How to Traverse the Cliffs of Animal Mom Guilt

Is my bird happy?


Out of all my animals, I find myself worrying about my macaw, Soya, the most. Yes, I do feel guilty over things I did or didn’t do with my horse, Binx, or my two cats, but the mom guilt is by far the worst with Soya.


I want to start this off by saying, no, I do not have kids. I will likely have kids in the future, but as of right now, my animals are my kids. Talking to other bird owners who have kids and birds, kids are much harder than birds, however birds are the closest thing in the pet world to having kids. So, I think it is completely normal to have a certain amount of “mom guilt” when taking care of our feathered friends.


I was feeling extremely vulnerable one night and I posted on a bird group, BirdTricks Q+A, asking if anyone else experienced this feeling of mom guilt and I quickly realized…


We all feel guilty!!


Guilt means different things to different women, but we have all suffered from it in one way or another. Several days after my post, I saw a similar post in the Facebook group, Macaws. She had rescued this older military macaw and it was flourishing under her love and care, but she felt guilty about the long hours she had to work as a veterinary assistant and was worried that she wasn’t spending enough time with him. All the comments below were so sweet and encouraging.


What I realized is that “mommy guilt” is part of the deal. If I never experience some level of mommy guilt, then I’ve either:

· Attained perfection (highly unlikely)

· Or I’ve stopped caring.


This means I need to cut myself some slack. I know I’m definitely not perfect. I try to be. I try to do all the recommended tasks like 12+ hours of sleep, feed healthy foods, plenty of toys etc. But I am certainly not perfect. When I accept this, I can move on, secure in the knowledge that I’m doing all I can to make sure Soya leads a happy and fulfilled life.

The other half of this is that accepting the mom guilt allows me to realize that I care. If I didn’t care, I would have nothing to feel guilty about. The fact that I feel guilty proves that I want to do what’s best for Soya.

Although we may never fully get rid of mom guilt, here are some steps to lessen the blow as we try to navigate our day-to-day lives.


1. Stop Expecting Perfection

I’m going to say it again for the people in the back. PERFECTION DOESN’T EXIST!! Nobody is perfect and we are all going to fail at times. That’s the beauty of it. Life is a journey and the ups and downs are all a part of it. Sometimes it’s going to be smiles, sunny days, and happily playing birds, but it’s also going to include screaming, temper tantrums, and frustration. Everyone goes through this. You’re not alone. This is normal. A quote that I came across was,


“The best way to survive and thrive as a working mom is to get comfortable not giving 100% to everything all the time and remembering 80% is usually enough.”


This quote really stood out to me. I know I’ve gotten stuck feeling like I just can’t give 100% that day. It could be because I was sick, or it could be that I’m just exhausted and not able to give that energy. On these days it’s important to give yourself some compassion. Stop beating yourself up about it.


If you can only give 80%, it’s still a passing grade. You can’t physically be everything to everyone all the time. If you can’t clean the cage or make your bird it’s normal healthy breakfast, it’s ok. There is always tomorrow. Just put some pellets in the bowl instead. If you feel like you don’t have the patience or strength to deal with your bird that day, it’s ok for them to spend time in their cage. Far better to be in the cage, than for you to accidentally snap and act irrationally at them. There is always tomorrow.


2. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

It is so easy to fall into this trap. If you’re anything like me, you likely follow different bird accounts across social media. These could be Mikey the Macaw, Bird Tricks, Marlene Mc’cohen, Tyler Nolan, or others. Or you could easily fall into this comparison trap on one of the many Facebook bird groups. Some of these groups are very helpful, while others can get quite vicious.


In a lot of these Facebook groups, even the good ones, you will be faced with a barrage of “shoulds” (i.e. you should do this, you should try that, etc). This can be overwhelming for anyone, let alone a new bird owner. My recommendation? Throw the word “should” out the window. Do what you feel is right for you and your family. Take note of the recommendations, do the research, and try the ones you feel are right.


Another thing to remember is many people will only show their “sunshiny” moments. Everyone goes through storms. Even the people you are comparing yourself to.


3. Don’t Get Trapped in the Endless Circle of Questions

You know the one… “Why is my bird acting like this? Is she unhappy? I’m right here so she wouldn’t be calling for me. Maybe she wants to go outside? Is she hungry? Does she have enough toys?... Am I not doing enough?”


Stop. You are doing enough. You are enough. You are trying the best you can, but in these moments, it is easy to spiral into a circle of criticism and self-doubt.

Pause. Write all the thoughts and questions that are swirling inside your head down on paper. Look at them. Which ones are true? Do some research. Is there anything you can improve on? (Be honest with yourself.) No? Then you’re doing all you can. It may be just a phase. Please stop beating yourself up over it. If you are still concerned, it may be best to reach out to a professional bird trainer for a consultation. The big thing is trust yourself to make the right decision for you and your family.


4. Take Care of Yourself and Have Compassion for Yourself

How many times have we heard the phrase: Put your own oxygen mask on before helping others? Well, it’s true here too. You need to make the time to take care of yourself.


During our trip to Moab, I fell into this trap hard. I felt that every time I left my bird to go to dinner, I was somehow neglecting her. It didn’t matter whether she had just spent the whole day outside, flying with other parrots and hanging out with me. I still felt incredibly guilty every time I heard her scream. Thankfully I had wonderful bird mom (and dad) friends who gave me tips on putting her to bed in a hotel room setting and that I was in fact allowed to go out to dinner without feeling guilty.


“Mom’s have a unique talent for being kind and nurturing to others, and relentlessly tough on themselves.” Stop punishing yourself for the things you did or did not do!! If you’re feeling guilty, then you are probably doing the very best you can in that moment of time. Guilt will not help you change your behavior. It doesn’t make you a better mom. Just a miserable one.


Give yourself credit for all the good you are doing. Make a list of everything you accomplished that day. I promise, it’s probably longer than you think. Researchers have found that people are more confident in the decisions they make when they feel valued.

5. Make Other Bird Mom Friends

Bird mom friends are essential. When I got Soya, I had never had a bird before. I had done the research before buying her, but, like parenthood, you don’t know what you don’t know. It wasn’t until the Moab trip that I realized the power of other bird mom friendships. Other bird moms understand what you are going through, because chances are, they’ve been through it too. It is amazing to have someone to talk to and bounce ideas off that’s not the main-stream internet. You can support each other and share in your ups and downs.


References:

· https://www.scarymommy.com/embracing-the-mommy-guilt/

· https://www.huffpost.com/entry/how-to-manage-mom-guilt_n_5b990895e4b0162f4732b4a4

· https://www.activekids.com/parenting-and-family/articles/is-social-media-bad-for-teens-and-young-adults

· https://www.todaysparent.com/family/parenting/why-mom-guilt-is-the-biggest-lie-of-all/

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© 2023 by Alexandria Bass