Ah, millennials. Depending on who you ask, they’re either our best and brightest hope for the future — or they're "entitled" and "spoiled" representations of how the younger generation “just can’t do anything right.”
And based on the fact that we’ve been subjected to nearly a decade of breathless journalism focused on millennial trends and millennial characteristics, it stands to reason that millennials aren’t really the youthful and naive whippersnappers that many baby boomers assume.
In fact, the median age for millennials in 2019 stands at 31, and a growing portion of this generation now find themselves becoming first-time parents. As a result, we’re seeing a rise in millennial moms and dads in cities, small towns and rural communities throughout the nation, where they’re doing what millennials do best: changing the rules and creating new norms.
Read on for a full overview of the millennial parenting wave and what it means for the position of young parents in the professional sphere.
First of all, what exactly is a “millennial”?
The definition of a millennial shifts and twists constantly, to the point where it becomes really tough to pin down exactly what age range falls into this category. However, experts at the Pew Research Center tell us that a millennial is a person born between the years 1981 and 1996, ranging in age from 23 to 38 in 2019. By contrast, Generation X includes people born between 1965 and 1980, while Generation Z encompasses people born after 1996.
How many millennials are parents?
As of 2018, millennials constituted 29% of the total United States population, according to the Pew Research Center. The center also reports that 48% of millennial women had welcomed children as of 2016, and 17.3 million women became moms for the first time during that year.
What’s the average age range for millennial parents?
The average age of first-time parents in the millennial generation easily exceeds that of millennials’ own baby-boomer moms and dads. The New York Times claims that millennial women become moms at an average age of 26, while millennial men’s mean age for first-time fatherhood happens at 31.
However, geography, education and socioeconomic standing also play a role in the timing of millennial family expansion; the Times notes that the average age of millennial parenthood starts at 31-32 in major coastal cities with high costs of living (like New York City and San Francisco), while millennials living in smaller, rural towns (especially in the Midwest and the South) who don’t have college degrees tend to start families in their very early 20s.
What characteristics are most representative of millennial moms and dads?
Millennial parents came of age at a turbulent point in history; the rise of social media, the aftermath of 9/11, and the economic crash of 2009 all contributed to a potent motivation to forge their own paths. This applies to Generation Y’s embrace of unconventional work schedules, their deep investment in technological advances, and even in the ways they choose to parent, which can diverge notably from the standards established by their own parents and grandparents.
A few key examples:
Millennial parents tend to prioritize their children’s independence, shying away from “one size fits all” parenting models. Millennial moms and dads have access to a plethora of resources for inspiration; between parenting books, the Internet, and social media, they feel comfortable taking a collage approach to the practice of raising their kids, drawing from many sources and figuring out a method and pattern that works for them and their families.
Social media plays an active role in the average millennial’s life, and that interest in sharing photos, videos and stories on different platforms extends to parenthood. In a recent article, Business Insider cites studies by Time and Survey Monkey claiming that, of their surveyed participants, “just 19% of millennial parents have never shared a photo of their kids on social media, compared to 30% of Gen X parents and 53% of Baby Boomer parents.”
When it comes to splitting childcare duties and handling housework, millennial parents reject the gender divides more common in earlier generations. A 2015 survey by CNBC indicates that millennial fathers are more likely to take on these tasks than their predecessors, and the New York Times designates “co-parenting” as a trend on the rise among millennials.
When hiring babysitters, nannies and other caregivers, working millennial parents place a premium on educated professionals with master’s degrees, backgrounds in child psychology and medical licenses, according to Care.com.
Due to a tight job market and economic strife during their transitional years, millennial parents often struggle with financial woes. The Times mentions a trend of millennial parents turning to their own baby-boomer moms and dads for support when possible and necessary, and millennials with the ability to do so often find it helpful to accept their parents’ assistance.
Although millennials typically rely heavily on their mobile devices and the help offered by technology, some Gen Y parents have recently opted for simple, back-to-basics toys for their own offspring. Newsday reports that searches and saved pins for “wooden toys” rose by 173 percent in 2018.
While baby boomers and Gen Xers didn’t popularize the “co-sleeping” concept (largely out of an understandable fear of rolling over and crushing the baby), millennials are more likely to believe that co-sleeping can be done safely and beneficially, as long as proper research is conducted and implemented.
Gender-neutral parenting is becoming more prevalent among millennials. This concept has a different meaning to every family who chooses to adopt it, but at its core, gender-neutral parenting involves teaching your kids to treat everyone equally, regardless of their gender identity.
Largely out of necessity, millennial parents often have a keen ability to budget and economize. The Bump mentions the millennial fondness for thrift stores and flea-market finds as a helpful way for millennial parents to stock up on clothing-related essentials for their little ones.
How many millennial parents are in the workforce?
Currently, millennials make up the largest percentage of American workers; the Pew Center says that a full 35% of working adults fall within the millennial generation. As for millennial moms, the Pew Center indicates that a full 7 out of 10 participate in the workforce to some extent, while only 47% of similarly-aged mothers maintained paid jobs in 1975.
The influence of millennial parents in the professional world can be clearly seen in new parental-leave initiatives and a growing push to encourage companies to support a strong work-life balance for all employees.