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The Last Thing Moms Want to Do Is Cuddle a Baby Animal

Photograph by Twenty20

It started with baby goats. My Facebook feed filled up with links to a farm in Virginia (my home state) where volunteers could cuddle baby goats for four-hour shifts. My friends sighed and cooed, more than one of them announced, "My dream job!!" and I sat, jaw agape and horrified.

Volunteer to hold a baby animal for four hours? A wriggling, squirming, bleating (do goats bleat?), hairy, smelly baby animal? For free? That's not just a nope, that's a hell nope.

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There was a time when my heart went pitter-pat over baby animals, too—animals of all kinds, really. Once I had quite the menagerie of pets and my friends worried I'd become one of those animal hoarders you see on the news because of my soft heart and willingness to put up with all manner of animal shenanigans. But no, my pets have all lived long and happy lives and as they have … left us, shall we say … I haven't replaced them, and I have no desire to. I glance at the cute kitties and puppies at the pet store adoption event—and then I walk on by with a smile and a shrug. I don't need a baby animal to cuddle. I'm a mom.

In my animal-cuddling heyday, I would've been first in line to snuggle those baby goats. Then I had a baby. And 21 months later, I had another baby. And for, oh, about four solid years, I did nothing but cuddle live, warm, wriggling, hungry, sentient beings—sometimes two at once.

And who am I kidding? Even though they're now 4 and 6, I still cuddle them. The 4-year-old (affectionately known as my koala baby when he was an infant), still burrows his little head into my shoulder and jabs his elbow into my ribs, in search of a warm spot to nestle. And the long-legged 6-year-old will toss those warm, wriggly legs over mine if I'm in his spot on the couch and squirm around until he's pressed against me, and I can smell his freshly washed hair and feel his breath on my cheek. So I get plenty of cuddling. I don't need baby goats.

I know it seems heartless of me, but after at least four solid years of having someone always—always—touching me, I'm over it.

But then came the baby pandas. Once again, my Facebook feed filled up with exclamations of joy because, not only do you get to cuddle baby pandas all day, you get paid $32,000! It's a real job! Of course, it's a job in China, but still—baby pandas! Squee! All I could think when I saw those pictures of people in surgical gowns and masks, cradling those bundles of black-and-white fluff was, "No, thanks. I'd go crazy." "Kung Fu Panda 3" is as close as I want to get to baby pandas, thank you very much.

I know it seems heartless of me, but after at least four solid years of having someone always—always—touching me, I'm over it. I want my space. I want to be hands-free. And not the kind of hands-free that is involved with baby wearing. What a scam that is—as if wearing a human being on your chest is somehow easy or comfortable.

I tried wearing my oldest son. He was nearly 9 pounds at birth and I had a Cesarean section. Even with a great sling wrap, it was rough. I gave it up after about a month, tired of being drenched in sweat from a warm, wriggling baby pressed against me and tired of feeling like I was pregnant all over again as I navigated the world with a baby strapped to me.

Baby wearing wasn't even a consideration with my second son—he was 10 pounds, 15 ounces at birth and I had a 21-month-old toddler. I didn't want to wear anyone! If anything, I wanted someone to carry me around while I napped. I reached a point where my skin felt hypersensitive to the touch of anything other than the thinnest layer of clothing. But I cuddled my babies. I cuddled the hell out of them and carried them on my hip(s) and snuggled them at nap time and bedtime and anytime they wanted the rest of the day. I still do, whenever they'll let me. And that is enough. Enough.

Which is what I said when the most recent article hit my Facebook feed: Cuddle babies who are waiting to be adopted! Oh, that one is hard to say no to. My "babies" are 6 and 4 now and I miss the baby smell and the sweet way they nuzzle against you when they're sleepy. But no, I don't want to cuddle babies. I can ignore that twinge of guilt I feel at that confession by reassuring myself there are lots and lots of people who want to cuddle babies, human and otherwise, and my services are not needed. Thankfully.

But sometimes my anti-cuddling stance hits closer to home. A friend recently brought home not one, but two 9-week-old puppies. She gushed over them in text messages, sending me pictures of their cute little faces and asked if I wanted to bring my kids over to play with them. My response? "Nope. No puppies!"

I'm not in a hurry to meet her new pets—or let my sons meet them. I don't want to deal with the begging and pleading for a puppy (or two). We have one dog, one cat and one bird and that is enough for now. The cat and bird pre-date the kids and neither is cuddly. The dog is a wonderful, sweet, mostly low maintenance mutt we adopted from the animal shelter when she was 2—which meant I never had to deal with the high-maintenance puppy stage. Other than my kids (and my husband), she is the only creature I can tolerate snuggling with right now.

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Maybe someday I'll change my mind. Maybe one day I'll look at a picture of a cute baby animal in need of a snuggle and I'll want to be the one to stretch out my arms. Maybe. For now, all I see is a creature who needs more than I have in my reserves to give. Motherhood has sapped my interest in nurturing helpless creatures that aren't my own flesh and blood—though I'm happy to donate to animal charities and share cute animal pictures and videos for my friends who pine for the cuddles of a goat or panda or puppy. But for me, my plate—or my arms, as the case may be—is full. I have all the wriggling, giggling, snuggling, cuddling buddies I need. So thanks, but no thanks.

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