When starting a Google search on millennial parents, one of the first few autofill suggestions that come up is “millennial parents are the worst”. Ouch. As a soon-to-be millennial parent, I take offence to that. I’m not really the worst, am I?
Millennial parents aren’t the worst. We are just doing things a bit differently than the generations that came before us. And for whatever reason, that’s freaking everyone out.
The thing that people seem to be forgetting is that every generation of parents has done things differently than the generation before them. In the 1950s, families were very adult-focused—kids were part of the family, but the family did not revolve around them. The 1970s-80s saw the rise of divorce and introduced the world to the latchkey kid. And the early 2000s brought us helicopter parents who were overly concerned about their kids’ safety.
With the rise of the internet, though, all the other generations have a place to sound off constantly on the new wave of parents like never before. And every generation seems to the think next one can't do anything right, so it's just par for the course, right?
So here are 20 things that millennial moms are doing right that no generation did before them.
20 Gender Neutrality Is Important To Them
In generations past, it was very common for parents-to-be to embrace the gender of their baby. From painting the nursery a wonderful shade of blue for boys and pink for girls, to dressing their kids in clothes that represent their gender, to buying dolls for girls and trucks for boys—there was no limit to what parents would do to let the world know “hey, I had a boy!” or “look at my adorable baby girl”.
Millennials are redefining what gender means and when they become parents they are more likely to be more sensitive to the possibility that their children’s gender identity may be more complicated than pink and blue.
They are letting their boys dress up as princesses, showing their daughters that loving blue is an option and are teaching their children that all genders are equal.
Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, and Sandee Hathaway write in their book What to Expect: The First Year, “It is possible to raise children who are not '[discriminatory]' in their points of view, who have respect for both males and females, who will choose their future life roles not on the basis of stereotypes (of any kind) but on the basis of their own personal strengths and desires—and who, no matter what their gender, will be nurturing in their relationships.”
Above all else, millennial parents are responsive to their kids' needs when it comes to gender identity and they never force gender stereotypes onto their kids.
19 Car Seat Safety Is A Priority In Their Cars
Who can remember a time when they rode in a car as a kid without a seatbelt or in the lap of an adult? If you were born in the 80s or early, odds are your parents weren’t too strict when it came to car safety. It’s not their fault really.
It wasn’t until 1976 that wearing a seatbelt became mandatory in Canada. The law didn’t come into effect in the United States for another 13 years when the law was passed in 1984.
And when it came to car seats, it took even longer to get legislation in place. It took until 1985 for every state to have a car seat safety law in place But still in 1987 only 80% of children were actually using a car seat.
Nowadays, not only do millennial parents make sure to use a car seat, they actually spend a lot of time researching and choosing just the car seat. They want to make sure their kids are as safe as they possibly can be while riding in a car.
Ask any millennial parent and they will most likely be able to tell you all about the exact safety specifications of their car seat and explain everything you need to do to ensure that baby is safely strapped into the car seat.
18 They Either Embrace Or Reject Social Media For Their Kids
Something our parents never had to deal with? The internet and social media.
It adds a whole new layer to how you parent. Will you post about your kids on Facebook and Instagram? Will you use their real names and share their faces with the world? Or will you keep all identifiable aspects of your kids off the internet? Or even completely swear off sharing anything at all about your kids online?
Whichever side of the fence you sit on, there are pros and cons to both. If you do share about your child with your friends and family on social media, you get the added benefit of keeping everyone in the loop—even those that might live on the other side of the country. It’s a great way to create a quick way for you to look back on your own memories as your kids grow. Just be sure to check in on your privacy settings to make sure you know who can see your pictures.
The downside of “sharenting”, aka social media sharing as a parent, is that you are putting your child out there in the world for almost anyone to see.
"Some of the main concerns relate to identity theft (privacy risks), digital harvesting of kids' images on predator sites (cyber-safety risks), sharing personal information about your child that should remain private (psychosocial risks), and revealing embarrassing information that may be misappropriated by others (psychological risks)," wrote researcher and author of 'Raising Your Child in a Digital World', Dr Kirsty Goodwin.
17 They Are Monitoring Screen Time
Another uniquely millennial parenting concern is what to do about screen time. In previous generations the only screen parents had to contend with was the television. It was more likely for parents to find their kids out in the neighbourhood playing tag or a game of catch—television was viewed more as a special occasion kind of thing.
