As a pet Mom or Dad, do you ever wonder if you’re doing enough? Or do you ever find yourself comparing your parenting with what you see other pet parents doing with or for their pets? Are you consumed by guilt every time you have to leave your dog alone or decide to say no to something that would be good for them? (Like that uber-expensive spa treatment or therapy?) Trust me, you’re not the only one dealing with pet parent guilt.
Even though I have the luxury of working from home, I feel bad when I can’t take my furry kiddos on a long walk during the week, or I don’t have the time to give each one of them their own one-on-one time.
And when I forget their monthly meds? Yep, major guilt (and a Google search to see what the maximum amount of time between heartworm meds should be – as close to 30 days as possible is the answer).
Guilt is awful. It feels like everything is just a bit too hard, a bit too rusty, and a bit too stuck. Even though you may experience guilt from time to time, I’m here to tell you – no one is perfect; cut yourself some slack!
What is Pet Parenting Guilt and What Does It Look Like?
Guilt is one of those things that makes me try to find a quick fix to make things better (eeeieee – give the heartworm meds Right. Now.) or leaves me feeling like I need to over-compensate a bit to make up for whatever I haven’t done that is causing the guilt.
Pet parenting guilt can look like a lot of things:
- “I feel so bad; I had to work late again and Einstein was all alone at home!”
- “I know that canned food isn’t as healthy as homemade, but I just didn’t have the time to prep this week.”
- “Ugh, I had to skip our morning walk because of that early meeting. Bella gave me serious stink-eye.”
- “It’s been months since I last took Ranger to the dog park. I swear he’s starting to resent me for it.”
- “I keep seeing posts of people taking their pets on vacation. Meanwhile, Luna’s biggest adventure is the vet’s office.”
- “I missed Daisy’s regular vet check-up because things got so hectic. What if I’ve missed something important?”
- “After I lost Charlie, I kept going over things in my mind. Thinking about all those ‘what ifs’ and wishing I’d done things differently.” This is a big one for me.
- “And now, I’m just torn about getting another pet. I mean, is it ever really the right time after you’ve lost one?”
While guilt might be a natural human emotion, it isn’t always helpful. The experts over at Psychology Today warn that ”in excess, guilt may needlessly burden those who experience it.” I think that’s what happens often to us pet parents. We become burdened by our guilt and let it get the best of us.
But as far as I’m concerned, so long as you are doing your best to keep them healthy and happy, you are good enough!
When we can’t give our pets more, like access to us 24/7 or a high society lifestyle, it’s easy to excessively beat ourselves up. If you fall into that category, it’s time to stop the guilt trap!
5 Helpful Tips to Lessen Pet Parenting Guilt
Easier said than done, right? Comparing yourself to other pet parents is wasted time that could be spent planning an adventure with your pup.
Self-care is self-love.
Self-care for me is absolutely critical for me to be able to take care of my dogs. There are days when I’m so wiped out that I just need a nap after work. The dogs want to play, but I need some extra sleep. So after a quick playtime, I take a nap, and invite the dogs to join me (dog snores are amazingly soothing!) Making sure you’re well taken care of is the first step to making sure you can take good care of others, including your furry kids.
Don’t entertain negative thoughts.
Keeping your negative self-talk in check is another way to practice self-care. When you hear that little voice creeping in saying, “You are a terrible dog owner because….” don’t entertain the statement. That can be hard to do, but when you start having these negative thoughts, think what a good friend would tell you. And if you need to, call or text a friend – they’ll help you stop the negativity.
Add enrichment to their life where you can.
Sometimes a new toy, TV time or opening the blinds is all your pet wants to make their days alone more interesting. This doesn’t have to be anything expensive – a cardboard box with some paper and peanut butter in it can keep dogs entertained for quite a while!
I’m sure you’ve forgiven your pet for doing a “naughty” thing or two. (Bella, I’m looking at you.) That same compassion you had for your pet you can give to yourself too. When I get really busy with work and don’t spend as much time doing fun stuff with my dogs, I remind myself that they are really happy just hanging out with me, and that I am over-thinking things. If you think your dog is ‘disappointed’ with you, you are probably projecting – they are just happy to spend time with you. So give your dog a hug, and unwind with some Netflix together.
My dogs are the center of my universe (shocker, huh?). And part of my deep love for them is my deep care for them. But because I care, I open myself up to feeling guilty from time to time. As long as I keep it in check, learn and grow, I know I’m doing a good job parenting my three furry kiddos.
Try one of my tips and let me know how it went (or if you want a friendly ear to help stop the negative spiral, I’m here!) Shoot me an email at email@example.com