I Don’t Know If I Am Ready To Be A Parent. Enter The Fur Baby…
Being 30-something and married means that, statistically speaking, over 95% of personal conversations I have with colleagues and friends revolve around when my husband and I are finally going to bear the ‘fruit of our loins’ and pop out a kid. Literally, 95%!
Why, you say? Because society dictates that it is the next logical step for a woman of my age and status.
This neither shocks, nor appals me. I have been ready for this conversation for a long time and quite frankly, I agree that it is the next step for my husband and me.
However, actually taking this very adult step has been hampered by a series of ostensibly unanswerable questions. Questions faced by many women in my position, including;
- How do I know if I’m ready to have a baby?
- Am I responsible enough to keep a human baby alive?
- Am I maternal enough to have children?
- What if I’m a terrible mother?
- Do I love the reality of parenting, or the idea of buying baby clothes?
- Will I ever be clucky?
- By the time I am ready, will I be able to conceive?
- Will my marriage suffer?
- Will I go back to work after having a baby?
- Will my career suffer if I have children?
- How will parenthood affect my financial independence?
- What if the kid hates my guts?
Don’t ask me when I’m having a baby
There are so many factors which influence when we feel ready to pro-create, particularly when you happen to be a moderately successful corporate slave who has been working her way up the corporate game of snakes and ladders.
And, let’s face it, in the ‘ultra-glamorous’ life of a female corporate professional, a baby represents a snake more often than not. Just ask New Zealand’s Labour leader who was asked last week about her baby plans seven hours into the job! I mean if a potential Prime Minister is not spared the baby time-horizon question, what hope is there for the rest of us?
So, faced with multiple doubts I resolved to ‘test the waters’ (and my insecurities), and implement a ‘baby trial run’ in the form of a Pom-Chi puppy called Marvin.
Getting my fur baby
Serendipitously, a work colleague recently asked me if I wanted to adopt a puppy. I looked up from my computer screen and immediately said, ‘hell yes!’
I signed the adoption papers the next day. And, just like that, I was a fur mother. Progress was being made on the motherhood-capability front. My hat was in the ring and it felt good.
Fur babies are real
But, having been totally mesmerized by the adorable little ball of fur, within a few days I had a panic attack.
What was I thinking? I am barely responsible enough to feed and water myself every day, let alone another living creature.
On top of all this, my work and travel commitments over the next few months were incompatible with responsible fur baby rearing. I had become a fur mother on a whim. In one fell swoop, questions 2, 3, and 4 were answered. Or were they?
Changing work life balance to fit around fur babies
I persevered: my panic attack forced me to figure out how my life needed to adjust for the responsibilities of fur-motherhood. I started leaving work on time, unless doing so would literally endanger someone’s life (other than mine for leaving on time). This means I have time to dash home to feed and walk baby Marvin before logging back on to work.
I also make an effort to travel less, and when I have to travel, I check baby Marvin in to an amazing luxury pet resort: no common kennel will do for my first born!
Fur babies and motherhood – what is a fur mom?
I’m going to spare you the politics of comparing pets to babies and whether or not being a fur mother actually constitutes real life parenting, but I will say that having a fur baby has added a slew of unanticipated personal admin to my life.
My lengthy To Do list includes countless visits to the vet for vaccinations, grooming, socialisation classes, puppy training; even deciding what to feed him is a stressful task. Like with mini humans, a fur baby’s diet can be a contentious topic amongst new fur moms. There is even a raw food movement amongst the fur baby community. And yes, I admit that I have succumbed to this movement. Nothing but the best for my fur baby!
The most arduous task, however, was toilet training. How do you teach something that doesn’t understand you not to pee in the kitchen? Something human mothers must ponder every day. For a solid six months, I spent hours toilet training Marvin to no avail. Then one day, out of nowhere, he figured it out. Bursting with pride, I crowned myself Fur Mother of The Year and simultaneously checked off question 4.
Pet parents are not moms
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that being the mother of a fur baby is even close to being a mother to a mini human, but I do think fur motherhood will prove to be a great transition and training tool should I ever successfully pro-create.
If I had gone straight from pre-fur baby life to parenthood, it would have been a much bigger adjustment for me and my husband.
As a non-mother, has my fur baby prepared me for motherhood?
Yes, mothering a fur baby has taught me to be much more conscious of caring for someone else – someone whose whole world is you. And while being a fur mother is a lot of work, I absolutely love it!
Fur babies and husbands
Baby Marvin makes my heart burst and I know he has had the same impact on my husband. In fact, I honestly believe that having a fur baby has brought my husband and I closer together.
So, that’s question 8 answered.
The benefits of fur babies
Another fringe benefit of fur babies is expanding your friendship circle. I have met the most amazing people at the dog park while baby Marvin has casually engaged in inappropriate sexual acts with their dogs.
Fur babies – am I ready to have a kid yet?
Although this exercise has raised more questions than it has answered, all in all I highly recommend having a fur baby (or even fur babies) as a preparatory process to embarking on parenthood.
Having a fur baby has confirmed that I do want to be a mother one day, it hasn’t shed any light on when I will actually be ready to take the next step. If anything, it has proven that I will never feel ready for motherhood and that, in the end, we may just have to take the plunge with the knowledge that together my husband and I will figure it out (or at least have nine months to get used to it).
And, if we can’t have children? We will figure that out together too.
Fur babies to adopt
The best stork for your fur baby delivery service is the local pound or animal welfare centre. There are so many lovely dogs and puppies out there looking for a good home so please adopt – don’t shop!
Are you wondering when you’ll be ready to have children? Head over to The Squad to chat with me and other like-minded ladies. You might also like A barrister’s thoughts about going back to work with a new baby.