Work and Pet Parenting.

Every morning when my alarm goes off at 5 a.m., Bean rolls her big, block head over and gives me the same, sad look. After two and half years together, I like to think that our bond is strong enough for me to know exactly what she is thinking: “do you really have to leave, mom?”

On holidays or sick days, I still wake up at 5 a.m because my body and mind have been so conditioned to do so. But when Bean rolls over and sees that I am still lying in bed with her she sighs contentedly, gives me a big, wet kiss, and cuddles close. Her eyes shine with her happiness. “I’m so happy you get to stay with me today,” they seem to say.

I wish every day could be like this: lazy mornings spent sprawled in my bed with my dog, lounging on the couch in my PJ’s with her at my side before we go for a long walk through the neighborhood. At some point I will let her run around the yard before she happily collapses in a heap in the grass and I will rub her belly as she looks up at me, her tongue lolling out of her mouth.

Instead, I spend most days in the office, parked in front of a glowing, soulless computer monitor sitting next to dozens of other human beings engaged in the same mindless tasks as I am. The only reminder of my dog is her picture tacked up in my cubicle with a pastel colored thumb tack.

Every day when I come home she is ecstatic to see me, jumping and barking and kissing every square inch of my face. “You’re home!” She cries! “We can play! We can have fun! We’re together again!”

Somedays, I’m too tired for the fun. I collapse in an exhausted heap on the couch, eat dinner, prepare for the humdrum of next day, and go to bed. There is no time for walks, or playing in the yard, or belly rubs in the grass. Instead, Bean curls up sadly in her bed and looks on. Now her eyes seem to beg the question: “what is wrong with mom?” She is wondering why Mom won’t play with her. She is wondering why mom looks so sad and tired.

Other days I can manage to come home and walk Bean around the neighborhood. She is too happy those days. She is in her element when she is outside. She loves to take in all the sights and smells of the outside world. She relishes our time spent together. But all too quickly it is over.

Like an over worked parent from some TV movie, I try to placate her through gifts. Look! I say, as I come home with a shiny new toy. I’ve bought you a new bone to chew on! Look! I cry, I brought you cookies! The gifts keep her busy for some time, but deep down I know she is never really satisfied by them. All she really wants is to spend time with me.

Balancing working full time and owning pets can really be a struggle some times. I can’t even begin to imagine what it had been like for my parents as my sisters and I grew up with the demands of a full time job on top of our schooling, homework, and extracurriculars. My dogs and cats don’t ask for much from me. All they really ask for is food in their bowls, a warm place to lay, and some pets from mom after a long day apart.

But because their lives are so short and my love for them runs so deep, I find myself wanting more out of my life with them than that. I want to be able to spend days in the sun with them, out on the beach, hiking the trails, and on more than just a too short Saturday and Sunday.

They deserve more out of life than sitting in an empty house waiting for me to come home from work everyday and I deserve more out of my life than what I’ve resigned myself to currently.

We all do.

We all deserve to have more of out life than the four walls of our office or cubicle for 40 hours a week for 50 weeks out of the year for the next 40 or 50 years of our lives.

Is this really all we can imagine for our lives?

Personally, I have imagined so much more for my own. It does not involve fame or riches. It involves a modest income and a frugal lifestyle that allows me to prioritize what it most important to me in life.

My pets will always be one of the most important pieces of the puzzle of my life. They are as important as family or friends and they will AlWAYS be more important than work. They define who I am more than a job ever will.

My dogs and cats will always be a priority for me. I will drop work on a dime for them. They have saved me over and over again. They deserve nothing but the same in return.

For now, I will keep writing. I will work on my blog and my novel every day. I hope that one day they will be my tickets to a freer life. A life that I can live outside of the office so that I have the time and freedom to be with those that matter most to me, four legs, wagging tail, and all.

Until then, I will wake up every day and promise Bean that our time together under the sun will come soon, that mom loves her very much, and yes, of course I will miss you very much while I’m at work.

Stay tuned for my post on tips to balance pet parenting while working full time!

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