When I was 23, I got a dog for the first time in my life. It was a time when everyone else, fresh out of college, was taking time to focus on themselves- building careers, traveling the world, or otherwise exploring their venture into adulthood. But not me – I got a dog. And the timing of it was all together poor future planning and perfect future planning.
I remember bringing home this 15 pound ball of fluff crying as he tucked himself behind my back on the drive, finding safety and comfort in an unfamiliar place. I remember crying as I was overwhelmed with this need to make him feel at home. He was in my care, and I would protect him forever, as he would me. He has saved me on many occasions.
This caregiver role is surely not a one way street, but it did have a lot of implications. With every decision I made, I had someone else’s needs to consider. If I was going away or coming home late, who would take care of him? It was up to me.
I used to joke that caring for a dog was good training for having kids, and in many ways, I wasn’t wrong. The demands of kids are much more extreme but the idea of putting someone else’s needs before your own is the same. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining; that dog needs a walk. If he’s sick or hurt, I’ll drop everything to tend to him as I would my child.
I think this caregiver lifestyle was always in me. I never questioned whether or not I would have kids. I always wanted a pet. When I was in 6th grade and my pet hamster got sick, I fed him medicine through an eye dropper nursing him back to health.
I’m so used to putting others before myself. I rarely take the chance to put myself first. In college when I considered studying abroad, I decided against it for several reasons but the big one was being apart from my boyfriend for 4 months. At the time, it seemed like a deal breaker and I couldn’t do that to him. I don’t completely regret my decision, but looking back I do wonder how my life would have been different if I had said yes.
But I didn’t. Time and time again I made decisions with others in mind, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing but I do wonder what life would be like if I did something major just for me.
But I’m a mom now. I’ve signed on to one of the most extremely selfless assignments a person can sign on for, and it’s a long term assignment. For the next two decades and beyond my every decision will be made with him in mind.
I have never given as much in all my life as I do now as a mom. I give more than I knew I had. I’ve pushed my boundaries. I’ve changed. He has changed me. And while I may never know what it’s like to do something just for me, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.