I feel guilty.
I guess that’s not unusual, as I do live a fairly privileged life. But specifically, I constantly worry that I am a terrible mother. Much like a stereotypical character on a sitcom, I am certain that my children all hate me, and that I have failed them in many ways.
I probably should clarify: I do not have biological children, nor do I have a real desire for any. If my grandmother has any say in it, that opinion will change. But for now, my only children are my pets. And I am terrified that I am a bad mother to them.
My cat is a 14-year-old, beautiful, long-haired spoiled brat. Champion is pure white with light blue eyes, and everyone who sees him falls in love. I certainly did when I brought him home 11 years ago.
He recently had to undergo dental surgery for abscesses that formed under four teeth, so he’s a little more pathetic now. He’s lost about 5 pounds and started yanking out his fur and peeing constantly. He feels insanely bony, and looking at him makes me sad. So I feel terribly guilty.
Worse, I now have to live two hours from him for at least another three months. While I was at college over the past two years, he lived with my father and I lived in a dorm. But I always had summers with him, and now I don’t. I worry that he feels forgotten or abandoned or that he’ll forget me. So I’m guilt-stricken.
My second son, Alexei, is a gorgeous communist betta fish. He’s about 2 inches long and lives with my third son and middle child, Vladimir the snail. They inhabit a 2-gallon tank and coexist fairly peacefully. General recommendations for betta fish call for a gallon of water for every 2 inches of fish, including fins. My poor children live right on the edge of this. And while I plan to buy them a new tank soon, I feel guilty.
I also feel guilty because when I moved to the Springs, I had to transport their tank for more than a 1½-hour drive. They lost about 2 inches of water, their plastic coconut house overturned, and algae dislodged from the rocks at the bottom, floating all through the water. I’ve had a cold lately, though, and haven’t resettled the tank the way I should. Vlad seems excited by all of the extra food, and Alexei is excited for a change of scenery and the new hiding places available. But I still feel so very guilty.
I love my pseudo babies very much and would do anything for them. If I feel that much love and guilt for a cat, fish and snail, I cannot imagine surviving the breadth of emotions associated with a real human child. So I’ll stick to my pets.