Femme Forward: Pets strengthen family bonds at Bradley Zoo

Like many working mothers, PRWeek’s Diana Bradley has taken on numerous extra responsibilities since the COVID-19 lockdown, as well as starting a project that expanded the household.

When the pandemic first started, we had a cat.

One year later, we have a cat, golden retriever, four chickens, a fish, frog and hermit crab.

My family did not set out to acquire a zoo, it just kind of happened. In fact, if you had asked me in March 2020 if I could add any further responsibilities onto my plate, I would have laughed in your face. At the time, I was figuring out how to balance working from home with helping my 7-year-old son with virtual schooling.

I love my job, but journalism is a particularly tricky field in times like this because you can’t predict what your schedule will be like day to day. News moves fast and I always have to be on call. Monday might be a crazy busy news day with five breaking stories, while Tuesday you might have time to work on an evergreen feature story you had to put on the backburner or you have to work on 10 profiles for the Agency Business Report.

There have been many moments when my kid has come in the room demanding lunch or help getting into a virtual class at the same time I unexpectedly got a very important call from a source with some exclusive news or my boss has asked me to quickly type out a story. Situations like this have forced me to make difficult choices. But thankfully, most of the time, my husband who is a website manager at Unilever has quickly been able to pitch in.

We all quickly adapted our schedules to make it work. And my son matured, possibly quicker than he would have, to accept that this is just how it is.

But the thing that really got to me was that for months, my son – an outgoing, bubbly only child -- was unable to see any friends in person. With the lack of social interaction, nowhere to go and nothing to do safely outside the home, we needed something to fill the void. Even if that meant adding more stress to my daily schedule.

So we launched a family project of sorts, initially starting with the idea of raising chickens. Over the last 12 months, it has gotten my family outside more, has been educational, at times hilarious and fun while other times tiring and gross, but great for family bonding time. It has also helped to teach our son responsibility, as he has to collect the eggs and open the coop each morning.

Once we realized what a lovely addition our outdoor pets were to our lives, we began thinking about a new indoor pet we could add to the clan. In November, we started looking into adopting a puppy and Birdie came into our lives this month. She is only 10 weeks’ old and very smart and cute, but also a lot of work.

But I am not worried about how that will affect my ability to do my job. The last year has made the relationship between me, my husband and my son stronger. We’ve realized how well we work together, especially with our little Bradley Zoo. We are all cogs in the machine with an important role to play or it will fall apart. And so far, it hasn’t.

So now when I get a very important call from a source, I might have my kid demanding lunch, a puppy barking and a chicken loudly laying an egg outside my window. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I have surprised myself by realizing I can handle more than I thought I could.

Diana Bradley is associate news editor at PRWeek.

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