I woke yesterday morning to the second day of a post-media-awards-hangover and a wee bag with some chocolates in it. These were apparently from our dog Foley for Mother’s Day – my partner insisted it was all Foley’s idea and doing.
Foley has no income despite our constant urging that he get a job. He also has one bung leg and is, well, a dog, but I’ll let that lie. The tag on the bag read ‘To: Best Lady. From: Folio’. It made me cry and if anyone asks, I will blame the hangover for this until the day I die.
Mother’s Day can be really tough. It’s tough for those who desperately want to be mums and aren’t. It’s tough for people with complicated relationships with their mums and it’s tough for people whose mums aren’t around anymore. My mum is around and she is the greatest. She is strong, intelligent and gracious. She’s capable of putting anyone at ease but has the same low bullshit threshold I have. We are a lot alike. This amuses people, sometimes I get called Franna (her first name is Frances). Overall, I am grateful for what I’ve inherited from her.
But we differ in a lot of ways. She is a mum and I am not. Apparently you come to understand your mother more when you have kids of your own and I kinda hate being told that because currently there is a question mark over whether I ever will be a mother. My partner and I fit into the category described so gently by our Prime Minister in her pregnancy announcement as probably needing a bit of help.
We deal with this uncertainty reasonably quietly and calmly. We’re yet to get our definitive ‘no’ or fully embark on the hopeful and possibly heartbreaking journey to finding out. We’re both a bit scared about it but have resolved to try and leave things in the lap of the assisted help gods. Que será, será. Our possible child-free future involves a lot of travel and Foleys 2, 3, 4 and 5. Neither of us regret our choices to date or the paths taken that have led us to where we are now: 38 and 36, engaged and uncertain whether we’ll be parents.
Every now and again though, it is hard. I am always shocked to find myself staring at other people’s babies with a strange mix of happiness and yearning. Watching the Disney Pixar movie ‘Coco’ has resulted in me threatening to print photos of us to give to our friends’ child for her mantle so we don’t end up forgotten forever. Seeing the man I’m marrying playing with other people’s kids always sets off an ovarian spasm and sometimes TV ads with kids in them make me cry a lot.
For now however, I have our old dog. I’m not his ‘Mum’ because he’s not ‘my dog’ as such, having belonged to my partner and his ex. I respect that but he lives with us and quite honestly, I had no idea you could love an animal as much as I love Foley. It was quite a shock to discover that a sometimes smelly, sometimes quite dumb, always hungry dog could win me over the way he has.
I didn’t grow up with pets. My parents always maintained three children were enough and honestly, this is a very fair assessment. I had goldfish – Santa, Bubbles and Squeak – but they died and my brother threw one of them out the window, proving my parents right about their decision not to let us have animals.
I temporarily had a cat, Cole/Coal (was never sure), the result of a break up between one of my best friends and her boyfriend and her subsequent move to another city. In a decision that was best for everyone but mainly the cat, he then went to live with my boyfriend at the time we also broke up. He died of a heart attack and I am a truly heinous person for fighting the urge to laugh when called with the news. It wasn’t the animal dying, it was the heart attack. I didn’t know cats could have them and for some reason, the most likely being that I’m a sociopath, I thought it was funny.
I always mocked people who talked about their fur babies or treated their animals like they were part of the family. I just didn’t get it. I liked animals, sure, but letting them sleep in your bed? Gross. Spending exorbitant money on vets seemed stupid to me. As substitutes for children, I thought animals were a lame, unrealistic and indulgent alternative. I now completely understand just how much animals can worm their way into your heart.
Foley sleeps in our bed and after he nearly died last year, I am resigned to the fact that as long as he’s not in pain or has a bad quality of life, we will spend what we can to keep him going. Foley isn’t a child. His needs are obviously far less complex than that of a human, but we love him to bits. He has personality – he is naughty at times, he is lazy, he gets grumpy and sometimes we swear at him a lot. He mainly eats, sleeps and pees. He is old and needs help getting about sometimes and we give him all the help we can. He is the closest thing I have right now to a dependant and I am a fierce defender of him and the importance of animals in our lives.
If it turns out we can’t have children, there is some comfort in having come to understand how much I can love an animal and just how much I want to care for and protect them. My partner will often greet us when he comes home with a ‘Hello family’ and it’s only in the past two years I’ve been able to understand this as a true statement. I am Foley’s Best Lady and Mother’s Day is made a little easier knowing I can expect a wee pressie that’s definitely from him and his future namesakes for as long as we have room in my heart and homes for the fur babies.