A MOM'S GUIDE TO HEALTHY LIVING AND FAMILY FUN
Confessions of a Pet-less Parent
I have a shameful secret. Well, it wouldn’t be much of a secret if you were to come over to my house. It would become clear pretty quickly that…I don’t have a pet. There, I said it. I am a pet-less parent. And it is not because we are never home to care for one (we home-school and we are home a lot actually). And no one in the family has an allergy. We don’t travel so frequently that it would be impossible to find someone to come in and feed a gerbil or a cat.
The truth is I just don’t want one. Does that make me a bad parent? Well, when you have a five-year-old boy who positively drools over dogs, it does make me wonder. Perfect strangers will just come up to me on the street and say things like, “That boy needs a dog!” I am not kidding. And yet, despite my love for my children, despite even my belief that pets are really good for kids for loads of reasons, I just can’t bring myself to add one more responsibility to my life right now.
So what is a bad parent to do? Luckily (and I know, I know it is not the same but it is something), there are loads of ways to pretend you have a pet and the South Shore is brimming with possibilities. The first thing I did to assuage my guilt was to get a membership at the South Shore Natural Science Center (ssnsc.org/) in Norwell where we have become fast friends with Bob the Iguana and are anxiously awaiting the day Spike (the younger iguana) is tame enough to be introduced to the public.
Secondly, is there anyone left who doesn’t know someone who is raising chickens? We have at least four close friends with backyard chicken coups and we know all of the hens by name. It just logically follows that many of these chicken people also have dogs, cats, ducks, rabbits and other furry friends we nuzzle up to on a regular basis.
We also make regular outings to the prison. Now, at first I thought this was really weird and a possible act of desperation for a pet-less parent. A petting zoo at the prison? But the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Farm and Petting Zoo (www.pcsdma.org/Farm_And_Petting_Zoo) has a really terrific program, which is free and open to the public. There was a summer we made fast friends with Susie the pig and her litter of piglets and we now buy our Christmas tree there every year.
Soule Homestead (http://www.soulehomestead.org/) in Middleborough has a wonderful Education Center and recently became a favorite stomping ground where we befriended many sheep this summer, got our hands dirty washing and combing wool and caught a few toads along the way.
Are my kids convinced? Ummm…well, I think it helps a little. I remember my cousin’s son asking her several years ago what he would need to do to get a dog and her reply was “Get a new mother.” I am giving responses along the same line at this point (though, oh, the betrayal, she eventually caved and got a dog and he got to keep his mother too!).
So, does the fact that my desire for clean carpets appears to outweigh my son’s desire to have a muddy puppy sleeping in his bed make me a bad mom? Don’t think I don’t beat myself up over it. Don’t think I don’t wake my husband from near sleep after a fourteen hour day at work with the last lingering thought of the day whispered over the pillow, “Maybe a fish? We could probably handle that, right?” But, for now, I know my limits.
Juli Ford Alhadeff lives in Plymouth with her husband and their two children. She is a home-schooling mom, a nonprofit fundraiser, and a natural health counselor. Visit Juli at her website www.wholemomhealth.com and at www.juliford.com where she blogs about food, family, home, and self-care.