Why I’m Choosing Dogs Over Children (And Yes, I’m a Millennial)

Millennials have somehow earned such a bad rap. We’re narcissistic and selfish. We’re entitled and we’re lazy. Except that, as a collective, we’re not any of those things. Prior to the Millennial-hatred bandwagon, the blame game was pitted against Generation X. Prior to that, I’m sure the Silent Generation was ragged on by the Baby Boomers. I suppose we all want someone to blame, other than ourselves, for the way the world is. Regardless, making a living as a millennial is quite a bit harder than it was for our parents. But it’s not just how we earn a living that becomes a point of contention, how we choose to live our lives is also criticized.

Young Americans are less likely to be homeowners, car owners or parents than their predecessors, but they do lead in one category: Pets.

– Abha Bhattarai, Millennials are Picking Pets Over People

Is choosing dogs over children so wrong? Like every question, the answer will depend on who you ask. And if you ask me, it’s so not wrong…yes, it’s right. Here’s why I’ve made this decision:

Too Many People

I could quote the many reputable sources citing overpopulation statistics worldwide but there will still be people who disagree. Instead, I’m going to give you this:

I don’t wanna go back to India, it’s hot and loud, and there are so many people! You have no idea, they’re everywhere.

– Raj, The Big Bang Theory, Episode:  The Pirate Solution

No, I don’t live in India but the sentiment applies. Every time I sit in traffic on my way home from work, I have to remind myself that it’s not exactly healthy to wonder what it would be like if there was another plague. The thought of adding more people escapes me. While there are mandatory spay and neuter policies in parts of the United States, you’ll never see such a thing at your local gynecologist office, despite the need.

Lower Expense

No matter how much I spend on my dogs, I couldn’t come close to the nearly $14,000 a year it takes to raise a child. In fact, I feel a little bit less guilty for buying those organic dehydrated sweet potato treats… Does that make me a stereotypical millennial? It might but if you think the quality of my dog’s food somehow makes me a narcissist while pureeing carrots and peas for a baby is selfless, you may have to rethink.

Not unlike parents of small children, I have a budget set for their care. While not everyone likes the term furbabies, I have come to accept that this is what my pets are to me. When my oldest dog Gunther was diagnosed with cancer, I drove him to and from the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Hospital, consulted with the surgical staff, and signed the medical forms declaring that yes, I want to have him resuscitated if anything were to happen during his surgery. He’s my fur-baby alright. And he may or may not be sitting on my lap as I write this article.

The year of Gunther’s surgery, we probably came somewhat closer to the $14,000 mark. Even with all of his vet bills, quality kibbles, and lest we forget about our other furbaby’s needs and expenses, we will essentially pay monopoly money during the course of their lives versus the $233,610 for a quarter of a kid’s life.

Fewer Restrictions

Spontaneity is more of a perk of owning dogs than a reason for having them, in my opinion. Either way, there’s really no denying that a child will impose more limitations than that of a dog. Colin and I recently watched one of our favorite bands perform in Philly. The concert did not end until well after midnight. Our dogs did what they always do, and what we normally do, at that time of night – sleep. No babysitter necessary.

When we travel, we do arrange for care with relatives or pay for experienced dog owners to host our dogs. Kennels make me sad and I just don’t agree with boarding my dogs. Parents would agree that grandparents are usually always the cheapest and best option. With dog-sitting though, you need not be retired or really adjust your schedule much, if any, which is starkly different from supervising children.

It’s What I Want

Yeah, yeah. I know I’m adding fuel to the Generation Me fire. Then again, this is my list.

“Take that!”

– the selfish narcissist that is me
Puppy Gunther

Kidding aside, this really should be a moot point when comparing one’s desire to have children or dogs. Both are selfish. If you disagree, start asking parents why they chose to have children. For that matter, ask pet owners why they chose dogs.

When I held a barely four-pound lump of fur and wrinkles that was an eleven week old Boston Terrier, I looked at my husband with soggy eyes and told him, “I’ll cry if I leave him.”

Turns out I cried when I got him too, but at least they were happy tears. The point is, I wanted that adorable squishy little puppy. I potty-trained him, coaxed him up and down steps with treats, introduced him to neighbors and other dogs, took him camping (he hated it), and even took him to obedience school (it didn’t work). As is often the case with parents, what starts as a selfish desire turns into infinite acts of love. And shouldn’t we all be entitled to that, without being called entitled?