Fast forward to parents of today and the number of screens they have to manage has increased exponentially. From televisions and laptops to computers and tablets to the ever-present smartphone, screens come at our kids from every direction.
And the data backs up the fact that kids today are spending less time outside—50% of the amount of time in fact. A 2015 study conducted by Common Sense Media found that American kids from 8-18 are spending an average of 7.5 hours of screen time per day.
So millennial parents are taking matters into their own hands. They are keeping an eye on how much time their kids (from birth) are spending in front of a screen. Some parents even completely ban screen time altogether.
The American Pediatrics Academy recommends that kids 2 to 5 years old should have no more than 1 hour of screen time per day. But in our world of 24/7 digital media, the academy recognizes that after 6 years old, parents should set their own time restrictions and monitor what their kids are looking at online.
16 They’re All About Feeding Their Kids Organic
Who remembers heading to school with a Skippy peanut butter sandwich or a Lunchables packed into your lunch bag? Not to mention a Fruit Rollup, Rice Krispie treat or even a Hostess Cupcake if you were really lucky as a snack. And tucking into a bowl of Kraft Dinner Mac and Cheese or a quick hotdog was par for the course, especially on busy nights when you had dance or swimming.
The days of overly processed, overly indulgent school lunches and at-home dinners are something that a lot of millennial parents have left behind for the baby boomer generation. Instead, they are turning to a healthier, organic diet for their kids.
But why? Well, millennial parents are more informed than parents of the past.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a warning about the exposure to pesticides. “Children encounter pesticides daily and have unique susceptibilities to their potential toxicity,” the academy wrote in 2012. They also mentioned the “chronic health implications from both acute and chronic exposure are emerging.”
So instead of taking that risk, millennial parents are choosing to feed their kids organic meat, dairy and produce. If they continue to do so, it can have a huge positive impact on the environment.
15 They Make Magical Memories For Their Kids—And Record Them In Depth
When I look back on my first trip to Disney World, I have fond memories. Hanging out with my sister and brother, watching the parade go by with all my favourite characters and even meeting Mickey Mouse. I think I have one picture that I can locate from that trip, where I have a balloon tied to my wrist and Mickey Mouse ears on that match my sister’s (and everyone else in Disney World that day).
But Pinterest has changed things quite a bit. While I would say my parents made my first visit to Disney World magical, they definitely didn’t make it millennial parenting magical. We didn’t have a Fastpass to get us through the lines. We didn’t have matching, custom Mickey Mouse shirts. And we certainly didn’t have a massive surprise Disney announcement beforehand.
That is the way of the millennial parent. They want everything to be above and beyond for their kids and they’ll do just about anything to make these magical moments for their kids.
Not to say that our parents let us down, but millennial parents are living up to a completely different standard set by social media, bloggers and society in general.
14 Millennial Dads Are Taking On More Caregiving Roles
In previous generations, moms and dads fell into stereotypical gender roles. The mothers became the primary caregivers in the home while the fathers spent their days outside of the home working. As time has progressed, more and more mothers have entered the workforce as families needed dual incomes to survive.
With that change, many moms still took on the majority of the household and caregiving work. Millennial parents are the first generation that is really starting to realize the imbalance this has created and are rectifying the situation.
“If you look at their generation—the baby boomer generation—you had really classical [parenting] roles,” McDonald’s director of brand marketing and digital strategy Akash Pathek said. “This is not stereotyping. Millennials are in less classical roles. Frankly, in my Facebook groups, there’s a lot of dads who stay at home.”
Dads in 2015, for example, spent three times more hours on childcare tasks and two times more hours on housework than dads in 1965.
Another great example of the shift is the increase in stay-at-home dads. According to Millennial Magazine, the number of stay-at-home dads has doubled since 1989. They also noted that the number of dads responsible for child care increased from 5% in 1989 to 21% in 2012.
That’s a move in the right direction!
13 They’re Making Their Own Baby Food
While there have always been parents who make the effort to make their own baby foods, for millennial parents it’s a trend that most parents are on board with—at least for a little while.
With the invention of the Baby Bullet—a food processor made specifically to help busy parents make and store baby food—and other similar products, making your own baby food is easier than ever. And the best part for parents is that they know exactly what goes into the food they feed their babies.
