The Millennial Mom: for better or worse, changing how children are raised
The generation of young adults referred to as millennials is commonly seen by society as eternal teenagers: an image millennials themselves don’t mind cultivating. Taking longer to start an independent life, living with parents until their late twenties, openly confessing to being stumped by the many rules and requirements adult life brings – like fictional children from Neverland, millennials never quite grow up. It is all too easy to forget that the oldest of these kids are already in their mid-thirties, having had enough time to get married and spawn children of their own. According to an analysis of US Census Bureau data, they’re now taking over as parents. Roughly one in five moms is a millennial, and they now account for almost 90 percent of the 1.5 million new mothers within the last year. There are nine million mellennial moms raising kids as we speak.
The real question is: how does the generation that “never learned how to adult” cope with the challenge of parenthood? There is, of course, no simple answer to this. Just like every other generation before them, millennials have their issues and their strengths. Unlike the previous generations, they have some distinguishing features that characterize their parenting style.
A typical millennial parent is in their late twenties to mid-thirties by the time their first child is born. The current average age of first marriage and childbirth is around 27 for women and 30+ for men – compared to 24/26 as recently as during the 90’s. The increasing difficulty to achieve financial independence and career goals before starting a family is something the generation of young adults knows only too well. If and when, however, they make the choice to devote themselves to family, millennial parents do not go halfway. Compared to their own parents, millennials are almost twice as likely to become stay-at-home parents (with a surprising percentage of fathers ready to take on this role). At the same time, millennials no longer consider being formally married a requirement for having a child.
Probably the most important thing that unites millennial parents is their online presence. A typical millennial mother has accounts on several social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Tumblr, Snap – you name it), which she often uses to look for parenting ideas, advice and inspiration. Eighty percent of millennial parents have posted their children’s photos online. Eight percent confess that seeing other parents’ social network posts can make them feel inadequate about their parenting skills or their ability to financially provide for the child. With the help of social networks, parenting, just like many other spheres of life, has turned into a competition where the winner is not necessarily the one who succeeds in real life, but rather the one who knows how to present themselves favorbly to their online following.
On the same note, a millennial parent knows firsthand about the many educational possibilities offered on the internet, they also know the dangers it can pose for a child. They are facing the constant task of keeping their child safe both online and in real life without switching into an overprotective mode like their own well-meaning but overbearing “helicopter moms.” Not an easy challenge by any means!
An interesting difference between generations shows in the choice of toys and clothing purchased by millennial parents. Many of them make it a point to buy gender neutral items, just as they are more likely to be accepting of behavior that deviates from the gender norm. The culture of acceptance and embracing everyone’s differences that lie at the core of millennial values has quite a big impact on the way young parents are bringing up their children.
Finally, millennials are more so than other generations concerned with a healthy lifestyle – and at the same time more likely to take their children to restaurants and fast food places. This has already caused companies to expand their menu to add more child-friendly options, and generally venture more into the organic, gluten-free, fair-trade territory – showing that millennial moms are a force to be reckoned with.
Opinions might differ on whether these distinguishing features are positive or negative, but in the end there is only one way to know for sure: by waiting and seeing.