Health

Angela Mollard: How to shed the guilt over not getting your kids a dog

Columnist Angela Mollard refused to get her daughters a dog when they were younger and years later contemplates whether it was the right decision.

For the most part I think I’ve been a reasonable parent.

I may have lost it one Sunday when the eldest announced she’d left her flute at school an hour before she was due to play in a concert but generally I’ve been an enthusiastic and loving mum.

Except in one regard.

I said no to getting a dog.

Not once, but over and over for 20 years.

I said no when the youngest, aged nine, wrote only one thing on her Christmas wish list. “Dog”.

I said no when the eldest, aged 15, mounted an argument so convincing and persuasive it was clear she had a future as a crown prosecutor.

I even said no when they joined forces and bombarded me with cute images of rescue dogs with names as beguiling as Biscuit and Homer.

I was resolute in my refusal to get a dog, not because I don’t like dogs — I love them — but because I couldn’t take care of another living thing.

When I was married my husband travelled for up to six months of the year and with no family in town, domestic life was on my shoulders.

When we separated all my energy was taken up with financially, mentally and emotionally managing my reconfigured family.

If there was a spare minute, I wanted to run or swim. Alone. Not tethered to a creature which needed something from me.

Yet unbeknownst to my daughters, behind my emphatic “no dog” stance was a St Bernard-sized pile of guilt. I’d see families mucking about on a beach with their dog and feel bad that I was the obstacle to such happiness.

I’d watch my children fruitlessly try to engage with our cat, a loveable but lazy lump of ginger fur.

And I’d get teary watching movies such as Red Dog or Eight Below or Marley and Me where dogs were not so much a fluffy appendage to everyday life but heart-swelling emblems for life itself.

Every damn cinema dog from Old Yeller to Lassie to Bailey, the adorable golden retriever in A Dog’s Purpose, seemed to reinforce the notion that dog love has an unconditionality, loyalty and affection that human love can only aspire to.

It was after one such viewing of Marley soldering the saccharine-perfect pairing of Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson that guilt nearly led me to cave. I went online to see what was involved in getting our own Marley.

But first I asked a friend with a dog what she thought.

“You’ve got to be mad,” she exclaimed, pointing out how her own fluffball was stalling our power walk.

“The girls will adore the dog but you’ll be the only one who will feed it, walk it and organise care for it every time you go on holiday.”

She doubled down.

“Your sofa will be covered in hair, the cat will hate it and the vet bills are astronomical,” she continued, dragging her dog by the lead as he attempted to indulge in some enthusiastic bottom-sniffing.

About then I remembered how the little bugger had once confused my leg for a lamp post and peed against it.

Another friend with two dogs concurred, pointing out how her family had gone out for the day but couldn’t stay on for an impromptu dinner because they’d already left the dog for six hours.

But worse than having your life curtailed by a dog, she pointed out, were dog owners.

“People fetishise their dogs,” she said.

“When we were growing up dogs lived outside and kids looked after them. But now dogs are treated like children and their owners expect everyone else to not just tolerate them, but adore them.”

In the end we remained dogless and I continued to carry around the guilt.

And then this summer something miraculous happened. Their dad and his partner got a puppy. Even better, they were going away for 10 days and needed the girls to look after it.

There’s no question Rufus is adorable but he’s a puppy. He wakes early, is in the process of being toilet trained and needs plenty of attention. He’s yet to be taught what can be chewed and what can’t. He isn’t old enough to go to dog parks or cafes or even on a walk.

As the girls tag teamed dog care, they’d return home exhausted. One morning the youngest came home bleary-eyed with Rufus in her arms.

“Can you just look after him for a few hours,” she pleaded. “I need to sleep.”

It turns out having a puppy is just like having a baby. I played with Rufus, fed him and cleaned up when he mistook the rug for the lawn. Then I handed him back even though there were murmurings about him interfering with her plans to socialise.

“A dog is for life,” I pointed out, “not just for Christmas.”

Turns out Rufus is my favourite dog ever. He’s illustrated the cost and effort involved in pet ownership, reinforced the need for birth control and removed my guilt for good.

angelamollard@gmail.com; twitter.com/angelamollard

ANGELA LOVES…

PLANTABLE CARDS

I love sending a thank you card but am bothered by the wastefulness. So I was thrilled to discover plantable cards from Inartisan.com which are impregnated with seeds such as forget-me-nots and Swan River daisies. Read and sow.

MOVIE

Summer is a perfect time for unearthing movies you may have missed and Quartet (SBS) set in a retirement home for professional musicians features a fab ensemble cast including Maggie Smith and Billy Connolly.

DOLPHINS

They’ve turned up most days for my holiday swims in Yamba and this week we learned they have even better sex lives than previously thought.