With the desire to eat organic, non-GMO, unprocessed foods, making it yourself seems like the easiest way to ensure parents are meeting all the above.
And with the increase in allergies, it also allows parents to avoid any potential allergens. The occurrence of allergies in children has increased by 50% over the past 20 years. An estimated 5.9 million kids under 18 have a food allergy.
Additionally, making your own baby food can cut costs as it is cheaper than buying store-bought baby food, even when you take into account buying your own baby food processor. It may take a bit more time, but that's what millennialism is all about.
12 They Are Waiting Longer To Start Their Families
By the time my mom was my age, she already had three kids under her belt. She had her first kid when she was 25 and her last kid when she was 29. And here I am, on the cusp of 32 and pregnant with my first. It’s hard not to feel like I am behind in where I should be at this point in my life.
But it turns out, for a millennial, I am right on track. Millennials are waiting longer than any other generation before them for a variety of reasons. From financial constraints, student loans, career choices, the desire to travel when young and the inability to buy homes, millennials have been putting off having kids.
Only 28 years ago, the average age of first-time mothers was 25. Now, the average age of first-time mothers is at an all-time high of 28.5. But make no mistake, many millennials still want to have children.
According to an article in Bloomberg, "Younger generations haven't been in such a rush to be parents. Generation X—and millennials even more so—are waiting longer to start families, especially over the last several years. Americans still say they want kids... In 2013, the most recent [Gallup] survey, the average ideal number of children was also 2.6, and the most popular answer was 2 children, given by 48 percent of respondents. So we want children, only later.”
11 They Don’t Always Want To Be “Mom”
Moms have always worn a lot of hats—caregiver, cook, nurse, chef and so many more. And in past generations, all of these hats used to always be prefaced with “mom”. Millennial moms are looking at things a little differently.
They don’t see themselves as “just” moms, there is more to them. Even when it comes to stay-at-home moms, moms want to be able to take off their mom hat every once and awhile. For some women, that hat is their career.
In fact, 74% of women feel that work-life balance became extremely important to them since they had children. For others, they want to be able to take time for their interests. Whether it be fitness, makeup, crafts or other hobbies, moms want to be able to put aside their mom duties and focus on themselves.
The importance of “me time” for moms has come to the forefront in recent years. To be able to properly take care of your kids, you need to take care of yourself too. And oftentimes taking care of yourself ends up at the bottom of a mom’s priority list.
Millennial moms aren’t having any of that. They are taking the “me time” they need.
10 They Foster Individuality In Their Children
While I might not be onboard with every unique name choice that parents give to their kids, this is the first step that a lot of millennial parents are taking to ensure they foster individuality in their kids.
Like never before, parents are focused on their children’s individuality and work to address each child based on their own personality.
Millennial parents are throwing out the rule book and realizing that a cookie cutter solution will no longer work for all children. They need unique parenting solutions for their unique child.
So how are millennial parents fostering individuality in their kids? They are letting them find their personal passions and then supporting those passions. They are heading out to their kids’ sporting events, dance recitals, art shows and other events to show that they support their passions. They are encouraging their interests, showing that they, too, are enthusiastic about them and celebrating their achievements.
Every kid will find activities that they enjoy. They will develop different interests and quirks that are unique just to them. Their interests won’t always align with your own, but millennial moms and dads know the importance of fostering the things that make their kids individuals.
9 Millennial Parents Are Environmentally Conscious
A poll commissioned by the Clinton Global Initiative and Microsoft found that 66% of millennials believe in global warming and 75% of those respondents blame it on human activity. And millennials are more focused on the environment (76%) compared to their parents’ generation (24%).
So what are millennial parents doing to ensure that they leave the best earth behind for their kids as possible? They are teaching their kids to be just as environmentally conscious as they are.
“Over 80 percent of Millennials say that being eco-friendly improves their quality of life, and three-fourths actively look for changes they can make in their home and lifestyle to be greener,” a 2014 survey by the Glass Packaging Institute found.
They are saying no thank you to disposable diapers and instead are choosing to use biodegradable alternatives or cloth diapers. They are making their own baby food to cut back on waste. They are taking hand-me-downs from friends whenever possible. They are leaving behind the plastic water bottles and turning to reusable water bottles.
