For years before I had kids I would often hear: “You have a dog? That’s great preparation for kids!” (or some version of that sentiment). And I would always wonder if that was actually true. Yes, I referred to my dog as my “baby” and had referred to myself as “mommy” in his presence, but surely a dog and a human are VERY different, right? Now after having a human child, I can say with certainty there are a lot of differences (I mean, I would never leave my child home alone, for starters), but I was also surprised to discover that my dog did prepare me for being a mom in a lot of ways.
Lack of Complete Freedom
I remember when I first got my dog, the realization that I couldn’t be out of the house for more than six hours was daunting. Suddenly, I didn’t have the drive to stay in the office all night— there was something waiting for me at home. And if I got too drunk, my days of sleeping on someone’s couch were numbered because I couldn’t leave my dog by himself overnight (this also ended up being a very good thing in the single Joelle days). The point was, I couldn’t do what I wanted when I wanted — I had someone else to consider now. Having a baby is very similar, it’s just to the umpteenth degree (especially when breastfeeding). Your time isn’t your own, but fortunately after years of making sure I got home in time to take care of my dog, this lack of complete freedom with my son felt like less of a shock.
Daily Responsibility and Routines
A dog and a baby each come with their own set of daily chores you have to do (oddly enough, both seem to revolve around food and poo). I can’t forget to feed my dog or take him outside to do his business, much like I can’t ignore my baby’s hunger cues or dirty diapers. And both are a lot happier when they can come to expect when these daily chores will occur. They thrive on routine. Is it fun picking up my dog’s poo and changing my son’s dirty diaper? Um, no. But do they have to be done every day? Absolutely.
The first thing I did when I adopted my dog was go to a pet store and pick up a bunch of supplies he needed. I stared in shock as the cashier rang up my purchases and I apparently spent over $500 on essentials. A “dog shower” would’ve come in handy. Dogs and babies cost money. There’s no way around it. Granted, my dog costs significantly less than my son, but it’s still something I’ve already been dealing with as a “dog mom.” And then of course, there’s also the “unexpected cost” factor when my dog gets sick. This has taught me to be prepared financially with savings. Fortunately I haven’t had to deal with unexpected costs with my son yet, but I’m ready.
Narrating My Day
For a long time, it was just my dog and me. As a result, I would spend a big part of my day “talking to him.” And while I felt a little crazy at the time (don’t judge me), this “exercise” of narrating my day has come in handy with communicating to my son. You might get a few stares talking to your dog, but as the mother of a 5-month-old, I’m encouraged to talk to my human son as much as possible to boost his language skills. It’s a good thing I’ve had so much practice!
Seeing Myself as a Mom
This was one of the biggest ways having a dog prepared me for motherhood. Becoming a mother is such a big identity change. You’re no longer flying solo through life— you’re someone’s mother! But, I also had years of referring to myself as “mommy” (to my precious dog), so it also didn’t feel like that big of a leap. I saw myself as a mom already— yes, to a sometimes scraggly “child” on four legs, but still.
The best part of being a mom to a dog and infant is that feeling of love they bestow on you. Both my dog and son are overjoyed when they see me after I’ve been away. They both want to snuggle me when they’re not feeling good. And when I’m feeling down or sad, they’re both right there to offer licks and smiles. They don’t talk back (yet), they don’t judge, they don’t argue with me, they just love me. As long as I feed them, of course.