Off the record: Barking on Parenthood

If people want to refer to their pets as their children, go right ahead. Who's it harming anyways?

Life can be difficult for many people, or even for all of us. There are bills to be paid, goals to meet and career expectations are thrust upon us. For many people, an often overlooked escape can be found throughout life’s struggles in parenthood.

Whether it be children or, yes, even pets, the intimate relationship associated with parenthood is one that can make even the darkest corners of someone’s life all the better.

This column comes as a reactionary piece to a New York Magazine entitled, “Pets Are Not People So Stop Calling Them That,” in which M.A. Wallace makes the arbitrary point of being upset with pet owners who refer to themselves as parents.

Wallace first starts by presenting the point that although it at first seems benign when people refer to themselves as parents of pets, touting bumper stickers that read something along the lines “my child has four paws,” he drives home the overall point that this initial harmless thought becomes something more when people subscribe too much to this belief and actually consider themselves real parents.

To this, the easy question to put forward is, who does this belief harm, really?

Without being a parent of a child myself, I have to ask: does it really lower one’s worth as a parent because someone else claims parenthood over a pet? It seems ludicrous that their semantics should have any influence in your life. It would be the logical equivalent of a truck owner getting upset when someone claims membership in the truck community through owning a SUV. Is it true parenthood in the sense of a child and mother/father? No, maybe not, but who is it really harming if someone puts that label on themselves?

It’s this focus on these labels that causes so many problems in our society. When it comes to religion, job title, race, sexual orientation, etc., society establishes characteristics for each of these labels to the point that if you don’t obviously fit in, you’re treated as some sort of outcast. Nuance these days seems to be a foregone illusion.

Parenthood is just one more of these labels with certain expectations or qualifications. One of these qualifications is the point that we raise children to become independent from their parents. In contrast, our relationship with pets, as Wallace argues, is that we keep them to meet our needs, not theirs. That argument falls flat on its face when you consider the amount of people who adopt pets from shelters or rescue them from previous bad owners. Are those owners or parents of pets really doing it for their own satisfaction? It would be difficult to completely side with that argument.

At the end of the day, if people want to call themselves parents because they love their one-year-old Rottweiler, who am I or anyone else to say they aren’t able to call themselves that? If their designation has no impact on anyone else’s life beyond their own, let them call themselves what they want.

If this is a small step to make the world a better place, it seems like an easy decision to me.

Ever refer to your dog as your son or daughter? Shoot me a line at

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