Let me preface this article by saying I love animals. I have had pets my whole life; I have volunteered at shelters for over 20 years; and I am a huge proponent of animal welfare.
But now I have kids, and I hate my pets.
As any parent will tell you, having children changes your life irrevocably, in ways you never fathomed. You go from a world of independence to one of literal servitude. You are constantly meeting never-ending demands of your time and energy. You’re cleaning up pee, poop, and vomit while trying to keep a tiny screaming human alive, and, oh yeah, working to ensure he grows up a kind person in the process.
Suffice it to say, there is little-to-no time that is yours anymore. So when you do get that smidge, that pinch, that tiny eek of a second to yourself, it’s heavenly … until you discover that you have to spend said time cleaning up even more pee and poop and (god forbid) vomit from your pets. Then the anger and resentment become TOO REAL.
Having pets, just like having kids, is a choice. But when you’ve had pets for 15 years before those kids come along, they’re no longer optional. They’re family. And just as many of us hate our various family members, so I began to hate my pets.
Oh, I’m supposed to sleep when the baby sleeps? I can’t sleep when the baby sleeps because it is the only time I have to take care of the damn dog.
Oh, the baby is playing contentedly indoors because it is 90 degrees outside? Too bad, he has to get in the stroller and sit in the blazing sun, because I have to walk the damn dog.
Oh, the baby is finally napping after crying for an hour? Now I must sweep the entire house for cat waste because she’s acting out since I can’t pay as much attention to her anymore.
For awhile, I felt guilty. After all, these are just sweet, helpless animals who want to be loved — and who were plenty loved before the babies came along! But the truth is, the average parent cares a lot (lot lot lot) more about their human child than their fur baby, and so the latter will feel the shift towards apathy.
As I began admitting to close friends that I hated my pets, I was beyond relieved to find out I wasn’t alone. Like, at all. In fact, having kids and then hating your pets seems to be a common issue that no one feels brave enough to talk about.
“I just could not be responsible to anyone else’s literal or figurative shit or well-being,” remarked one mom friend with a 12-year-old incontinent dog.
“She used to be my whole world but now she makes every spare moment a living hell,” remarked a mom friend with a 15-year-old cat.
“Is it awful that I can’t wait for them to die? I have nothing left to give,” said another friend with two elderly cats and a dog who’s “too old to count.”
“I mean… I used to love the dog, but now it’s just like ‘Leave me alone, please, I am very tired,” says a dad of twins with a 7-year-old dog.
The good news? No matter how crazymaking your dog/cat/iguana/etc. may be to you, it’s most likely doing the opposite for your child. Pets are one of the most basic ways kids learn about kindness, responsibility, and love. And when your baby grows a little older and develops a real relationship with your oft-cursed pet, your will (hopefully) remember why you adopted an animal in the first place.
So for all of you new parents out there who have been hiding a “shameful” secret about hating your once-beloved animals? Know you are not alone. As long as you continue to provide your pets with a sufficient amount of food, water, exercise, and love, you’re allowed to hate them all you want. It doesn’t make you a bad pet parent. It just makes you … a parent.
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