I’m not someone who’s easily offended. I’m a “live and let live” kind of gal, generally speaking, as long as you’re not hurting or bothering anyone (or yourself).
For ages, though, I found myself rolling my eyes over the same pet adoption memes again and again. But I never thought to comment on them.
Fast forward to this past week when I read a long, emotional post from a family in an adoption group I’m in talking about how one of their middle-school-aged children mentioned in a class project that he was adopted, and the other kids started saying things like: Do you think your real mom will ever come back to get you? At least you weren’t aborted! Are you afraid your adoptive parents will change their minds and give you back? and so on…
The parents’ request was simple: Please talk to your children about adoption so they don’t inadvertently crush my kid.
Juxtapose that with the pet adoption memes I kept seeing, and I finally realized there’s a teaching opportunity here!
No, I don’t harbor any delusions of changing the internet, but I also feel like when it comes to topics like adoption, there’s just not enough conversation out there. So, here’s an avenue to ask YOUR questions, add your voice, and share your ideas. I wanted to start the discussion with seemingly-harmless pet adoption memes.
There are two memes in particular I want to address: the “you’re not my real mom” meme and the “adopt love” meme.
This one, you guys:
It’s everywhere with tons of different breeds.
Or there’s this version:
Here’s the thing: The amazing woman who gave birth to Violet and I are BOTH her real moms. End of story. Pet adoption memes somehow imply that either the birth mom (or some prefer “first mom” or “natural mom” but it’s up to her how she wants to identify) or the adoptive mom are less “real” than the other. I can assure you, we are both real women who both have important roles in Violet’s life. Sure, it seems funny because they’re animals so obviously we’re not the mom, though I argue that many, many, many pet people do consider themselves their pet’s parent, and that’s a no-less-real role.
Using these supposedly funny pet adoption memes about “real” moms belittles and judges both women who are moms to an adoptee. It seems silly because it’s pets, but the larger message spreads the hurtful ideas that poor kiddo had to face in his middle school classroom.
Also, a small quibble with that first version: In this day and age, adoptees know they’re adopted. It should be a part of their life story because, well, it’s a part of their life. A big part. The whole “OMG?!?!?” trope is played out.
Love for Sale
I get the idea they’re trying to share, that adopting a shelter animal brings love. However, these memes perpetuate a dangerous myth for shelter animals because it implies that as soon as you bring your adopted pet home, he or she will love you to pieces. Life will be great. You’ve adopted love, after all!
I can tell you: Out of the three dogs we’ve adopted, that’s only been true for one of them. For the fosters and cats? None.
It also places MASSIVE amounts of pressure on adoptive families who adopt older kids, kids who have been through the wringer of the foster system, kids from overseas… it says: Hey! Adopt and get love! When the reality is that it takes hard, long, dedicated work to build trust and build a bond that eventually leads to love.
Plus, another small quibble: Is there an unstated implication that if you purchase a pet from a breeder, you’re not getting love?
The heart is in the right place. I get that with pets the human emotion isn’t a part of the equation, so the memes seem funny. I hope to share, though, the greater implications behind these “jokes” and what it might look like to the humans in the adoption triad: the birth mom, the adoptive mom (or dad), and the adoptee.
My feathers get ruffled when I see adopted children getting picked on simply because they’re adopted. I feel like pet adoption memes perpetuate ideas about adoption that just aren’t true. And I personally think adopted children are doubly lucky because they have a birth family and an adoptive family, multiplying the love in their life and in the world.
I do know that lots and lots of people get THEIR feathers ruffled when kids are compared to pets, but… let’s be honest here. There are a lot of similarities. So, it’s my hope with this post to open a conversation about adoption–whether you’re coming at it from the pet side, the human side, or the enjoys-memes side.
What do you think? I’d love to know in the comments your impression of these pet adoption memes and what questions you have about adoption from any angle! This is a safe space for any question that might comes up. I think we learn best when we share our own experiences, so I’d LOVE to know your take in the comments below!