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Parenthood is not for everyone. At least not in the traditional sense.
As the global population balloons well beyond 7.3 billion and counting, some young adults in the U.S. are rethinking – or at least putting off – having children. Birthrates among American twentysomethings have declined steadily in recent years, with rising student loan debt and child-rearing costs considered primary catalysts of this trend.
In some respects, though, these young folks have simply traded in or delayed traditional parenthood in favor of pet parenthood. Ownership of dogs and cats among members of the Millennial Generation – those born between 1980 and 2000 – continues to rise, as more than one-in-three young adults now sports a four-legged friend, making Millennials among the largest U.S. pet-owning populations.
Clearly, some young adults prefer walk time and cleaning litter boxes to tummy time and changing diapers – at least for now. But how can you tell if you’re better suited to raise fur babies rather than human babies at this juncture of your life? Here’s our five signs that you should have pets instead of children:
1. You Aspire to Help Animals in Need
The need to find homes for sheltered dogs and cats has reached a crisis level. It’s estimated that approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide each year – of which more than 35 percent ultimately succumb to a fate of euthanasia. If you believe you have a calling in life to aid homeless pets, then perhaps you should focus your efforts on sharing your home with rescued animals (whether via adoption or fostering) and volunteering with rescue organizations, leaving others to repopulate our planet. Few satisfactions compare with completely altering the trajectory of an animal’s existence from one of despair to one of delight.
2. You Have Serious Financial Concerns About Parenthood
No matter how you slice it, raising children is astonishingly expensive. It’s an investment to the tune of approximately $250,000 per child through age 18 for middle-income families. And that’s a cost that many Millennials – struggling with student loan debt – aren’t willing to assume at this point in their lives. While certainly a sizable investment in its own right, the estimated lifetime costs associated with dog and cat ownership pales in comparison. Consequently, young adults with the desire to care for another living thing, but without the financial means to raise a child, should strongly consider pursuing pet ownership.
3. You Are Consumed by Your Career
Young professionals often find their lives dominated by their budding careers. It’s not unusual for younger members of the workforce to put in 60-hour work weeks. Combine this with the growing prevalence of dual-career couples and oftentimes the time availability necessary to raise children simply doesn’t exist. Pet ownership – though certainly time-consuming to an extent – represents a viable alternative for young professionals, particularly when they capitalize on pet daycare and other modern pet service offerings.
4. Your Living Arrangement Proves More Conducive to Pets
Pet-friendly and child-friendly can have starkly different meanings, and some living arrangements simply lend themselves better to raising furry children. Young people who share a residence with roommates or live at home with their parents often fare better with pets. The same, of course, can prove true when you occupy an apartment that’s roughly the size of a walk-in closet. If you can’t alter your living environment to achieve one more preferable for child-rearing, then perhaps you should reimagine your parenting ambitions toward pets.
5. You Want to Travel the World
Millennials have caught the travel bug, and it’s anticipated that young people representing this coming-of-age generation will seek to experience international destinations at a rate far exceeding that of their predecessors. Although the arrival of children can severely complicate your ability to travel abroad – at least for a baby’s first several years – the same is not necessarily true of dogs and cats. With the growth of both pet boarding options and airline/hotel pet-friendliness in recent years, travelers now have more options than ever before when considering how to care for their beloved companions during an upcoming trip. So obtain a pet, hold off on children, and get out there to explore the world.