If you’re like many parents, or like me anyway, you spend your days performing this circus worthy juggling act. Somehow, your work schedule, school schedule, kid’s activities, meals, homework, and possibly a couple minutes of personal hygiene all have to get crammed into a 24-hour period each day. Of course, while spinning 40 plates you make emotionally impactful connections with the blossoming young minds you are rearing. No matter the accomplishments or challenges my boys and I have had during the day, after I tuck my little sweetums in at night, I have to fight the feeling of remorse for ALL that we didn’t get to do that day. I understand I’m not alone with this feeling. Popular media has called it ‘Mommy-guilt,” but I assume it affects Dads too.
I leave their darkened bedrooms and my entourage follows me
whining and meowing. Yup – now that those human boys are asleep, the fur-boys expect my undivided attention!! Dirty dishes and a pile of paperwork stacked beside my laptop stare at me and phase 2 guilt hits me – FUR-Mom guilt.
I know for sure I’m not the only one experiencing the anxiety of fur-mom guilt. I see it all the time with my patients’ families too. New baby on the way – how will kitty adjust? Exciting new career opportunity – how will Gizmo handle all the time you spend away from home? Had a really busy weekend and you just realized Rocky hasn’t eaten for a few days?? I have these conversations in my appointment rooms every day. I thought I was doing a good job of reassuring my guilt ridden pet owners.
So then, I polled my coworkers to see if they experienced fur-mom guilt, and the response was uncontested! Everyone felt neglectful to some degree for not spending enough time, or enough quality time with their pets. This is a group of pet owners who have advanced veterinary medical training and usually bring their pets to work!! Wow! I was surprised. My next thought was back to my exam rooms – have I been oblivious to the guilt all the Fur-Moms and Fur-Dads have when they bring their pet in to see me? To be honest, I’m always amazed (and I confess, a little ashamed – you walk your dog TWICE a day AND go to the dog park?!?!?!) by the commitment and dedication of the pet owners I work with! I’m so used to my own guilt that I hadn’t realized how common it is to feel that way.
Most pet owners consider their pet family. So it’s logical that loving, committed pet owners would put the same types of expectations and pressures on themselves about meeting their pet’s needs, like they do their children. While some guilt is probably good, and helps parents/caregivers manage priorities, most guilt is probably unnecessary, resulting from unrealistic expectations, set from outside pressures, (How did everyone on Facebook manage to play in the leaves with their dog today and I haven’t even looked out a window in 8 hours??!!), and may end up in diminishing the quality time we do spend with our pets.
Join me in becoming a Fur-Mom guilt survivor, not victim!! Focus on the positive experiences you have with your pet everyday. Celebrate
the things that make your relationship unique and special. Ask for help or talk to someone if you feel that guilt weighing you down. Believe me, your veterinarian and veterinary technicians will be sympathetic because we feel the same way too!!