And all these efforts and initiatives are being passed down from millennial parents to their kids to make sure that when they become adults, they can continue to live sustainable, eco-friendly lives.
8 They Teach Their Kids To Be Open-Minded
It’s hard to say whether or not other generations taught their kids to be open-minded. The reality is that society has changed so very much that what it means to be open-minded has completely changed as well.
Millennial parents are making an effort to raise their kids with open minds to help them become better human beings in the process. Therefore, they are not putting limits on how their children think. Instead, they are encouraging their kids to look at problems from different angles to find different solutions. This is a better approach to trying to find real, sustainable solutions to our world's problems. An entire generation of parents refusing to live in the past can't be a bad thing.
They are working to teach their children to be politically correct in every sense. We live in a society that is diverse and multi-dimensional and millennial parents are making an effort to raise their kids so they are integrated into our diverse world.
“Don't tell kids in a direct way to be tolerant—that's an 'eat your vegetables' kind of approach. Instead, give them the tools to understand the complicated social world and the confidence to ask questions when they are confused," explains Michael D. Baran, PhD.
7 They Are Emphasizing Effort Above Achievement
Try as I might, I was never very good at math. I was a great student, I spent hours and hours in high school pouring over textbooks and attempting sample problems. But I never really managed to get much better than a mid-60% in my math classes. My parents were understanding, but there was never really any celebration of the effort I put in to be good at something that was just beyond my reach.
Millennial parents, on the other hand, have started to put more focus on the effort a child puts in as opposed to the achievement that the effort results in.
“At the beginning of her first year of kindergarten it was clear our daughter’s perfectionistic nature was interfering with learning to read,” wrote Child and Family Therapist Angela Pruess. “As we progressively learned to encourage and praise ‘stretching it out’ (apparently the new term for ‘sound it out’) as opposed to figuring it out, we started to see drastic improvements in her confidence and skills.”
For millennial parents, the focus has shifted from celebrating external achievements like good grades or a win at a baseball game to giving more credit to the process of working towards these achievements.
“Achievements don’t mean much if you don’t have strong character to back them up,” Pruess continued. “Most leaders I’ve seen have had grit and guts in spades, allowing them to go forward and make some type of movement in their world.
6 They Are Allowing Their Kids To Work Through Struggle And Setbacks
With the rise of helicopter parents, we see more and more kids who have grown up without really ever facing struggles. They aren’t equipped to face the challenges of the world, as they have never really had to learn how to overcome challenges when they were growing up.
It is not easy to watch your kids struggle. When you see them faced with pain and failure of any kind, you immediately want to step in and help them—it’s the reality of being a parent. Millennial parents, though, are recognizing that they won’t be able to protect their kids forever. And that attempting to do so will, in fact, have a negative effect on them in the long run.
Instead, they are giving their kids the chance to work through problems and challenges. And as their kids work through these issues, they develop the skills to become problem solvers.
It can take a lot out of you, but millennial parents realize that they need to sit back and let their kids work out their problems on their own. Not only will this help your kids develop their problem-solving skills, it also gives them the chance to develop effective ways of coping with the setbacks they are sure to face in life.
5 They Are Making It Work With What They’ve Got
More and more millennials are opting to live a minimalist lifestyle. Instead of having every single thing, they are choosing to be choosy.
There are two reasons why millennials turn to minimalism—out of necessity or by choice. Those that choose the lifestyle do so because they choose to base the value of their life on their relationships and experiences. For others, it’s the most effective way to use their resources and income.
Personally, I didn’t choose the minimalist lifestyle, the minimalist lifestyle chose me. I live in a large urban area where square footage is at a premium. In our small two bedroom apartment, it isn’t possible to have every single baby toy and gadget. Instead, everything I buy has to have at least two purposes. I bought a convertible crib, a change table that becomes a dresser and every item of clothing is carefully selected based on need.
“Minimalist parenting might seem like a challenge, but it’s a lot easier than you’d think,” writes mom blogger Jennifer Landis. “Instead of focusing on the things you buy your kids, spend your time focusing on the experiences you have with them. When memories become more meaningful than things, you’ll know you’ve done the right thing.”
4 They Make Family Time A Priority
Even though 46% of millennial parents are both in the workforce versus 31% of parents in 1979, millennial parents actually spend more time with their kids than any other previous generation.
