Gen Y Dogma: Why Pet Parenthood Is The Perfect Choice For Millennials
“When I was your age, I would walk 10 miles to school… in the snow… running from a pack of rabid moose.” We were regaled with that anecdote (ok, maybe without the rabid moose) when we were younger, and we rolled our eyes at our elders. Yep, things just ain’t what they used to be… especially when it comes to starting a family. It’s not uncommon of couple to put off parenthood (the human baby kind) and spend their maternal and paternal energy on raising a dog instead.
Have we lost our way? Is the fabric of a moral society breaking down? Are we headed for a zombie apocalypse? No – to all of those points. As Gen Y-ers, we’ve got other things on our plate that aren’t flexible enough for a baby, but are the perfect storm for having a dog.
We’re Still Paying Off Student Loans
It’s pretty normal these days to be paying off student loans until well you’re into your 30s (sad, but true).
The class of 2014 holds the unpleasant distinction of being the most indebted graduating class ever, with an average of $33,000 in student loan debt. That’s after adjusting for inflation. I know this reality all too well: I graduated in 2007 with $25,000 in debt, and I’m still paying it off thanks to a dearth of decent jobs due to the economic downturn.
With Gen Yers spending more and more time in school and tuition fees higher than ever, it’s little wonder that we’re waiting so long to have families and instead replacing them with pets. While a cat or dog is still a significant investment of both time and money, the costs of pet parenthood still pale in comparison you, you know, actual parenthood.
A pet is the perfect way to start building a family when you’re not yet ready for babies of the human variety, if you choose to have them at all.
We Make Less Money Than Our Parents Did
A lot of people dismiss Gen Y as being greedy, entitled, spoiled brats. We just need to hunker down, get to work and quit thinking that we’re special snowflakes, right? While this may or may not be true for certain individuals, on the whole, it’s a load of garbage.
Long term research has proven that incomes have fallen significantly in the past 30 years. People doing the same job three decades ago made more money than someone doing that job today, even when we account for inflation. There are also more temporary and contract roles than ever before. When you don’t know if you’re going to have a steady paycheck six months or a year from now, it’s pretty hard to make serious financial commitments like, say, buying a home or having a kid.
However, when we do get to a spot where we’re making enough money to sustain more than just ourselves, many of us turn to pet parenthood. There’s nothing like coming home at the end of the day to a purring or tail-wagging snuggle buddy, right? Aside from the obvious unconditional love that pets give us, it also feels great to take are of someone other than yourself. Living in a big city, it can be easy to get caught up in all the craziness of urban life. Pets require us to slow down, spend more time at home and less at the latest restaurant or club because we now have this wonderful little creature in our lives who is dependent on us for almost everything.
Expectations Are Different Now
About 50 or 60 years ago, having a family was just what you did. You’d graduate high school, maybe college; marry your sweetheart, buy a house and start popping out babies. That was the norm and most people didn’t deviate from that.
You don’t need me to give you a history lesson; the past 50 years have been revolutionary in a plethora of different ways. Times have changed, and having kids in your early 20s is now considered abnormal in many places in the Western world. There are degrees to achieve and career dreams to chase. We have safe and effective birth control. Women don’t “need” the help of a man to get by in life.
So we put off having kids in favor of traveling or building our careers. And although we’re busy, it’s much easier to fit a pet into our busy lives than it is a child. Getting a dog was a big lifestyle change for my boyfriend and me, but it’s nowhere near the complete and utter lifestyle overhaul required when you bring kids into mix.
So yes, at this point in my life I’m quite happy to be “Mom” to our dog Matilda and cat Oscar and to them alone. Kids are eventually a possibility, but not any time in the near future. Give me my fur babies, please and thank you.
The “American Dream” Has Changed
Okay, I might be Canadian, but the concept is the same: get a good job, buy a house in the ‘burbs, and live happily ever. And that was the dream — for our parents and grandparents.
People are forgoing a move to the suburbs in favour of urban life. More young families are living in condos than ever before. This is the evolution of the dream: while success used to mean escaping the grit and grime of the city, now (for many) it means a mass exodus from the suburbs of our youth.
We’re sick of the lack of art and culture and the houses that all look the same. We don’t want to endure the same punishing, hours-long commutes that our parents did. We want to get home from work in half an hour and have more time with our kids even if it means we have less space. We want our kids to grow up with great public transit and easy access to museums and art galleries, and you just can’t get those things in suburbia.
But — we still want the things that matter, at least to us. Most of us grew up with a family dog or cat and we know how much joy they bring, so of course we want that, no matter where we live. That’s why I see so many people in my age bracket at the dog park these days. We want a sense of family in our lives, even if it doesn’t look like the one we grew up with. And that’s where pets come into the mix.
Did you decide to forgo traditional parenthood and opt for the four-legged fur-baby? Or are you putting it off until you’re older? Or did you like pet parenthood so much that you decided to curtail population growth and become a fixture at the dog park? Leave your comments below!
Christina Peden is a lifelong animal lover and avid wordsmith. She lives in Toronto with her boyfriend Ryan where they are proud pet parents to puppy, Matilda and cat, Oscar. In her spare time, she can be found enjoying Toronto, Canada’s all-too-short patio season, taking advantage of the city’s numerous parks or curled up with a good book.
Christina Peden is a lifelong animal lover and avid wordsmith. She lives in Toronto with her boyfriend Ryan where they are proud pet parents to puppy, Matilda and cat, Oscar. In her spare time, she can be found enjoying Toronto, Canada's all-too-short patio season, taking advantage of the city's numerous parks or curled up with a good book.
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