It’s a new year, and there’s a new voice in the Magpie nest. I’m pleased to introduce my friend and colleague, Christie Robertson, who will be sharing her thoughts and adventures as she prepares for the mother of all learning journeys: parenthood. Watch for Christie’s posts once a month until April, when her baby arrives. After that, she may have other priorities!
I had many people say to me a year and a half ago that dog ownership is the first step to becoming a good parent. “It will help you understand what is means to lose a bit of personal freedom”; “It’s a safe training ground for setting expectations and following through”; “You’ll learn what it’s like to have someone that is completely dependent on you.”
This is not why we got our dog Molly (see my post on another blog about how my cunning husband suckered me into dog ownership). But the longer we have her, the more I understand why people might believe dog ownership would prepare us for parenthood. On the other hand, as my baby’s due date looms closer, the more I’m beginning to think it was either people who have kids, but not a dog, or who have a dog, but not kids, who gave me this advice.
Let’s start with the loss of freedom and dependence. This was my biggest fear when deciding to get a dog. For 30 years I could pretty much do what I wanted, how I wanted, when I wanted. Molly hasn’t prevented this, but we have had to make concessions from time to time.
After work drink? Okay, but I have to run home and walk the dog first and then I will join. Oh, you’re not staying that late? Okay, well let me check with my husband first, and if he can’t do it, I’m sure she’ll be fine for one more hour.
Quick weekend away on short notice? I’m sure the local kennel will have room.
Invite guests over? Quick, vacuum up the dog hair and put her three toys away.
I expect a child, on the other hand, will be very different.
After work drink or any kind of outing? Hmmmm, let’s see. Have you given me two weeks notice in order to find a babysitter, and am I even okay with leaving my child with a babysitter yet, and if I am do I have enough energy to socialize with anyone without looking like a babbling idiot, a babbling idiot who by the way has baby vomit on the collar of her shirt?
Quick weekend away? See “After work drink or any kind of outing.” If only there was such a thing as a baby kennel. Darn!
Invite guests over? Quick, vacuum up from dog and baby, put the plethora of toys away, scrub down the any and all sticky surfaces, brush my hair (ugh!), and make sure the child (and I) have clothes on. Have I missed anything? Probably.
And don’t get me started on setting expectations. It’s hard enough to get an animal with a brain the size of a walnut to heel on a leash. Molly thrives on pack behavior – she wants a leader to follow – and would happily heel if I were any good at being a leader. Already I imagine our child as a willful, stubborn pipsqueak whose favorite word is ‘no!’ Of course I imagine this because both Matt and I are the most, willful stubborn people I know–can you say “taste of our own medicine” or “karma”? I’m just hoping my ability to hold out on an expectation is stronger than the child’s. However, with Molly I have already learned the power of “puppy dog eyes,” which I have no doubt every child is born with the natural ability to engage at any time.
But these two aren’t even the worst of it. What keeps me up at night is the idea of having a helpless little being totally dependent on me. At first, with Molly, the sleepless nights were killing me. Why is she still crying? Is she afraid? Is she hungry? Then endless worrying when I didn’t hear anything-is she okay? Is she still alive out there? Should I go check or will that disturb her and create more crying? I’m so bad at being a mommy!!! And these are just the thoughts I had when I became a dog owner for the first time, to a dog that was 1.5 years old. What’s going to happen when I become a mommy to a real, live, squirming, crying, dependent child in three months? What on earth have I got myself into? The stakes are much higher now.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic, over the moon, and pleased as punch that we are expecting in April. This is a life journey I have always wanted to embark on and I’m looking forward to cherishing a son or daughter and learning how to be a good parent in the process. I believe it is the challenges as well as rewards that make us stronger and better individuals. As well, I hope to pass on my passion for lifelong learning to my children. I just hope I can balance both a dog and a child while maintaining a semblance of sanity in the first couple of years!