Millennials are different from their predecessors. For a long time, the generation born between 1980 and 1995 was called entitled and lazy by Baby Boomers because they tend to switch from one career to another. They also have been accused of destroying the golf industry, diamond industry, dinner dates, cruises and vacations, napkins, department stores, relationships and sex, homeownership, and a long list of trends.
Simply put, Millennials refuse to conform.
Now, they are redefining what it is like to be a family. Young couples are not getting married or having kids. A significant percentage of the age group remain single through the age of 40. The marriage rate for Millennials is expected to drop to 70 percent, way below 91 percent for Baby Boomers and 82 percent for members of Generation X.
Those that do get married wait until their late 20s to say, “I do.” The median age for first marriages is now 27 years old for women and 29 years old for men. For comparison, in 1960, women got married for the first time at age 20 while men at age 23.
Now, they are also choosing to adopt a dog or a cat instead of having a baby.
No Baby, No Problem
The number of married couples who do not have children has been increasing for decades in the United States and the United Kingdom. Back in 1970, 40 percent of married couples had kids. By 2012, the Census Bureau said that 20 percent of all married couples in the U.S. are child-free.
In households with no children, married couples spend more money on their pets.
Child-free families are choosing to give their affection to their pets. They do treat their cats and dogs like their children, an important part of their family. That is why they willingly spend more on quality dry dog food and veterinary care to give them a good life.
When those married couples divorce, they also fight to have custody of their pets. Those who do not get to keep their dogs or cats can receive regular visitation rights — an arrangement that is more common among couples that have kids.
Why Fur Babies
Many couples who become parents to their fur babies have chosen to be child-free because they are disinterested in having and raising kids. They love their current lifestyle too much, and adding a child can cause a disruption. Without a child, they can go to work without worrying about getting a babysitter. Meanwhile, they can leave their pets at home for the entire day.
Some couples are not financially ready to have children. Raising a cat or dog is not cheap, but it is also not as expensive as raising a kid, either.
A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 2013 revealed that the average annual cost of taking care of a child in a two-parent, middle-income household is $12,800 to $14,970. That does not even include the cost of healthcare from 9 months of pregnancy, childbirth, and post-delivery recovery.
Finally, some couples plan to expand their families and have children, but they are putting it off. They decide to take care of pets as practice for when their human babies arrive in the world.
It is not a bad idea. Pets are not as high-maintenance as having a baby, but they still have needs. Aspiring parents have the duty to protect their puppies and kittens. They also will have to rearrange their everyday life to address the needs of their pets.
Adopting a puppy also gives a similar experience to bringing home a newborn baby. During the first few weeks, couples will be sleep-deprived. The howling and barking during crate training will definitely keep them awake for several hours every night.
Baby and Pet Parents
However, young couples do not have to choose between having a human baby or a fur baby. You can have both!
Having pets is beneficial to the development of children. Caring for a dog or a cat gives them a sense of responsibility, a trait that they will carry with them for the rest of their life. It also teaches them compassion, trust, patience, and respect for life.
Children and pets also compliment each other. They both have high energy, and they are very curious about the world around them. They will become playmates and best friends as they grow older together.
Millennials continue to subvert the expectations that older generations have of them. Now, instead of having a baby, young couples choose to adopt a dog or a cat, and they treat their pets like their own children.