The Millennial Generation… as Parents?

Having been born in 1983, I’m an older Millennial (or Generation Yer–the generation born roughly between 1980-2000), and I can claim the distinction of being among the first wave of parents of my generation.

There’s a lot written about my generation–how we’re spoiled, lost, ruined. I’ve noted my frustration with the prevailing commentary before. But there is not much yet written about us as parents. Actually, it’s slightly disturbing, though not at all surprising, that most of what has been written about millennial parents comes from the marketing industy. They’re already trying to figure out how to sell to us and our kids, before anyone else seems to even realize we’re old enough to make babies.

The consumerism starts young!

The consumerism starts young!

As much as I hate the idea that the market research is more on the pulse than policymakers or anyone else who isn’t just trying to sell me stuff, I have to give the marketers credit. They cut to the chase. They don’t let emotion get in the way, trying to blame us for what’s wrong with the world today. They’re honest in their assessments of who we are (if not entirely honest in what they do with them).

So, what are they saying about us?

Youth market research firm YPulse’s most shared article of 2013 states:

“52% of 18-29-year-olds say that being a good parent is one of the most important things in their lives. That’s more than those who said owning a home, having a high-paying career, and having lots of free time were important, combined. The generation who has been represented as being “self-centered” has already placed high value on getting parenting right, all while the majority of them are not yet parents.”

Similarly, Forbes blows up some myths about our generation, writing that we’re more traditional and family-oriented in a way similar to previous generations, than everyone assumes.

BusinessWire focusses on our “pragmatism,” as evidenced by the fact that we shop at cheap stores like Dollar General and WalMart, contrary to the notion that we are obsessed with expensive, “cool” brands like Nike.

BabyCenter’s profile of the Millennial Mom describes us as:

  • more laid-back than our predecessors (a reaction to our helicopter parents)
  • very digitally connected
  • entrepreneurial
This was on Instagram, obviously.

This was on Instagram, obviously.

What do you think?

Generally, I agree with these assessments. Maybe we’re maturing, maybe the Great Recession changed us, or maybe the stereotypes were never correct. Either way, the notion of the spoiled, self-absorbed, entitled, image-obsessed Millennial doesn’t seem to be true of the Millennial Parent.

But I also think there’s more to the Millennial Parent story — things that might not be captured in the market research data. These are important aspects of my own approach to parenting that I know are true many of my parent friends as well:

  • We are more eco-conscious and health-conscious (and we recognize the intersection of these two issues). We are using cloth diapers, eco-friendly cleaning products, we buy organic food, etc.
  • We’re budget-savvy, but not cheap. We are willing to have less stuff but have better quality stuff. And we will research (to death) practically every purchase we make, both for reviews and to find the best deal.
  • We are looking to be part of communities. Though we grew up post-9/11, I think we’re aware of the negative impact of being overly fearful–a loss of trust and community. We’d like to change that. I want to know my neighbours and raise my kids in a more open, less insulated environment.
  • We’re discerning and skeptical. Because of our easy access to lots of information, we feel more empowered and don’t just follow what one book says, what our mother recommends, or what the doctor orders. Unfortunately, this may translate into troubling trends such as the anti-vaccination movement. But hopefully it will also lead to parents who are in fact more informed, with a broader range of choices that respect our kids’ uniqueness.
  • We have very high expectations for ourselves. The oft-mentioned fear of failure among Millennials does hold some truth, in my opinion. And as parents, this translates into a near-obsession with figuring out the “right way” to do anything kid related. We research every new stage or upcoming milestone our kid faces, and we may drive ourselves a bit insane. But hopefully, we will also parent with presence and attention as a result.
  • We want to spend more time with our kids. I think more of us are looking for alternatives to the 9-5 life — a self-styled life — in part so that we can spend more time raising our children.
8 Month Old Linden enjoying dinner--baby-led weanng style (don't know what that is? Google it.)

8 Month Old Linden enjoying dinner–baby-led weanng style (don’t know what that is? Google it.)

Of course, this is my take, based on my own experiences and relationships, reflective of my socio-economic status, etc. I’m also right on the edge of the generation divide, especially because my husband is technically a Gen Xer (though, I’m sure I’ve rubbed off on him with my Millennial ways–I made him join Facebook, after all).

Nevertheless, I’m probably close to the “average mom” that’s going to define my generation. Either way, from both the marketer’s assessment and my own, it seems likely that the Millennial parenting style will change the prevailing narrative around the Millennial Generation.

Millennial parents: how would you categorize yourself as a parent? What would you add/omit? Do you think you’re different from your parents, or the Gen X parents before us?

Observers of millennial parents: do you think this assessment is accurate? Surprising? Ridiculous? 

13 responses to “The Millennial Generation… as Parents?

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  4. Thanks for your insight and perspective of being a millennial parent. I’m not actually a parent myself but I might throw in that millennials don’t have as strong of a desire to have a traditional large family. While I don’t have stats or studies to back this claim, I will throw out that the people within my circles are having one or two children, instead of three, four or five children.

    • That’s a great point. Anecdotally, it seems to be the case from what I’ve seen, too.

      Along with the “traditional family” idea, many of us have moved and aren’t close geographically to our extended families. I know this trend has been continuing for a while, but it certainly impacts the way we parent, in my opinion.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  5. Great post! If you are an example of the Millennial Generation’s devotion to practicality and parenting, Linden’s generation is going to be bursting with well adjusted folks.

  6. I was born in 1980 and I never really attached myself to a generation. I agree with some of the things you said, but I just do what I do, and never really think about it in the bigger context. Ignorance is bliss :-p

    • Thanks for commenting! I definitely agree it’s more important to follow your own lead than try to conform to some particular set of values. I think it’s interesting, though, that even when we feel we’re doing this, our methods tend to be similar to those of our peers, as if we all rub off on one another without even realizing it!

  7. Excellent post! This is why I follow you to read and see how your generation is doing and what it’s thinking. Our daughters were born in ’81 and ’86 and they both are parents. I recognize your bullets in how they are bringing up GS1 and GS2.

    • Thanks, Georgette! Nice to hear that you feel your daughters share some of the same traits as parents–it’s good to know I’m not way off 🙂

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