When my first son was born, it came as no surprise to me that my life changed—a lot. What really caught me off guard as quite a shock was how much my identity changed, especially in the eyes of the people around me. There may very well be a sexist component to this because many women are viewed nearly exclusively as moms no matter how involved they stay in their career and the other interests in their lives. Dads are far more likely, in my experience, to continue to be viewed with a respect for all that they do beyond parenting. If other people have had a different experience in this regard, I understand that, but I am speaking about how life has come at me and most of my friends of both genders.
One of the bright spots in the struggle to maintain my full identity was the number of baby gifts we received with a dog theme. All of the blankets, onesies, socks, and other gifts that had dogs on them meant a lot to me. Those thoughtful gifts reminded me that I was still a dog trainer and canine behaviorist and that my friends and relatives saw me as such. The baby books about dogs allowed me to share that identity early on with my sons, and that was also much appreciated.
Now that I have teenagers, I have long adjusted to my new and ever-changing identity since reproducing, but I remember that lost feeling whenever I learn that one of my younger colleagues has had a baby. Knowing that they may be plunging into an identity black hole, I try to do my part to toss some light in. That means that the baby gifts I give almost always have a dog theme. There are adorable blankets and bath towels with dogs on them and an endless amount of baby clothes and books with a canine theme.
I’m sure some people get sick of everything baby being about dogs, and I can understand that. Something always seems to be in excess with children. With two little boys, I felt at one point that far too many items of clothing had trucks on them. A friend with three girls once said that everything in her house was the color of Pepto Bismol and she couldn’t take it anymore. (Amusingly, I have no problem with large numbers of Kongs, leashes or squeaky toys littering my floor. I just never seem to tire of dog gear, and it makes no difference if it’s for a human or a canine.)
Whether we work with dogs professionally or whether they are a purely recreational joy, they are a part of our identity—no matter what else is going on in our lives.