Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dog owner's approach speaks volumes about parenting style
Dogs and babies: In your experience, is a couple's style of dog-owning indicative of parenting style? My husband and I spoil our dog rotten. We want not to, but feel somehow powerless to change. I'm six months pregnant and want desperately not to spoil my child!
Carolyn: In my experience, dog-rearing style is a deadly accurate predictor of child-rearing style.
If you spoil your dog because "yes" is easier than "no," or makes you feel more likable, then you need to learn to say no to yourself: no shortcuts, no pandering.
The job of all parents is to set limits. The job of kids — people — is to resist limits, even when they're good for us.
That's the central tension of child-rearing, and to be consistent, effective parents, you need to decide where you fall on this issue (the all "no" parents are almost as bad as the all "yes" parents).
Find your spine — and prep your dog for the baby's arrival — in a good dog-obedience class. Graduate to a parenting class if you still feel "powerless."
Ex-DC'er: Please tell me you were kidding about dog-rearing style! My boyfriend got a dog before we met, and although he is loving and sweet to her, he doesn't take care of her! We live together, and things like walks, feeding, vet appointments, administering medicines, etc. — they all fall to me.
Not because he is unaware of them, but because he never follows through.
I have tried asking him to do specific things: "When you have a minute, would you please schedule an appointment for the dog?" But unless I ask repeatedly, which feels like nagging (ugh), it never gets done, so I end up doing it out of sympathy for the dog, since it's not her fault.
I love this man, we are discussing marriage and children, and I am suddenly terrified this is how our life would be if we had kids. How do I fix this?
Carolyn: Please know this is more incredulous than snotty: What on earth makes you think his dog sloth won't carry over to other parts of your lives?
You "fix this" — but I would go with the less-optimistic "face this" — by having a blunt conversation about how far out of balance you and he have become.
Yes, you want help. More important, though, you want to find out what he's made of morally — specifically, if he has a sense of responsibility, and if he is capable of connecting responsibility to behavior.
If he's okay with your doing everything, then, hello — the specifics of dog and child care (or laundry or lawn care or remembering birthdays) are moot.
There are people out there who feel profoundly uncomfortable when they realize they are contributing less than their share. Even if they don't know they're taking advantage, all you have to do is point out that you're feeling overwhelmed (or even just 60-40'ed) and they'll apologize and start doing better.
You want one of these, not one who thinks it's okay just to take (or, more benign but ultimately just as obnoxious, the ones who are so laid back they don't even realize it is de facto taking).
So, have the conversation. Find out which person you have.