12 ways to improve your overall health and wellbeing

Don’t you love January? Such a balmy, happy month spoilt only by the nauseating proliferation of articles and podcasts on self-improvement.

A lifetime ago when I worked in magazines we’d spend the second half of the year brainstorming which celebrity, come January, might pose on the cover in their bikini. Miraculously we convinced Patti Newton, Kerri-Anne Kennerley and Sonia Kruger who, let’s face it, have been gifted superior genes and will all doubtless look amazing at 100 irrespective of whether they eat sauerkraut, adopt ice bathing or take up weighted hula hooping.

Nevertheless, we’d weave the personal stories of our cover girls with health and fitness tips from experts, giving hope to millions that they, too, could look like Sonia which is patently absurd.

In any case, all the advice was the same: eat less, move more, blah, blah, blah. But it kept us in a job – thanks to the reams of advertising booked by tinned tuna companies.

Fast forward 15 years and nothing’s changed except the inspo now comes via Instagram and TikTok influencers who peddle ever more spurious health trends in their quest for followers.

Hence, this year potato milk is the most sustainable alt-milk to add to your coffee, eye yoga will give your retinas a workout, reverse running will apparently improve your aerobic fitness (if it doesn’t break your ankle) and mushroom “bacon” will usurp smashed avocado and ruin forever the multiple healing properties of a humble bacon and egg roll.

Notwithstanding that this guff makes me feel decidedly UNWELL, it’s accompanied by hi-tech devices guaranteed to cripple your financial health. A Lumen (it looks like a vibrator) measures the carbon dioxide in your breath and gives users a tailored daily recommended diet while a company called Monk is breathlessly (which is what you’ll be) spruiking the first smart ice bath for a cool (actually, bloody freezing) $6000. Not to ruin their business plan but you can get two bags of party ice from the servo for less than a tenner.

Fortunately I spent most of last year trialling a range of small health, fitness and wellness improvements just for the fun of it. Here’s 12 tweaks which actually work.

Cold showers

Every bloke I know is following the Wim Hof method which basically involves breathing exercises and cold therapy. I mastered breathing a minute after exiting the womb but finishing my shower with a minute of cold, whatever the season, leaves me feeling zingy and motivated.

Omelettes

I’ve never dieted but can see the sense of intermittent fasting where you only eat during an 8-hour window. Typically I start the day with an omelette around 11am, filling it with a load of veggies including spinach, tomato, herbs, and, best of all, corn kernels. Keeps me going until dinner.

Dancing

The divine Rebecca Gibney got me into dancing for exercise and a single track provides a high intensity workout wherever you are. Daft Punk’s Get Lucky is a fave. I throw in a few aerobics moves to anything from Pat Benatar.

Blusher

Sure it’s fake health but blusher makes your eyes look whiter and your skin look glowy. Charlotte Tilbury’s Cheek to Chic is my pick.

Resting

So many of us have trouble with insomnia. Instead of using anxiety-producing sleep trackers I take the advice of my GP who says: “If you can’t sleep just cheerfully remind yourself you’re at least resting.” Sends me to sleep every time.

Posture exercise

Square shoulders are my favourite physical feature in anyone. To maintain my own – and combat screen time – I take a length of wooden dowling, grasp it at either end and lift it over my head a dozen times. Great stretch.

Wearing colour

When Victoria Beckham eschews her sultry looks and turns out fabulous jumpers in hot pink and daffodil you know the mood has changed. Colour is a joyous two-finger salute to lives up-ended by Covid.

Listening to understand

So many are already rebutting or disqualifying another’s reality before they’ve even finished their sentence. Proper listening requires attention, acceptance and curiosity. Anything else is defensive and weak.

Drink switch

So much of good health is thwarted by an all-or-nothing approach which is why I avoid Feb Fast and Dry July. The best way to stick to the government recommendation is to alternate a glass of alcohol with water. Limits imbibing and is great for hydration.

Strength

Adele credits her new look with lifting weights and as I get older strength is everything. But Covid has killed my gym workouts so I rely on a daily program of squats, push-ups and sit-ups. Start with sets of 20 and work up to doing 100 of each a day.

Headphones

I’m not tech-savvy but a pair of headphones which transmit sounds through the cheekbones while ensuring your ears remain open to ambient sound has been life changing to my walks and runs. I use AfterShokz Aeropex.

24-hour Rule

If something troubles me I try to wait 24 hours before raising it with anyone else. The benefits are two-fold: my concern either dissipates or the time gifts me the ability to raise the problem with calm and grace.

angelamollard@gmail.com; twitter.com/angelamollard

ANGELA LOVES…

BOOK

If, like me, you cook fish in one of two ways – panko crumbed or grilled and doused with lemon, Josh Niland’s Take One Fish will transform how you cook anything from the sea.

SCAM ADVICE

The ACCC’s The Little Black Book of Scams will help you spot, avoid and protect yourself against scams. I picked up a free copy from my bank after falling victim to one scoundrel.

