Mother’s Day is not the easiest of holidays for me. I am childless by choice and have never been called “mom.” No human has ever said, “Happy Mother’s Day mom, I love you!”
But can we be mothers to children that we didn’t give birth to or adopt, and to species other than humans? I am the single provider for two dogs, Sanchez and Gina. But, I usually think of them as my companion animals, not my children, even though others may see me as a crazy pet parent, with my children being of the furry sort.
My 81-year-old mother is 3,000 miles away, and I am very grateful to have just spent some time visiting her. And, even though my dogs are not my children, I’ll be very grateful to spend Mother’s Day with them. Whether I take them to the beach, or they sit by my side at an outdoor cafe, they are still my full responsibility.
I pride myself with being a very conscientious caretaker for them, providing a very healthy diet, plenty of exercise, daily reward-based dog training, environmental enrichment, participation in dog sports, playtime, and an infinite amount of love. They won’t ever graduate from high school, leave for college and provide offspring. But, when I adopted them, I promised them a forever home. They get room and board with medical and dental for life. I am their provider, caretaker, training partner, agility partner, canine freestyle partner, and human snuggler, even if I am not their mom.
A study in New Scientist reported that pet dogs rival humans for emotional satisfaction. After playing with their pets, dog owners experienced a burst in a hormone linked to infant care. I honestly have had more experience playing with puppies than taking care of infants, so I can’t compare. But I do know that my engagement and relationship bonding with my dogs is extremely emotionally satisfying. It’s not surprising to me that Dr. Rollin McCarty, Director of Research at the Institute of HeartMath, conducted an experiment and found that heart-rhythm entrainment, or synchronization, occurs between people and their dogs.
There are 75.1 million children in the United States. Stats.gov projects that number will increase to over 100 million by the year 2050. I don’t need to educate Care2 readers on the environmental challenges of over-population. At the end of 2009, The Humane Society reported there were 77.5 million owned dogs in the U.S. and 93.6 million cats. The pet over-population problem is out of control.
So, this Mother’s Day, I’m going to enjoy being a mom, if only for a day. I’m not going to feel guilty raising good canine citizens instead of good children. I’m going to be proud of my choice to not add to the over human population and remind myself that I am helping the pet over-population. And maybe I’ll even end the day by inviting them to sleep with me.
If you have pets and no children, do you think of yourself as a pet mom? Thanks for sharing your comments below.