How My Family Pets Make Me a Better Parent

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I grew up in a home where pets were family members. Their birthday celebrations rivaled my own with all the party hats and singing—but I was fine without all the Milk-Bones. And while my childhood memories included playing with my sister, I also remember playing with my family pet. I’d tell my big, sweet Irish Setter my worries, and when we talked, well … I did most of the talking; I felt loved. My furry friends have always been there to support me, and when I became a parent, I needed it. 

Parenting Is Tricky

I must’ve missed the memo that read “Parenting is Tricky.” It was probably given out during that one long shower I took. I’d gotten all the handouts on sleep deprivation, temper tantrums, and refusing to eat anything green and healthy-looking. I knew parenting would be up and down, but I didn’t realize how often I’d doubt my skills. 

Some evenings, my brain spent entire episodes of Stranger Things overthinking how I handled it all. Then with timing as perfect and predictable as my 8-year-old asking for 11 glasses of water before bedtime, one of my dogs would place a head in my lap to distract me from myself. I’d be nuzzled until I gave ear rubs, and after a few scratches, my worries magically lessened. 

My Pets Decrease My Stress

Studies show living with pets can decrease feelings of stress and increase feelings of support. As a kid, my pets were the BFFs I needed to help me get through school drama and bouts of loneliness. But now that I’m a parent, my family pets are a different type of support system. When the days feel rushed (which is all of them), or I feel the momming self-doubt creeping in, my two dogs, cat, and hamster remind me that those who live in the moment are happier. I never notice my dog worrying if he did a good job playing catch or my cat fretting about anything at all. 

Photo Credit: Tonillyn Hornung

The Benefits of Being in the Present Moment

“What did you say?” I asked my husband. He’d been talking for a while about his day, but I was in the middle of overthinking and brushing my teeth. I was replaying the talk I had earlier with my son. Helping him through weird issues on the playground, I wondered if I’d done my best to support him. My gums started to hurt from all the brushing, and that’s when as if on cue, I felt a clumsy paw touch my leg. I turned so fast; a glob of toothpaste landed on my dog’s head — but he didn’t mind. I was about to tell him it was too late for cuddles when the concerned look in his eyes told me maybe the cuddling wasn’t for him. I was the one who needed to tune in and slow down. 

My Pets Support My Parenting 

Whether my big puppies are tapping me on the leg, giving me toys to throw, or asking for a cuddle, their ability to remain in the present shows me how to enter each moment fully. This connection allows me to be more present with myself and, therefore, more present in my parenting. So, when I hear my son say, “Mom, I’m feeling worried,” I can settle more easily into that space with him and just be there. 

Those who live in the moment can appreciate the simple pleasures of life. And these are the happy #lifegoals I have for myself and would like to model for my 8-year-old. The unconditional love my pets show me reminds me I have this same love to give within myself. 

Tags: parenting, Pets, Stress Mangagement

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Written By

Tonilyn Hornung

Tonilyn is an author and freelance writer who lives with her husband, young son, many furry friends, and never enough closet space. See Full Bio

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