When I was little, I wanted to work in a zoo. I loved everything about animals, and knew that no matter what, the only job that would be right for me would be one that involved caring for animals somehow. At first it was a vet. Then I wanted to be a zoo keeper after spending a summer at zoo camp. After that it was a marine biologist after a visit to Sea World.
Now when I think back on that first career choice (followed by many, many others), I realize that being a mom really isn’t that far off from zoo keeper. Oh sure, the animals I’m in charge of are directly related to me by birth, but you’d be surprised by many of the similarities.
First off, I spend most of the day dealing with keeping them in their pens. I set up gates around the house to protect Mira from certain doom, and protect precious electronics from her as well. Then I move them to their outdoor pen (aka: the backyard) where they can play in the safety of the fenced-in yard. I’m also in charge of keeping their habitats cleaned each day.
Mira is still non-verbal, so just like a wild animal I can never be sure what she’ll do next, requiring me to always be on my toes. When she needs something, I have to carefully study her body language and behavior to figure out what she’s trying to tell me.
At feeding time, I put together healthy, nutritious meals for my little animals. They pace back and forth like lions while I make meals, anxiously awaiting the tasty treats on the counter. When they get their food they tear into it, with no concern about manners or keeping their faces clean. And like a zoo keeper, I have to ask others to please not feed the animals, because food other than what I prepared for them can often make them sick. (Especially Cordy’s food allergies.)
Of course, while I have to keep them safe and healthy, I also want my children to have as much fun as possible. And this is where they truly act like zoo animals. Or more specifically, monkeys and bears. During the “witching hour” (most moms know what this is, right?), they always start out as monkeys, jumping up and down, shouting loudly, bouncing off of everything as they burn off that late-day energy. But by the end of the witching hour, just before dinner and bedtime, they become bears, wrestling each other for fun, each trying to overpower her sister.
And just like any good zookeeper, I love the ones I care for. I may not always like my job, and my little animals can (often) get on my nerves with their crazy behavior, but at the end of the day when they’re happily asleep in their beds, I sit back and think how lucky I am to do the job I wanted to do.
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