You’re excited and completely in love, but at the same, there’s this sinking feel: my life will never be the same again.
In both instances, you’re right. Your ideas of motherhood and dog ownership go from an IDEA to REALITY, and the weight of having someone else’s life be your responsibility can be absolutely terrifying.
Thinking back on this, it’s easy to see why couples get a dog first to “test out” if they’re ready for children. As a couple, you’re suddenly a team that needs to be unified on discipline and leadership style.
Having “fur babies” really did prepare me for motherhood in so many ways. I’d even say – my dogs made me a better mother.
1. They taught me patience and to handle stress with grace.
If anyone has ever had a strong-willed dog, you’ll get this.
We adopted each of our dogs in probably the worst stage for every dog – 6 month to 1.5 years. It’s the stage where your dog has just left that sweet, clingy puppyhood stage and suddenly won’t listen to you anymore.
It’s a challenging stage.
So often, I’d lose my patience with our dogs in the early days, and it only backfired.
My husband, in his infinite wisdom, would tell me, “You can’t let them see you mad.” And it was true!
Every night, I’d chase our strong-willed, adolescent dog around the backyard when it was time to come in for the night, only to give up and go inside. I wasn’t going to CATCH our dog – I could only OUTWILL him. And when I finally figured that out, everything came together.
Instead of getting louder, I got quieter.
Instead of getting angrier, I got more patient.
And I didn’t go inside until I got what I wanted.
So what does this have to do with babies? In short, everything.
As your baby grows and turns from baby to toddler, he too will test your patience. They’ll go from a sweet, clingy baby, to a grand explorer, suddenly deaf to your rules.
And it would be so easy to YELL, get ANGRY, let him know that he’s made me upset. But I can’t. I have to remain patient, consistent, and calm – and above all, stay loving.
In the end, with dogs and babies, they’re just learning. And if they learn how easy it is to piss you off, they’ll do it. Not because they’re evil or “bad”, but because for their young, short-sited minds – it’s fun! So don’t make it fun for them.
2. They taught me the power of consistency.
Everyone is a gambler – your dog, your baby, even you. We’re always playing odds.
I didn’t realize the full weight of this, until I had a dog.
If you want to ever have a dog that reliably sits on command, comes when called, drops things their not supposed to have in their mouths instantly – you HAVE to perform the commands consistently.
If I give a command to my dog 100 times, and he performs it 99 times, and then the 100th time, I let it go – I’ve failed my dog. Suddenly, I’ve given my dog the opportunity to gamble. I’ve told him – there’s a 1% chance I’m just going to let it go.
That may seems silly or extreme to some, but in our house, if you say it, you better follow through and get the response you asked for!
This is one of the most important things I’ve applied to motherhood.
Some days you feel too tired and exhausted to follow through on the lessons you’re teaching your toddler. We’ve all been there.
It’d be so much easier to let them rip each page out of your favorite book and let them draw all over the walls and throw your cell phone in the toilet. Sometimes, we just get sick of standing up every 5 seconds to say “no, honey, don’t do that… no, we don’t eat that… please, don’t throw that…”
But if you want them to grow up to be respectful teenagers and adults, when it really counts, you’ll want them to learn quick that mom doesn’t back down – when mom says something, she means it 100% of the time.
Always mean it.
3. They taught me not to compare myself to others.
We had a particularly challenging dog for a while, and so often I would get sad about all the things she wouldn’t be able to do. How she wouldn’t be like OTHER dogs. I’d worry about what other people thought of her. I’d worry about how my life was going to look with her in it.
I felt saddled with the weight of her problems, but I didn’t have to feel this way.
We all have our own journeys in life, and we all take different paths. No one knows your dog’s journey. Never be embarrassed for them – they’re not!
You have to celebrate your dog’s incremental progress and not fall into the trap of comparing. Maybe your dog will never be the type of dog to sit on patios or run around off-leash – but is she happy? Is she better off than she was yesterday? Has she grown?
The same goes for motherhood. It’s easy to constantly worry about your baby at each stage. Is he walking soon enough? Does he know as many words as that baby? Why can’t he do that yet?
But you can’t do this. Your baby is on his own unique, beautiful journey.
My dogs taught me to be their cheerleaders and their mentors, to never pity or worry about them. And I try to bring this same attitude to my child.
Your dog will be all right.
Your kid is doing just fine.
And YOU are doing everything you can.