And while traditions like nightly family dinners have taken a backseat, millennial parents are finding other ways to spend quality time with their kids. And they are making an impact.
For example, back in the 1960s, dads spent an average of only 16 minutes a day on parenting. Now, fathers are upping their game and spending an average of 59 minutes a day with their kids.
Dads making a more conscious effort to be there to spend time with their kids. Parents are also looking for activities that the whole family can do together. From Mommy and me classes to after-school sports where mom and dad volunteer to coach or participate in other ways, parents are finding ways to make extracurricular activities a family affair.
Millennial parents are more focused on their children than parents of past decades and they are finding fun and creative ways to squeeze in as much family time as possible. The greater presence of parents, especially fathers, in their children's lives will surely have benefits for the future.
3 They Turn To The Internet For Advice, Not Just Friends And Family
When our parents had a question about raising kids, they had limited options on where to turn. Whether they were having trouble with a teething baby or just couldn’t figure out what to do about a persistent fever, parents of past generations had two places to turn—parenting books and their support network.
Our parents would have to head over to their well-worn copy of “What To Expect In The First Year” or pick up the phone and call a friend or their own parents when they needed advice.
But millennial parents have the wealth of the world’s knowledge at their fingertips thanks to the internet.
"Google is the new grandparent, the new neighbour, the new nanny. The good news is that parents know more about child development than ever before," one expert said in an article in The New York Times.
That doesn’t mean they aren’t turning to friends and family to help them through their difficult parenting conundrums. It just means that they also are able to take advantage of the internet and crowdsource their advice from people all over the world. Information has never been available in the speed and volume we have today. And while that sometimes leads to confusion and conflicting information, it also leads to a more complete discussion on any topic.
2 They Know They Are Great Moms
Being a mom is a tough gig. You are literally tasking yourself with raising another human, it can be a lot of pressure.
Thankfully, millennial moms are confident that they are killing it when it comes to being moms. The Pew Research Center conducted a survey on moms and asked how they thought they were doing. More so than any other generational group, millennial moms said that they were doing a great job raising their kids.
57% of millennial moms say they are doing a very good job as a parent, compared to 48% of Gen X moms and 41% of Baby Boomer moms.
While I’m sure that the majority of all moms are doing a great job, it’s hard to evaluate your own skills as a mom. After all, we tend to be our own toughest critics. So keep your head up millennial mom, you’re doing a phenomenal job! You deserve to give yourselves a pat on the back and even show off about it on social media. People may give you flack for it, but what is social media there for if not to show off about your accomplishments? Everybody does it, and being a mom is a pretty big accomplishment, so moms have the most right.
1 They Embrace The Non-Traditional Family
The idea of the traditional, nuclear family was something that was held tightly by past generations. A mom, a dad, 2.5 kids, a dog and picket fence. That was the dream that most people aspired to.
But over the past two decades the idea of what makes a family has been changing. In fact, fewer than 25% of American household are made up of what we used to consider the traditional family. “The year 2000 marked the first time that less than a quarter (23.5%) of American households were made up of a married man and woman and one or more of their children -- a drop from 45%t in 1960. This number is expected to fall to 20% by 2010,” a 2005 study found.
We’ve seen the rise of step-parents and blended families, unmarried parents, same-gender families, single-parent homes and so many other combinations that make up a family.
As millennials, we are trying to teach our kids to accept diversity in culture, in families, and in society. It all comes down to showing our children that we are all humans and we all deserve love and respect.
Does that really sound like "the worst"? Nope, it sounds like building a better, more inclusive world for our children.
References: matadornetwork.com, smartparenting.com.ph, wikipedia.org, saferide4all.com, huffingtonpost.com, matadornetwork.com, cnn.com, time.com, scmp.com, romper.com, womensmarketing.com, verywellfamily.com, romper.com, elitedaily.com, sammyapproves.com, parents.com, msnbc.com, huffngtonpost.com, parents.com, mother.ly, verywellfamily.com, businessinsider.com, pewsocialtrends.org, pinterest.com, pinterest.com, instagram.com, instagram.com, popsugar.com, independent.ie, people.com, todaysparent.com, dailymail.co.uk, fashionodor.com, people.com, pinterest.com, pinterest.com, buzzfeed.com, imgrumweb.com, ahappymom.com, pintrest.com, lonny.com, popsugar.com, sarahbessey.com.