An essay titled ‘Pets are not children, so stop calling them that,’ published on New York Magazine‘s The Cut just under a week ago, has sparked fierce debate the world over.
“These are confusing times,” author M.A. Wallace begins, before launching into the most unsettling concept of all: “the new idea that having a pet makes you a ‘parent.'”
At first, the essay seems like your typical rant about annoying things people do on social media, but it quickly turns into a clever argument that left many readers, including myself, with far more feelings than we anticipated.
Wallace writes that while people calling themselves pet ‘parents’ might seem benign at first, it soon becomes clear that “they’re not just being playful.”
“They sincerely believe that what they’re doing is parenthood.”
So, what's wrong with that? Why does it matter how people choose to define their relationship with their pet?
Well, according to Wallace, "it can’t mean nothing that, just as we’re confronting a terrifying kaleidoscope of unprecedented societal change, millions of people are happily, willfully confused about the difference between having a pet and raising a child.
"Parenting is our connection to the future, the means by which we attempt to influence what tomorrow’s world will be."
Oh. Essentially, Wallace is saying that by insisting our pets are our children, we're retreating from the world.
Parenting our pets is a delusion, Wallace says, that allows us to somewhat avoid thinking about what tomorrow's world will look like. Pets are consistent. They grow, but they don't develop. We can (to some extent) predict their behaviour. The time you spend with your pet will almost always be the same. Your pet won't learn to walk, or talk, or to be independent, like a child does.
Moreover, Wallace points out that your pet ALREADY HAD A PARENT. An animal parent, who, given the opportunity, would have taught your pet how to operate in its intended environment.
Listen to Mia, Holly and Jessie discuss whether pets are children on Mamamia Outloud.
"That parent was another animal who [would have taught your pet] how to find food, where to find shelter, and what to avoid that might kill it. What you have to teach your pet is how to relate to the human world (mostly how not to eat shoes, hump legs, or ruin carpets)," the author continues.