Dog Moms and Fur Babies: Why Millennials Compare Pets to Kids
Social media is filled with headlines proclaiming that Millennials are ruining everything. They’re in no rush to get married, to go to college, or to buy homes. They refuse to spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need.
And now, young adults are delaying parenthood, or even deciding against it, in favor of pet ownership.
But stereotypes, finger pointing, and pearl clutching over dropping birth rates don’t help anything. And if you scratch below the surface of the clickbait, there’s some sound reasoning behind all of these trends.
Even, or perhaps especially, the trend toward pets.
Why Some Young Adults Are Delaying Parenthood
We can all agree, I hope, about a few things.
First, parenthood is one of the most important jobs anyone will ever undertake. It’s not a decision to be made on a whim. And the more solid start we can give our children, the better.
I hope we can also agree that the decision to parent is as personal as it gets, and it’s not for everyone. Therefore, if someone decides, for any reason, to be childfree, it’s their business and theirs alone.
Instead of worrying about people choosing to delay or forgo parenthood, we should applaud people giving the decision serious thought, whatever they may decide in the end.
Because some people have very good reasons to say no, or at least “not right now.”
It’s Not About Avocado Toast
According to The Motley Fool, 63 percent of the Millennial demographic still depend on financial help from Mom and Dad.
This doesn’t come down to frivolous spending. There are some very real external factors at work.
First, incomes haven‘t risen to keep up with inflation. The minimum wage has stayed the same, $7.25 an hour (that‘s $13,000 a year), since 2008. And that’s for people lucky enough to be full time waged employees, rather than gig workers.
The twentieth-century positions with which Baby Boomers built the middle class -- you know, the ones with steady hours, job security, and health care for the entire family -- are disappearing fast. Many were already gone when Gen Xers hit the job market in the 1990s.
And they’re not coming back.
A large number of the Millennial demographic and Gen Z also have enormous student loan debt. This is big money, and it‘s a burden that can follow a person into retirement.
It’s no wonder so many young people are putting off the traditional big ticket milestones of adulthood.
Delaying or avoiding parenthood under these circumstances isn’t selfishness or wanton disregard for tradition; it’s simply good sense.
The Benefits of Pet Ownership
But a lot of us still want someone to come home to. And pets fill this role very well, for many reasons.
Furry Friends Are Good for Well Being
The last year of the pandemic saw a huge rise in animal adoptions for this reason alone.
Parenting and pet care have a lot in common.
Human children and pets both need to be fed regularly with nutritious food. They both need exercise and mental stimulation. Emotional bonding is very important, too. And, just as a child needs a pediatrician, your pooch or puss needs the regular care of a veterinarian.
Caring for a beloved pet can help a person to develop skills that will make them a better parent, if or when they choose.
How The Fur Baby Boom is Affecting Market Trends
One thing we can say about this new generation of pet owners is that they’re devoted to doing it right.
From hired dog walkers to dog parks, pet daycare and gourmet dog food, millennial pets are pampered. Millennial pet owners are all about healthy habits, veterinary care, and more.
Many millennial pets are social media stars, too, and that means accessories.
The market, and the world, are stepping up to meet these needs. If the world seems more pet-friendly than it was decades ago, you’re not imagining it.
And we think that’s great.
What’s Wrong With “Pet Parents” and “Fur Babies”?
Most pet owners would agree that their pets are family members. A lot of people draw the line, though, at using terms like “fur baby”. And some folks get very upset at the idea of someone comparing the struggles of parenting human children with pet ownership.
But many people really do see their pets as the equivalent of a child. In fact, a recent study revealed that 71 percent of people who adopted pets during lockdown did so specifically as a child substitute.
As auto manufacturers say, your mileage may vary.
Nobody is mocking anyone’s life choices by calling themselves a dog mom. Wording is an aesthetic choice, and the world would be so dull if everyone made the same aesthetic choices all the time. Don’t you think?
The decision to have children is momentous and life-changing. It’s important not to rush into that decision, especially if you’re not certain that you can provide the stability and material support that a child needs.
Not everyone is in the position to become a parent, and not everyone will want to be one. And that’s okay.
Pets can make us healthier and happier. They can teach us how to take care of human children before we have them. And if we choose not to have human children, then pets’ companionship may become even more important.
So if you receive a birth announcement for a cat, or an invitation to a dog’s obedience school graduation, accept it in good grace, and be happy.
It means you’re part of the family.