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Parenting: For the Hard Times, Get a Dog

After having three kids and being parents for ten years, my husband and I adopted a puppy. He is the cutest little 4-pound mixed terrier. When I went to the shelter to “just look” at the dogs, this one looked into my eyes, licked my cheek and stole my heart. His name was Sherlock, and he looked like a little detective dog. It was the first time in my life that I had ever owned a dog.

Before having a dog, I had many friends who had dogs and no children. However, they would talk about their dog like their dog was their child. They would even make little similarities between having a dog and raising children. On the inside, I would roll my eyes and think these people are nuts!

Well, the other day, after a stressful time of getting the kids settled down for bed, I was sitting on the couch with my dog curled up in between me and my husband, and I turned to my husband and said, “If we had a dog first, do you think we would have ever wanted children?” We laughed about it, and it seemed like such a silly thought.

So why do we have dogs and love them so much?

Dogs are called man’s best friend; they are great for children; and they’re even trained to protect and to help humans with emotional healing. I have had many animals in my lifetime — rabbits, birds, hamsters, guinea pigs, and cats and none of them compare to what my dog does for me.

In our house, dog is mom’s best friend.

As moms we are always busy doing for others, making sure everyone has what they need. I have found that a common complaint among moms is that we don’t feel appreciated or we feel lonely. But that loneliness isn’t from actually being alone, it’s from feeling unseen. Often, everyone in the house is doing their own thing while getting their needs met; meanwhile, they have been unintentionally forgetting about who has been meeting those needs.

I love my dog so much that I had to stop and wonder, why does he bring me so much joy?

Other than his fluffy cuteness, what does he actually do for me? I take care of his needs like I take care of everyone else in the house.

And then it hit me.

He always sees me. He is always the first one to greet me when I come home. When I come into a room he is in, he wakes up and gives me kisses. He never lets me be in a room alone. When all the kids and my husband are playing video games, my dog finds me and comes where I am. He cries when the kids cry and senses when I’m unhappy even though I am not crying. Oh and the speed of his tail that expresses his happiness and thankfulness for being taken outside or being given his ration of food for the day!

Is that crazy to think that a dog, just a tiny little animal, can show constant love, joy, and thankfulness when many humans don’t?

Let me set this straight: Although I love my dog, he definitely doesn’t measure up to the love I have for my children.

However, kids are way more work and stress than dogs.

Kids take longer to potty train than dogs. Dogs love naps, and kids spend the first few years of their lives fervently fighting sleep. A dog will eat the same thing every single day and never complain, kids only want to eat what’s not on their plate. So why do we love our kids?

I recently listened to another mom answer a question: What is the best thing about parenting?

She responded by saying that the first time you hold them, it’s the best; the first time they smile at you, it’s the best; the first time they say “I love you,” it’s the best. With each year comes these new stages of life where the kids do new things, and it’s always the best.

She was then asked what the worst part of parenting is. She humorously but honestly replied, “everything in between.”

We simply love our kids because they are ours. We are the only ones responsible for them, and yes we have to survive the worst times with them but we also get to experience the best times with them. Those best times make the whole parenting journey worth it. And surviving those worst times with them only solidifies our love for them.

I think many times we think parenting is about we the parents, and we forget that we are raising future parents as well. As we parent, our children are learning how to parent.

This is a big difference from a dog mom verses a human mom.

As parents we leave imprints on our children that will be carried on for generations. Parenting is bigger than just one person, which is why it’s so hard, a lot is at stake.

Keep pushing through your parenting journey. Failure is guaranteed as a parent. We are not perfect and can’t be. But don’t count yourself out because you messed up today. Complete failure only happens when you stop trying. If your parenting journey is rough right now, give yourself patience and grace, take a deep breath and keep moving forward. Perseverance is a quality you want your children to see and have.

Trust me, our kids see our struggle and they will see our strength as well.   

So, be thankful for those best times, be sure to fully enjoy them, and maybe get a dog to help you emotionally for the tough times.

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