This is why I’m choosing dogs over kids. What are your reasons? Share in the comments section below!


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    • Kate
    • May 29, 2017

    My husband and I are still on the fence about kids. About 7 weeks ago we adopted a dog, and I never really realized until having him, how much joy and love a furbaby could bring to our lives. Showing him new experiences and incorporating him into our daily lives leaves me somewhat feeling like we could skip having kids and be so content. For all the reasons you mentioned, I completely agree that there are a lot of great reasons to stick to just 4 legged friends 🙂

    1. Congrats on your new edition 🙂 So many reasons indeed!

    • ForeverGulls
    • May 29, 2017

    My favorite blog post so far! Loved it!

    While our schedule doesn’t allow us to have dogs, (we hope one day it will!) my hubby and I are head over heels for our cat Moses! He’s a 13 year old black domestic shorthair. Moses is everything I love about cats…the perfect combination of annoying and endearing all at once! One minute he’s shady, moody, and growly and the next minute he’s rolling over on his back purring and begging you to kiss his belly! The best part is, unlike a child he eats way less and poops in a litter box instead of a gross disgusting diaper! Cat litter is biodegradable… diapers not so much. We love Moses and can’t fathom not having at least one cat in our lives at any time. We hope one day to adopt some puppies too, but right now cats are perfect.

    1. Aw, yay! I’m glad you loved this post. Moses is such a great name by the way!

    • Trish
    • May 29, 2017

    My husband and I have a dog, two cats, and no kids. They bring us much joy and as you have mentioned, they are much less expensive and much less restrictive on our time then human babies!

    1. Trish, much less restrictive for sure! Having pets is fantastic 🙂

  1. Reply

    Very interesting take! Thought I might share my perspective since I’m not only a parent, but also happen to be a tail-end Gen Xer, which is the very generation currently bashing you guys.

    I think its true that the last generation will always bash the next. It has been going on since Ancient Rome (I have a relevant quote about this somewhere). Some of that is unfair because we forget our own youthful follies, while some probably happens because different economic & social factors in our respective development tend to shape changing attitudes.

    But frankly, I’ve wondered before if *some* of the current pushback against having families has to do with how incredibly difficult it is in the current economic landscape. That’s not to say that many people are simply disinclined to have children and know it’s the right choice for them, no matter what the situation may be, but there may also be a segment that on some level feels it just isn’t economically feasible.

    Which makes perfect sense, because 50 years ago, a family could live reasonably and buy a house on one income (which also meant not having to pay for daycare or eating out as often).

    Now, women are in the workforce but society hasn’t really accommodated that fact. Real wages are lower, families have to cover staggering daycare costs, and we have the worst maternity and family benefits in the developed world, by far.

    It’s especially a problem for women, because they’re the ones hurt by employment gaps while still shouldering most of the family responsibilities. For example, we hear about the pay gap being a “myth,” because women are simply taking lower-paid jobs with more flexible hours to care for the family… except *someone* has to, and it’s disproportionately us.

    All of this is partly why I ended up having kids in my 30’s instead of my 20’s. I was in no position to do it back then, and mostly felt tied to my cats without strong parental yearnings (despite being married).

    And I still love my cats, of course, and still think there’s nothing wrong with choosing NOT to have kids (I think having a bunch of them is questionable, too). Part of the tension between parents and the childfree, however, could center around the fear that anti-family attitudes might hamper efforts to create more balanced family/work policies (which only helps corporations, in the end).

    So maybe, instead of calling child-free people “selfish” and blaming Millennial narcissism, the pro-family sect would do better to challenge the policies that favor the corporate bottom line at the expense of our quality of life. And by “quality of life,” I’m including non-parents because they also deserve reasonable work hours & wages, as well as the ability to take time off for family business, be it caring for an ailing parent or whatever else.

    1. Very well said, Erin. I always love reading your comments!

      “there may also be a segment that on some level feels it just isn’t economically feasible.” – I completely agree. When my husband and I got married, we thought we would want children and we figured we would have them when we got a better handle on our finances. Well, even when we made more money it was still hard to picture being able to afford a child. The economic situation is certainly one of the factors that contributed to my decision not to have children.

      I also agree that all families (parents and non-parents) deserve better family/work policies.

