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I Am a Millennial Mom. Please Hold Your Judgments.

millennial momI was born in 1986, making me 27 years old. It also makes me a full-fledged Millennial — a label that’s been criticized, defended, and ridiculed over the last year.

Some people will immediately brand me as a narcissist, carrying around a heavy sense of entitlement that stems from years of over-praise and a “trophies for everyone!” mentality. I’m part of the “ME ME ME Generation,” after all — the title of a 2013 TIME story that blew open the gate for this Millennial discussion.

Yet what originally started as a conversation about socially inept and unemployable teens and entry-level job applicants has now turned into the forehead-slapping realization that — holy crap! — Millennials are real-life adults who are reproducing.

In fact, according to The Parents Network, 79 percent of all first-time births and 68 percent of all births are to Millennial mothers. More studies are starting to come out about this brand-new generation of parents (roughly between the ages 18 and 32 years old), and yet we still can’t shake this stereotype.

Despite an overall positive “Millennial Mom Report” done by BabyCenter, writers and bloggers are dissecting and twisting it into just another example of how egotistical and silly we are. This time about our parenting skills.

Babble.com blogger Sunny Chanel (a blogging friend of mine, by the way) wrote a post called  “Of Course Millennial Parents Think Their Parenting Skills are Awesome! in which she honed in on the findings that 96 percent of polled Millennials describe their parenting style as “loving,” with the descriptions “encouraging” and “supportive” following close behind. Forbes.com used that same piece of data to write their antagonistic headline, “Millennials Give Their Parenting Skills an A+.”

(Ugh! Those Millennials are so egotistical!)

Besides the fact that checking off “loving,” “encouraging,” and “supportive,” isn’t exactly saying “awesome,” “superior,” or “best ever please hand me a trophy”; and besides the fact that Millennials are typically in the “new mom” phase, as opposed to many Gen-Xers who are raising tweens and teens — what’s up Internet? It’s like they didn’t even read the rest of the study.

What about the part of the study that said:

The media’s coverage of this generation as self-centered and entitled misses the point. Millennials are a study in contrasts. They’re underemployed and entrepreneurial, educated but in debt, digital natives fluent with technology and new media — but back to basics with a strong focus on the environment, health, and nutrition.”

What about the headline of the study that specifically uses the words “resilient,” “resourceful,” and “optimistic”? If the study found us to be egotistical, wouldn’t it say so?

In reality, Millennials were found to be more relaxed and easy-going than Gen-X parents — mostly because of the way we were raised. Listen, Millennials and Gen-Xers did grow up in different political and cultural climates. (I was in 10th grade when the Twin Towers fell, if that puts things into perspective for you.) Many of us were raised in overprotective homes with “helicopter parents,” so of course that’s going to affect the way that we parent. And, according to the data, it does.

As a backlash to our helicopter-like upbringing, Millennial moms feel more “relaxed and happy as parents,” and are quick to not be the “worried” and “enabling” parents they knew as kids.

Why, exactly, is that a bad thing? Happier parents = happier homes, no?

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We were also raised in a culture that quickly snowballed into the social-media-driven world we know today. In fact, Millennials helped usher in this societal shift. I first discovered the “World Wide Web” in 5th grade, which is when I made my first screen-name. My high-school years were spent coding AOL profiles and detailing my life in “away messages.” We were the first generation of digital natives, dependent on gadgets and technology throughout our formative years.

So what does that mean for us, as parents?

Besides the fact that we’re more digitally connected than any previous generation of parents, we’re also far more entrepreneurial. Contrary to popular stereotypes, Millennial moms aren’t sitting on their high horses, feeling entitled, waiting for the world to come to them. We’re making stuff happen, and largely through technology.

“Despite the unstable economy and high unemployment rates, Millennial Moms have a can-do attitude,” says Mike Fogerty, SVP and Global Publisher at BabyCenter. “From getting paid for making store visits and posting reviews, to leveraging social media to promote freelance work or a home business, Millennials are using the new digital tools at their disposal to deliver in very new ways for their family.”

Technology has enabled all families to create a more flexible work-home balance, but this is like a second language for Millennials. We’ve been rolling with the technological changes and innovations throughout our lives, so we know how to use it to our advantage. And clearly we are.

From personal experience, the Internet is a game-changer as far as the age-old “having it all” discussion. The ability to work remotely and flexibly is giving modern moms new avenues for financial independence that previous generations of mothers never had. And I’m confident that the more Millennials jump into this work/life struggle, the more innovations we’ll create.

 

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Beyond that, simply being at the pulse of technological and societal change might help us raise a child in this ever-changing world. We remember life before the Internet and text messages, but our coming-of-year ages more closely resemble today’s culture of selfies, school shootings, and social media. No other generation has straddled the line of Then vs. Now quite like a Millennial, and it’s an interesting perspective from which to raise the next generation.

So despite the scathing articles and broad-stroke judgments, make no mistake: Millennial moms have power and potential. “The Millennial Mom is more than you think she is, “says Fogarty. “She represents a cultural and economic force that’s creating lasting change.”

 

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Yes, I am a Millennial mom.

And I’m optimistic about what that actually means.

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Read more of my thoughts in Millennial Moms: When the ME Generation Grows Up.

Curious as to what constitutes a “Millennial” or “Generation Y”? Read this handy Q+A from Millennial expert Heidi Oran.

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