My husband and I went to a fashionable outdoor restaurant in Cherry Creek. We were amazed to see several patrons at the outdoor patio dining with their dogs. As we were waiting for our server, there were a number of employees and restaurant guests asking  the dog owner’s permission to interact and pet these canines. The petters got ooey gooey with the animals calling them “angel” and “precious”, some even reverting to baby talk. In this mix were young couples who had infants in strollers. I noted that not one person did the same with the baby. What is happening here? Have we gone canine crazy?

Millennial friends tell me it is not at all unusual for their friends to show hundreds of photos of their furry friends. They also reported that these same Millennials spend unheard of amounts of money on their pets buying everything from personalized, even monogrammed, bedding to custom décor and organic home-made dog food. The 69-billion-dollar pet industry has already grown three times larger than its size in 1996, and Millennials are fueling the increase. The other day I saw a border collie in a special designed backpack at the grocery store.

Certainly, pets are adorable and loving and require a huge amount of commitment and work from feeding to training, to walking and caretaking. Pets take a bite out of our budgets as many breeds costs thousands of dollars. Yet pet ownership is up, while the trending of childbearing is decreasing.  I wonder, do we now value pets above babies.

There are benefits to owning a pet,  but as I scoured the medical literature, I found many more benefits of being a parent.

Children lower your blood pressure. Researchers conclude, “While caring for children may include daily hassles, deriving a sense of meaning and purpose from life’s stress has been shown to be associated with better health outcomes”. Children entitle parents to major tax savings. According to one recently published study, the average family can save $3,500 per year simply by claiming child tax credits, education credits, and child-and dependent-care credits. Children get you better parking.  Many shopping centers, grocery stores and factory outlets now have parking spaces reserved especially for families and pregnant women.  Children keep you sane. Contrary to popular belief, children do not always drive their parents crazy. Researchers claim they may keep their parents cognitively healthy well beyond their years. Parents are also happier and have greater life satisfaction and emotional well-being than those without children. Children renew your thirst for knowledge. Anyone who has children can attest that their child’s favorite word is “why.” Kids constantly want to know the answer to a variety of head-scratching questions. Parents may not have the answers, but they go on a search to formulate an answer. Children give you an alibi.  Some parents have expressed that they use their children as a convenient excuse to get out of unwanted social events. Children increase your self-esteem Anyone who has children knows firsthand the satisfaction one gets from being told you are “the best daddy / mommy in the whole world.” These kinds of positive pronouncements can have a profound effect on self-esteem, allowing one to accomplish tasks previously thought impossible. Children remind you to stop and smell the roses. Children notice the simple magic of life like the passing of the clouds or the teeny worm in the dirt. Kids engage in these kinds of wholesome activities, and in doing so, they invite us to join them. Parents get to see the wonder of life. through a child’s eyes.  Children make us happier. Researchers found that parents were considerably more content than childless couples “Children may be a long-term investment in happiness,” says the author of the study. Children give us meaning a purpose, a key factor in human flourishing according to the Harvard Human Flourishing Study. Children build our character. Learning to be other-focused and to care for one another, to persevere, and overcome obstacles makes us better. 

Having pets is a wonderful thing, but not at the expense of the wonder of raising humans to contribute goodness and love to the world.