Watching “Meerkat Manor” is Like Parenthood

I was inspired by Lngilbert’s recent article, “Visiting Wall Drug is Like Parenthood,” as I thought about my current obsession with Animal Planet’s “Meerkat Manor.” To any of you who have not yet watched “Meerkat Manor” but plan to in the future, I offer a spoiler alert. To everyone else, read on!

I love meerkats (well, any animal, really) and I had heard vague but good things about “Meerkat Manor.” One weekend while my husband was out of town, I decided to watch the first episode of the series online through my video rental service. After all, what could be more fun than watching adorable meerkats and their fascinating antics?

I quickly became engrossed in the complex social structure of a family of meerkats called the Whiskers, and I found that these little creatures were even more amazing than I had expected. The soap-opera-like drama that unfolded (and the anthropomorphism inserted by the writers) further drew me in. By then end of the first episode, I was completely hooked. Dear little Shakespeare Whisker had been bitten by a deadly puff adder snake. He slowly limped home, clearly in terrible pain, and collapsed into his burrow to sleep. When the narrator said, “It is unlikely he will make it through the night,” I burst into sobs. But I HAD to watch the next episode to see if Shakespeare would survive.

I watched about four or five 20-minute episodes that night, and when my husband returned home from his trip, I gave him a minute-by-minute account of all I had seen and learned. He humored me by watching the next episode with me, but he too was soon hooked.

Unfortunately, now that I have started, I cannot make myself stop. I even spend time on the show’s website watching behind-the-scenes video clips, reading blogs, and learning more about meerkats. And I am in the planning stages of a trip to California where I can visit Fellow Earthlings’ Wildlife Center and interact with their rescued meerkats. It has actually been quite difficult to continue watching the series, mainly because I am so sensitive to the pain and suffering of any creature. From that first episode when Shakespeare collapsed from the snake bite, to the deaths of some of my other favorite characters, to miscarried pups, to vicious fights between rival meerkat groups, to starvation, I have shed many tears. There are certainly many happy and touching moments in the show, but because of the often overwhelming sadness, I honestly wish I had never clicked “Watch Episode” that first night when my husband was out of town.

In many ways, my experience with “Meerkat Manor” is what I imagine my life would have been like had I chosen the path of parenthood. If I had liked children enough, if I had bought into the lie that everyone MUST have a child, then my parenthood experience would be that same cycle of learning and intrigue, pain and suffering and regret, sprinkled with a few moments of happiness. I imagine that I would learn as much as I could about raising children, and I would become very knowledgeable and involved. I am sure there would be times I would enjoy something special that the child would do, but there would be just as many times when the trials and worries and frustrations would be more than I could bear. I would love the child and not want to give her up now that I had her, but all along, I know I would wish that I had never done this in the first place.