      Thanks for your comment!

      • colin@therinkydinklife
      • June 1, 2017

      Erin, I love your perspective on this. Thanks for commenting and rising above the parent/childfree schism!

      I agree that the economic backdrop has a lot to do with the direction many younger people are taking. I touched on some of these aspects in my post a while back, here: http://therinkydinklife.com/childfree-choice-generational-gap/

      • L
      • July 22, 2017

      Brittany and Erin, you both articulate my thoughts exactly!! Thank you.

      1. L, you’re very welcome! Thanks for your comment 🙂

    • Summer
    • June 2, 2017

    I personally don’t understand the appeal of breeding. You can’t drink or eat sushi for 9 months, then you have to go through large amounts of pain to push something out of the most sensitive part of your body, then you have to spend hundreds and thousands of dollars entertaining and feeding it. Not for me.

    If you want to have kids thats fine, but I think anymore than 2 is being selfish. There are not enough jobs and the world is over populated.

    1. Hi, Summer! Thank you for your comment. I wish I enjoyed sushi. One day I will try it again. Birth does not appeal to me either. And you’re right, the world is quite overpopulated already. One of my fave childfree books (The Baby Matrix by Laura Carroll) has a bit about the overpopulation problem, In it Carroll writes, “To get to the average of 1.5, more couples would need to have one child, and if they did, it would help us move toward a population with long term sustainable resource levels.” There are definite perks to having only one kid (or none)!

    • Denise
    • June 3, 2017

    I’m Gen X, married with two cute babies and no offspring, by choice. Once we hit 40 we both decided as a couple that the risk for that child’s development having older parents were far too great for us to consider bringing into an overly crowded world. If children were going to happen for us, it would have happened in our 30’s. We’re happy to give back to humanity in other ways than procreation.

    1. Hi Denise,

      You bring up an excellent point. There are PLENTY of ways to give back without having children. In fact, it could better for the planet to help others already in existence than create more 🙂

      Thanks for your comment!

    • Joan Philips
    • June 8, 2017

    So, adopting a dog that needs a home instead of producing a new being that happens to have your genes, that fulfills no-one’s needs but yours, is the selfish option???

    1. It is hard to imagine that being the case, isn’t it?? Thank you for your comment!

    • Ann
    • July 3, 2017

    What I love about your post is you’re sharing your reasons why you chose a childfree life. I love how you put yourself out there. It gives other women an opportunity to have a voice. I think no matter what path a person chooses it’s important to know why they’re choosing it. It’s not a debate about which life style is better. Both have riches and both have challenges. One gets to choose the one that’s better for them. But I do think that it’s important to know why, not because you owe anyone an explanation but you owe it to yourself to know and understand what drives your decision. Your reasons are between you and you. Knowing why allows you to know yourself better so that if you bump into any second thoughts down the road you’ll be able to remember what drove your decision.

    1. Thanks so much Ann! It is definitely difficult to be open and honest. I struggled with this quite a bit at first. “No matter what path a person chooses it’s important to know why they’re choosing it” – well said!

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    • Laura
    • May 30, 2018

    As a Childfree-By-Choice (and by circumstance…I am infertile but knew I didn’t want kids long before I discovered I was infertile after a surgery to remove an ovarian cyst that crushed my fallopian tubes) woman in her late 30s, it was refreshing and reassuring to read this post. I have two chihuahuas who are my “fur-babies” and I love them more than I could ever adequately express! Human babies never held any appeal to me for numerous reasons and if I am honest, I don’t feel any excitment or interest when friends announce their pregnancies/document parenthood on social media. However, if a friend announces that she/he has added a fur-baby to her/his family, I am chomping at the bit to meet the newest addition. I have always been drawn to animals versus people.
    Anyways, it is so nice to realize that I am not alone in my decision to remain childfree!

    1. Thanks for sharing some of your story, Laura! Ouch, that must have been a painful experience! I get so excited when friends welcome home furbabies too 🙂 You’re definitely not alone, Laura!

      • Lvic
      • June 3, 2018

      Thanks for this, Laura! I feel the same same as you regarding human babies vs. fur babies. Furry loved ones get me sooo much more excited when I hear about them on social media, etc. Many of my friends are now on “round 2” with expanding their carbon footprints and I can’t help but wish I was seeing pics and announcements of new canine or feline additions to their families! :p

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