A woman recently called into one of Boston’s morning radio shows, hosted by Karson Tager and Kennedy Elsey, to express her opinion that “It’s an insult to moms to say dogs are the same as your kid” and her general outrage about the term “furbaby”. This discussion was in response to an article called “No, Your Dog Is Not Your Baby,” with which the caller agreed “wholeheartedly”. She continued “If you haven’t had a child, the fact of the matter is you’re not a mother.” After describing many differences between having a kid and having a dog, she added “Especially if you’ve spent 9 months with this baby in your stomach, you definitely have more of an attachment to the child, I can tell you firsthand.” It was after this comment when I started to mumble to myself, send supportive tweets to Kennedy, and pace my kitchen! For now I felt that the caller had not only offended many dog owners but also likely many people who desperately want to be parents (of humans) or who are parenting but did not experience pregnancy firsthand. This includes but is not limited to fathers, as well as those who become parents through adoption or surrogacy.
Though I do not have a dog and have never used the term “furbaby”, the phrase also has never upset me. And I am truly shocked that the author of the article and the caller to the radio station are insulted by it. I typically try to be very careful with my words as I don’t want to hurt people’s feeling and language does matter. But Really? Of all the things to worry about in our lives and our world, “furbaby” is one of them? That people love their pets so much that they consider them part of their families? Seriously? Isn’t this a good thing?
Here are some more of my reactions:
- No one LITERALLY thinks their dog is a human baby.
- No one thinks that parenting a human is the SAME as taking care of a pet, but hopefully we can agree that there are some similarities.
- Many dog owners (including those who also have children, those who want children, those who do not want children) have a deep bond with their dogs. For individuals and couples experiencing infertility, pets can bring enormous comfort and companionship during a particularly challenging time.
- If you think the term “furbaby” is hurtful, then you should imagine how it feels to hear “you don’t understand because you are not a parent” when you desperately wish you were.
Kennedy adores her own dog and also fosters other dogs. To her credit, she has also been very open about her own wishes to be a mother and her feeling that it may not happen. This is part of why I got so upset about this whole conversation. I have long preferred the word “parent” as a verb and not a noun, as it emphasizes the act of nurturing and caring for others. And Kennedy sounds like she parents wonderfully! We should be applauding attentive, loving parents, no matter what the paths that led them to it or who/what they are “parenting”.
Kate Weldon LeBlanc is the Executive Director of RESOLVE New England. She is the mother of a soon-to-be 8 year old daughter and a beta fish named Diamond. She does not have a dog but thinks they are awesome and can’t wait to see them at the New England Walk of Hope.