Five (or more) animals that do parenting better than me

I feel like I’ve used every tool in my Parenting Arsenal, and the kids still aren’t playing ball. Am I just overthinking things? 

I’m not arguing against evidence-based parenting (obviously!), but there are times when I wonder if I might do better going on instinct…but usually as I’m thinking this I am also looking up the latest research into whatever the problem is, and trying to perform a meta-analysis in my head!

So, in an effort to let go just a little bit, I’m going to take my inspiration from the animal kingdom. Today I feel like these guys are doing better than me:

1. The bug that invented reigns

Reins. They’re controversial. We’ve never used them, preferring the more risky tactic of screeching “WAIT” and “STOP” at regular intervals, with the occasional sprint-and-grab manoeuvre when they “don’t hear” my requests.

But what if there was an easier way? Check out this dude. This little just tethered his or her kids to him and dragged them around (we think, and I have no idea of the gender)! Now this was 430 million years ago, and could do with a bit of updating. If I’m going to drag my kids round 24/7 there’s going to have to be some pretty good sound-proofing! 

But still, I feel like this little bug had better control of their kids! They win.

2. My cat the cleaner

I try to keep the kids looking clean and presentable, but generally I fail. Boybug always seems to have a trail of snot, and chin fluff (I never knew this was a thing until I had Boybug, Girlbug never had a double chin!). Girlbug is always a little bit inky round the edges.

My cat had kittens way before we owned her so I never saw her maternal prowess in action. But, as I watch her groom my husband, I marvel at her ability to clean without wet wipes. While I shudder at the thought of licking the bolognese-strawberry yoghurt medley off Boybug’s face, an abrasive cleaning appendage could come in useful. A cat tongue, but without the tastebuds, preferably located on an extremity. 

Cats keep their young far cleaner than I do. They win.

3. Seahorses and water bugs: daddy power

Sometimes, when I’m failing at remaining calm in the face of Girlbug’s demands and/or Boybug’s mischief, I wonder if my husband might be better suited to raising the brood. He’s certainly calmer and less quick to get riled (unless he stubs his toe – you don’t want to see the fallout from a stubbed toe). 

Now the seahorse is the obvious example of the daddy taking the parenting role, but this little waterbug does too. He carries the kids around on his back, while mum does whatever mummy waterbugs do. I know what I’d be doing, given the chance – people-watching in coffee shops, sitting in parks reading my book, sleeping and having a bath. Unfortunately for me, if the husband was looking after the kids we’d have no money coming in. As he earns more, I’d have to work 24 hrs a day to cover our expenses. That’s much less fun than I had hoped. That, and I miss the baby bugs and get a bit bored without them.

However, any animal (or human for that matter) that has managed to truly share the kid-duties, and strike a perfect kids, work, life balance are definitely winning.

4. This judgy wallaby

This picture sums it all up, and was the inspiration for this post. Just look at her. All smug with her baby in her pouch. Meanwhile Boybug jumps in a puddle with unsuitable shoes, screams loudly at the pigs and has a lie down protest about biscuits so that I’m forced to carry him back to the car. We both look a bedraggled, muddy mess by the end of it. Both of us need a nap.

Wallaby. You definitely won the “kids under control” contest that day!

5. All lower mammals

Ah. Feeding. My breastfeeding days are behind me, but with both children I was startled by the learning curve of feeding a small human. Boybug was a joy to feed (read greedy and efficient). Girlbug was slow and tortuous in the beginning, though we got there eventually, through gritted teeth. 

At some point in the evolution of the great apes, we’ve gone from breastfeeding being instinctive, like cats and dogs, pigs and sheep, to a learned behaviour. And then shortly after that we covered our breasts, making learning so much more difficult. We’ve kind of shot ourselves in the foot there! Only us and captive gorillas have breastfeeding councillors (yup, they do!). Pigs manage to feed multiples without a knitted nipple in sight!

We are the epithamy of overthinkers. Lower mammals win feeding. Well, at the beginning. I think I win now. Now we can all eat food. While our trip to the café for lunch was at times fraught, it was probably easier than hunting for our food, or spending all day eating grass!

Which animal would you be and why?

So, like a bad interview question, which animal parent would you be and why? My first instinct was to go with a cat…but then my cat is as harassed by my children as I am. The smug wallaby looks pretty happy. Not so much freedom though. Maybe a wild animal. I’m thinking dolphin. Bit of a cliché, but they seem to have a good deal. Nursing only takes a max of 10 seconds, and they make their tongue into a kind of straw to get milk, rather than clamping human lips. And after 4 or 5 months they can go get their own fish – that sounds a much simpler way of weaning. The 12 month pregnancy sounds like a drag, but at least they get to spend it submerged in the sea – probably helps with the aches and pains.


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