SPF

Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer Face and Body Dry Touch sunscreen is non-greasy, has an SPF of 50 and is as cheap as chips which is what your face will look like if you don’t use it.

Planning when to catch Covid in 2022

My daughter gave me a diary for Christmas.

It’s one of those cute Kikki K ones with the days of the week in Swedish and little illustrations of a girl walking her dog, watering her plants and writing in her journal. On the cover it says: “2022: Now Is The Time”.

Time for what?

Time to book another holiday which will inevitably be cancelled?

Time for a family reunion with parents and siblings overseas?

Time to kickstart a new work project which will require some travel interstate?

We all know that’s about as likely as Donald Trump announcing he’s gender fluid so, instead, I’ve gone through my new diary working out when would be the most convenient time to get Covid.

The next two weeks won’t work because I have both my daughters home and we have a holiday planned on the coast. This has been delayed as our host caught Covid and it would be pretty bad form to reinfect him.

Early January would also be bloody annoying since I had my booster shot on Monday and being felled by Covid would limit my opportunities to be righteous about it. Plus my eldest is only with us for another fortnight before she returns to her military studies. Imagine if I gave it to her then she infected the entire defence force and then China invaded Taiwan and we had to deploy a bunch of ailing soldiers and sailors. No, that won’t work.

Then there’s the younger daughter. She’s working in an artisan bakery over the summer and brings home the most delicious bread and pastries. I suppose we could freeze supplies in preparation – and after four months in lockdown together we’re well practised in amusing ourselves with Netflix and games of Battleship. Plus, she did get a bath bomb kit for Christmas so that will provide an alternative to online shopping for 7.36 minutes.

But having Covid at the same time as a teenager wouldn’t be fun. Quite rightly, it’s the peak age for doing what you please and having to listen to the moaning which would accompany a 10-day confinement would somewhat spoil the Zen I’ve heard you can achieve with solitary isolation.

Scrolling through the diary, February might work but I’ve got tickets to see Midnight Oil on the 23rd so I’d prefer to be listening to Beds Are Burning than be burning one up myself with the night sweats which are reportedly grim. Later than that would be inconvenient because that’s when Jacinda Ardern has promised (a loose concept) to reopen the New Zealand borders which means I’ll be able to see my mum.

March is therefore out and April … well, it’d be a shame to miss Easter since Christmas was such a stress bomb what with trying to set up a black market in rapid antigen tests and faux empathising with Western Australia after their fortress approach was finally compromised.

If God can roll back a tombstone and raise Jesus from the dead then surely the least he can do is divert Covid for long enough for us to celebrate the fact.

May is out because I’ve earmarked that for a yoga retreat in Bali. Please don’t laugh. As the recently departed Desmond Tutu wisely said: “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.” Nietzsche, conversely, said that hope is the “worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man” but he was always a miserable sod.

Which leaves me with June and, as we all know, six months is a long time in a pandemic. By then we’ll doubtless have traversed the kappa, sigma, upsilon and chi variants. Incidentally, hasn’t it been wonderful learning the Greek alphabet?

Because I work freelance I lose money whenever I can’t work but for all of you with a holiday entitlement I recommend not getting it on the first day of your break. That’s really poor planning, robbing you not just of your sick pay entitlement but sympathy from colleagues.

I’d also recommend allocating at least a two-week window for Covid because it’s not the only disease on the buffet of ailments which can up-end your plans. Take my mates Jules and Dave. They had a trip planned to Tassie so set the alarm for 5am to get in the Covid testing queue before heading south to jump on the Spirit Of Tasmania.

Trouble is one of the rellies on Christmas Day was harbouring a stomach bug and they woke with violent eruptions from both ends. Needless to say they missed the test, missed the boat and are currently enjoying a week in Toowoomba.

So it’s in that spirit that I have diarised Covid to strike me anytime between Jan 14 and Jan 28 when I have a friend’s 50th birthday. Ideally, the 14th because that would coincide with the fifth Ashes Test and have me out of iso by Australia Day.

Wish me luck.

ANGELA LOVES …

SALAD

A friend bought Yotam Ottolenghi’s delicious sweet winter slaw with mango, mint, macadamia and cabbage for Christmas and it’s superb. Google it. Not wintry at all.

GOLF

I appreciate it’s going to be a love/hate relationship but what a cracker sport.

PODCAST

I’m a long-time fan of Michael Mosley and love this podcast which teaches you simple and easy health advice from singing to changing your meal times and the rationale behind them.

Originally published as Angela Mollard: How to shed the guilt over not getting your kids a dog



Angela Mollard: How to shed the guilt over not getting your kids a dog Source link Angela Mollard: How to shed the guilt over not getting your kids a dog

Related Articles

Back to top button