Early on in adulthood, I made the decision to not have children. This decision was prompted by the fact that I never found parenthood appealing and it’s a role that I would not find myself ever being financially suited for.
Being a parent is a demanding role that requires a lot of time, energy and money—a very essential thing that myself and many millennials lack. This, along with other valid reasons, has led to the significant yet unsurprising decline in birth rates across the United States.
In 2020, the Center for Disease Control reported that the U.S. birthrate fell four percent, marking a record low for the sixth consecutive year.
Millennials, people who are born between 1981 and 1996, are to ‘blame’ as they are having fewer children than previous generations. Many millennials are choosing to start families later on in their lives and some have decided not to have kids at all.
Some millennials want time to further their careers and navigate the workforce, while others want the freedom to explore adulthood without carrying the responsibilities of parenthood. In addition, many have chosen not to raise children in a world plagued by situations like climate change or the pandemic.
But the most daunting reason why many millennials are choosing not to have children is because of how expensive it is to raise and take care of them.
Millennials have faced some of the biggest economic challenges, like living through two recessions and other economically traumatic events, that raising a child has become an impractical option.
According to a 2017 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it costs an average of $233,610 to raise a child through the age of 17. The data states that families will spend “approximately $12,980 annually per child in a middle-income ($59,200-$107,400), two-child, married-couple family.”
When you consider the annual price of raising a child, along with the cost of housing and other expenses such as paying off student debt, the thought of raising a child can be extremely deterring.
A 2021 report by PYMNTS found that 70 percent of millennials are currently living paycheck to paycheck, which is more than any other generation.
However, in recent years, many millennials have decided to take on a different, much cheaper, and a unique approach to parenting by becoming plant or pet parents.
I am a proud pet parent myself, a dog mom to be exact, and it has been a role that I have found to be memorable and exciting. Not only does having a pet provide me with comfort and joy, but it also allows me to take on a parental role.
A 2020 survey by PULSE found that 42 percent of millennials actually consider their pets to be their child—something that I am guilty of. While a survey by Article found that seven in 10 millennials consider themselves to be plant parents.
During the pandemic, social media was flooded with videos and photos of millennials showing off their collection of exotic houseplants or pampering their fur babies. This was a move synonymous with a proud parent uploading photos of their child onto their Facebook feed.
This trend of millennial plant and pet parents has become an increasingly familiar sight nowadays as it is more affordable and also easier for those who want to experience parenthood but are unable to as a result of leading busy lives.
Ultimately, choosing to not have children doesn’t make millennials “selfish.” Any decision is valid, whether one decides to start a family later on in their lives, or just decides to not have any children at all (plants and pets included).