Parents can get offended when their childless, pet-owning friends compare their experiences to those of parenthood. I can understand that. I’m not going to dare suggest that taking care of a poodle is the same as being responsible for not only the physical but also the emotional, mental, spiritual and overall well-being of a human being. I understand that the investment of time, energy, financial resources, and emotions are in two different leagues of their own for pet owners and parents. So I have tried to be more careful about saying, “I know what you mean – my pet woke me up twice to go outside” to parents complaining of sleep deprivation. I don’t know what it means to be woken up every two hours for weeks or months on end to nurse a baby during the night. I say all this to, in a sense, call off the dogs and calm the easily-offended before saying this: having pets does help prepare one for parenthood. It certainly helps way more than doing nothing and caring for nothing before.
It’s rather worrisome when a couple who has never been responsible for anything together suddenly takes on the responsibility of caring for a child. I certainly fear for couples who have no patience for pet bathroom accidents or needy animals who tell me they’re having kids. Nobody is saying that having kids and babies is the same, but if the level of difficulty for parenthood is a 10 out of 10, maybe having pets is a two out of 10, and having been there is much better than going from a level 0 to a 10, and then having kids. Here are ways having pets prepares you for parenthood.
Structuring your schedule around somebody else
When you don’t have kids or pets, you wake up, and you decide what you want to do based on: 1) what you feel like doing 2) what your schedule allows 3) what your energy level allows. If you have the time, desire, and energy, you can say yes to whatever comes up. The moment you add a pet to the picture, that all changes. You can’t just go from brunch to the beach to the bar to dinner. You have to go home – or arrange for somebody else to – to take out and feed your pet. You can’t just sleep on a friend’s couch, spontaneously, after a night of drinking. You have to get home to your animal. And you can’t skip dog walks because you’re tired. It’s happening, whether you’re up for it or not. There is this new factor that influences every single decision you make about your schedule. Just like it will be when you have kids.