any less.
Every few months, it seems, someone takes up the cause of reminding us that kids and pets are not the same thing. For some reason, people referring to their dogs and cats as “furkids” or “furbabies” really pisses parents off. A recent post on YourTango even said the notion that pets are similar to children is “insulting to moms.” Plenty of people seem to agree with the author’s stance, but I have to be honest — I don’t really understand what the big deal is.
At this point in my life, I’ve been both a parent and a dog owner. I can say with certainty that there are a lot of similarities between the two. Both require love and attention, near-constant supervision, bathroom breaks, meal preparation, and come with a host of added responsibilities and unexpected emotions. Parents love to argue that they’ve got it harder than pet owners, but I’m not so sure that’s true. I mean, yes, I got up at all hours of the night to feed my screaming babies, but I’ve also gotten up in the middle of the night to clean a terrier’s diarrhea. I have to tell you, the former is preferable to the latter.
Chores and caregiving aside, the real point of contention between parents and pet owners seems to be who loves their dependents more. The love you have for your child, they say, is a million times stronger and more profound than the love someone has for a pet — the stakes are higher, and the commitment is stronger. It’s easy for parents to wax poetic about loving our babies, but how does anyone really know which kind of love is stronger?
When we have this argument about kids and pets, what we’re really arguing about is the annoying assertion by parents that we somehow have a better grasp on the weight of our emotions and our devotion. We made babies and we raise them, so we’re apparently the authorities on love and what constitutes a “real” family. We supposedly sacrifice more than anyone, ever, so we have the right to quantify how much other people care about things.
Except, we don’t, and all of that is a gigantic load of bullshit.
Some people legitimately do love their pets as much as parents love their children. Some people love their pets as much as their own children. Some people have pets instead of kids and devote just as much time, energy, and emotion to caring for them as the parent of a child. It’s not up to any of us to decide how “real” other people’s feelings and commitments are. Having kids makes us a statistical probability, not the arbiters of the meaning of life.
If someone wants to refer to their pet as their “furbaby,” that’s no skin off my back, and it shouldn’t ruffle other parents’ feathers either. It’s not up to us to decide which relationships count, and one type of love doesn’t delegitimize all the others. Furkids and real kids both bring a new level of joy and fulfillment to our lives, and how dare any of us try to take that away from someone by pretending our own experiences are more important.