Grandparents Day earlier this month sparked the observation that some of our adult children take a different approach to parenthood. This is not their childhood redux. The changes range from care and feeding to playtime and parenting philosophy. According to a study of more than 10 million millennial parents, 50 percent agree with the statement “I am raising my kids the way I was raised,” while another 50 percent disagree or are neutral to the statement.
Their top concerns? Monitoring their kids’ diet and worries about the environment. Perhaps as a reflection of their own overscheduled upbringing, more than 60 percent think their kids need more unstructured playtime. When it comes to what millennial parents want for their children, 82 percent want their children to know that possessions will not make them happy, 77 percent want their children to graduate from college, and 56 percent want their children to excel at sports. Along with the supposed de-emphasis on possessions, when millennial parents do go shopping, half say they buy products from companies that support charities, such as Nike, Target and Apple, which all have “cause platforms.”
Grandparents are not alone in taking notice of this different approach. Millennial parenting has been put under a microscope by firms such as Goldman Sachs. The numbers are indicative why: Nearly 90 percent of new mothers are millennials, and they bring a spending power of $1 trillion a year. Raising a child from infancy through college graduation now costs parents more than $500,000. From healthy breakfast cereal and toys that teach to watching cartoons on Netflix and shopping online, millennials are proving “disruptive” to many industries. “The Millennial Moms survey,” Fortune noted, “painted a portrait of the young parent as a health-obsessed, smartphone-gorging, anticorporate crafter” with the power to “transform the retail, food-processing, restaurant and advertising industries.”
Some writers noted the Goldman report focused on millennial moms, not dads. Apparently, moms still make most of the parenting decisions, from purchasing to the child-rearing philosophy. Perhaps it’s not surprising that millennials have proved more traditional than disruptive on the home front. Many begin married life planning on splitting household and parenting duties, but the reality is that women still pick up the bigger share of the work. For example, millennial moms spend more than four hours a day taking care of children and the home, with dads clocking just two hours, according to the Young Invincibles, a national nonprofit organization. “The average pair of millennial parents maintains a surprisingly ‘traditional’ division of paid work, childcare and household maintenance,” the report noted.
While millennials have put their stamp on parenting in the 21st century, they are seeking a more family-friendly workplace. “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” a 2012 Atlantic magazine cover story, drew more than a million views, pointing out that many mothers struggle to balance work and family. The author, Ann-Marie Slaughter, recently wrote in a New York Times article, “A Toxic Work World,” that many young women “are shut out by the refusal of their bosses to make it possible for them to fit their family life and their work life together.”
That brings us back to the boomer grandparents who have been increasingly called upon to assist with child care, shuttling kids to activities and providing backup support because their adult children need help in a 24/7 two-income-necessary world. We just have to make sure that we follow the detailed instruction manual that comes with the little darlings and stock up on kale chips.
Mary W. Quigley’s blog, Mothering21, tackles parenting of emerging adults and beyond.
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