The 6 Best Things About Being A Millennial Parent
As a Millennial, I've grown accustomed to being viewed through the prism of youth and all its follies. Millennials are often cast as unattached, entitled and narcissistic, to name a few. But, hey-o, in reality, Millennials are pretty incredible, and we're now spawning incredible little people of our own — and some of the best things about being a Millennial parent are inextricably linked with some of the best things about being a Millennial, period.
With Millennial parents numbering more than 22 million in the United States alone, we account for a considerable portion of the parenthood. With that number expected to grow exponentially over the next decade, we are now the pacemakers. We are the ones defining how the culture of parenting will look, like our parents did before us. Not surprisingly, it doesn't exactly look like it did when we were growing up and, at least in part, this is by design. As the mother of two tiny humans under the age of five, I often marvel with my own mom over how much has changed in the parenting game since I was my kids' age. My mom agree: parents today are doing things differently.
That's not to disparage the job our parents did raising us, of course. If anything, it should be considered to their credit — they managed to send us out into the world as independent thinkers, innovators and, now, we want to carry the torch into the next generation. So, despite any flack Millennials may get (or the fact some people still can't wrap their head around the fact we're old enough now to procreate), here are some of the incredibly cool things about being a millennial parent.
1. The Emphasis on Empathy
It's hard to have understanding without empathy, and the world could certainly use a little more understanding. Regardless of being called "overly sensitive" or "idealistic," Millennials are forging ahead as feelers — and we're teaching our kids to do the same. I love that my five-year-old daughter, Marlow, wants to plant a community garden because the neighborhood kids always ask to pick the fruit from our Japanese plum tree. I want my kids to be in tune with the needs of others and to have a strong sense of community both on a local and humanitarian level. Studies show Millennials are one of the most socially compassionate generations ever. That's something worth passing along, eh?
2. Crowdsourcing Advice
It's no big secret that Millennials are digitally native. Even as part of the older half of the Millennial crowd (those born between 1981 and 1996), I can hardly recall a time when technology wasn't a mainstay in my life. So, yes, Millennial parents are just as heavily connected as their non-parenting peers. One of the perks? Crowdsourcing advice. Whereas my parents would likely have had to track down a doctor or thumb through the pages of a parenting book to find a solution to a problem or get advice about a parenting debacle, Millennial parents turn to friends on social media for everything from identifying weird baby rashes to tips for getting a toddler to eat their veggies.
3. An Indifference to Gender Norms
For parents in the past, gender norms essentially delineated the parenting hierarchy — the moms stayed at home and raised the kids, while the dads went to work to "bring home the bacon." It was the whole Cro-Magnon hunter-gatherer paradigm perpetuated. Millennial parents are taking a different tack, though. According to Pew Research Center data, dads represent a growing share of at-home parents. And with women now edging out men in the percentage of the working population with degrees, more moms than ever before are entering the workforce and bringing home that proverbial bacon. There's an indifference to gender norms among Millennial parents, in that there's no stigma over a man staying home or a woman going to work. As long as the kids are happy and the parenting gets done, gender roles are irrelevant.
4. Prioritizing Self-Expression
If I had a nickel for every time I've heard that kids today are being given too much freedom, well, I'd have a lot of nickels. Perhaps this train of thought stems from the old "children should be seen and not heard" ideology practiced by parents and grandparents of yore. But in a world that will undoubtedly try to quiet them, I don't want to censor my kids. This doesn't mean my children are allowed to say or do anything they want, contrary to popular misconceptions about millennial parenting. Our household is not a free-for-all. What it does mean is that I actively strive to encourage my children's self-expression. We're a democracy. I seek their input; I want to hear their opinions. You know why? Because I want my fierce little progeny to find their voices and grow into confident adults not afraid to use them.
5. Drone Parenting vs. Helicopter Parenting
Most of us were raised by Boomers, who we have to thank for the phenomenon known as helicopter parenting. It's arguably for this very reason that Millennial parents are bucking tradition by veering away from the overscheduled days of our youth. We're big believers in free play — in letting our kids discover the world through exploration and, yes, the aforementioned self-expression. Do we still hover? You betcha. But we do so in a way that is responsive. We're not there to direct our kids; we're there to watch them learn and grown, and to interact when merited. I'm very aware this makes some people nervous. Namely my mom.
6. The Extended Support System
Let's circle back around to technology, since its kind of the bread-and-butter of Millennial communication. There is seemingly no end to the feedback Millennials get about their obsession with social media but, as a Millennial parent, I find it invaluable. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and Millennial parents have the added benefit of a limitless digital village helping out with ours. While there is the possibility of feeling inferior to some of the picture-perfect, impossibly put-together parents (or their facades) on Facebook, Twitter, Insta and Pinterest, these forums are also invaluable tools of empowerment. As silly as it sounds, sometimes a solid set of "likes" or a well-timed comment can be the thing that keeps you from locking yourself in the closet and eating Nutella straight out of the jar after a tough day. We may over-share, but in doing so we are commiserating. We are supporting. We are sharing our experiences in a way that reminds us we're all in this together.