This morning I read a blog post that was a humorous attempt to disguise the stress and mind-numbing tedium of raising children. It struck a chord. Not because I’m a scary mommy working out of my home while I raise three children under the age of five. No, that’s not what grabbed my attention. The post spoke to me because I’ve shared my home and my life with a constantly revolving door of animals since I was eighteen. (Well, longer if you count growing up on a farm) I understand that people who choose to have children carry the added burden of trying to raise successful, well-adjusted members of society, and I get that parents never stop “worrying” about their kids. But those things aside, I see very little difference between raising kids and raising animals.
In the child-rearing post mommy railed about her burnout that stemmed from the small stuff. She freely admitted her complaints sprang from a well of fatigue and tedium and not actual dissatisfaction with her parental, care-giving role. I get that, I really do. You have kids, you love your kids, but they make you nuts. That’s perfectly acceptable. And yet, those few times I’ve mindlessly griped about my own burnout from living with multiple animals I’ve been met with everything from eye rolls from parents to tisk-tisks from pet owners.
It’s totally understandable that parents with any shred of sanity left will eventually gripe about the annoyance of being at the constant beck and call of a toddler. That’s normal and I think at some point every parent experiences burnout. I sort of feel the same way when a mild case of mid-winter colic keeps me hovering in a sub-zero barn for several hours. The first time that happened I didn’t complain. I was scared and oh, so thankful the second my horse started to feel better. But somewhere around the 10th time my horse got colic the fear and the thankfulness got a little silted. I can also relate to Mommies who complain about their lack of personal privacy since I routinely share my bathroom with no less than one or two dogs who simply can’t be out of my sight when I’m home. And I get that Moms can’t seem to catch a break from all the laundry their kids generate. Me? I never get a reprieve from the dog hair that’s in, on, and under every object and surface in my house.
Like having children, life with pets is a choice. I’m not saying I don’t want a life without my pets, but many years ago I came to the realization that my decision to have multiple pets would come with a few serious inconveniences and some occasional (OK, daily) monotony. Like being woken up three times a week for the last 10 years by a puking dog with a genetic digestive disorder. And having chosen to live with different kinds of animals, every day is marked by multiple feedings for various groups of them, then picking up the poop all that food creates. Unlike potty training, cleaning up after pets never ends; you’ll have to scoop and dispose of waste forever.
I’ve been bitten (accidentally), stepped on, mowed down, puked on, pooped on, woken up and kept up, and like any human parent I’ve withstood numerous hardships and inconveniences to ensure my animal’s health and safety always come before my own. I haven’t done this with regret, but there’ve been times when every fiber of my being was literally screaming for Calgon to come take me away. Or the funny farm. Really, either one would do. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I hate my problem pets: The Autistic, psychotic herding dog. The lunk of a horse who has been the source of two recent (accidental) concussions. The tenacious Terrior who has taken a sudden shining to shredding cardboard and socks. The list could go on. (And on and on)
Most of the time I don’t mind my pet’s quirks, but sometimes I want to put them all on a one-way shuttle to the moon and go off to live a quiet, normal life. A life where I don’t have to look at my watch every 4 hours and drop whatever I’m doing to run home and feed someone. Or a life where I sleep in past 6 AM. and don’t have to suit up on a snowy night to trudge out to the barn at 11:00 for last call. Or a life where I can wear black without having to exhaust a roll of tape first. A life where my husband walks through the door after a long day and instead of reading his lips I can actually hear him say, “Hi honey, I’m home!” A life where I can have noisy sex without setting off the dogs. A life where I can cook a meal or use the bathroom without canine supervision.
The magical ingredient that keeps my sanity in check is knowing that my life with this particular set of animals comes with an expiration date. And every time I get fed up or worn down by the routine or stress of living with my pets I remember they’re only here for a short period of time. They won’t grow up and go off to live their own lives, visiting from time to time. They’ll be gone for good. So even though there are moments when the madness feels like it’s been going on forever, I try to remember that it will eventually come to an end. And the really crazy thing is that when it does, I know I’m going to miss it.
So for now I’ll just keep trying to pet The Dog Who Must Not Be Touched, keep the Terrier out of the laundry basket and avoid being mowed down by the lunk in the pasture. And if that doesn’t work? There’s always Calgon!