Why Millennial Parents Just Might be the Best Ones Yet

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Millennials get a bad rap. According to other generations, we are basically the worst. Time Magazine recently published a cover story called “Help! My Parents are Millennials!” and the first paragraph featured a vegan stay at home dad with twin boys named Astral Defiance and Defy Aster. Uggggghhhh. Of all the Millennials they had to interview. Talk of Millennials conjures images of young people glued to their smartphones, taking endless selfies, expecting money and accolades for mediocre work and being perpetually offended and/or triggered. Millennials are convinced they’re all special snowflakes; being told they’re brilliant and gifted when they’re not, getting trophies just for showing up and constantly being hovered over has made them the generation of “Me, me, me.” (Also a term coined by Time magazine, the pretentious jerks.) We are selfish, narcissistic, entitled and lazy…and holy shit now we’re entering the workforce and becoming parents! It’s a baby boomer’s worst nightmare!
 
millenials on phones
 
As a Millennial, I am offended by this. Like, I literally can’t even….
Jk. I am certainly amused and a little irritated by it though. Millennials are being touted as entitled because we demand fairness. We are called lazy because we have a world of information at our fingertips and use it to solve problems quickly and efficiently. Millennials are called narcissists because we take selfies and enjoy sharing our lives on social media. Are you kidding me? Are Millennials the first generation to take pictures of themselves, or is it maybe because we now have a multifunctioning camera with us at all times, as well as hundreds of followers who like looking at our face? Remember when people used to sit in the same position for hours and hours to get their portrait painted? And we are the narcissists? Riiiight.
bartholomew
Millennials went to college as tuition rates skyrocketed and wages stayed stagnant. Forbes magazine says, “Since 1985, the overall consumer price index has risen 115% while the college education inflation rate has risen nearly 500%. According to Gordon Wadsworth, author of The College Trap, “…if the cost of college tuition was $10,000 in 1986, it would now cost the same student over $21,500 if education had increased as much as the average inflation rate but instead education is $59,800 or over 2 ½ times the inflation rate.” (Emphasis mine)

So when people tell us that we are entitled or ‘just want a handout’ when we ask for cheaper, or god forbid, free college tuition, it really grinds my gears. Students these days are leaving college with an average of $30,000 in student loan debt. Debt that follows us for life. Debt that can’t be charged off in bankruptcy, debt that will garnish our wages should we ever decide to stop paying it. Large sums of debt that students just did not need to take out 30 years ago because tuition prices weren’t astronomical like they are now.
boomers
Not to mention, because we joined the labor force during the “Great Recession”, we are in the most competitive job market in decades and the expensive degree is no longer a guarantee of a job like we were led to believe. Even though having a degree increases your earning potential quite a bit over a lifetime, it has now become equivalent to having high school diploma 20 years ago. You need one just to get in the door at most good jobs. Try to complain about it, and listen to baby boomers tell how they just “hit the pavement” to find a job. Sure, we’ll just walk down Main Street and ask for a job at Hooper’s Store, or Macintosh’s Fruit and Vegetable Stand. (A+ if you get the reference) Just be like “Hey are you hiring?” Let the manager look you up and down and he’ll be like “You look like a fine, outstanding young man, I think you’ll do.” (A++ if you get that reference) and BOOM! You’re making $60,000 a year and you’ll get that debt paid off in no time and then you’ll be ready to buy a house and start a family!
 
Which brings me to another point: Millennials get shit for not buying homes and cars like previous generations have, instead choosing to spend our money on food, smartphones and electronics. As The Atlantic’s snarky piece “The Cheapest Generation” points out, Since World War II, new cars and suburban houses have powered the economy and propelled recoveries. Millennials may have lost interest in both.How could that be? What on earth would possess a young person to choose public transportation, bicycling, zip cars and Ubers over wheeling and dealing with slimy car salesmen for a $30,000 (on average) piece of metal that starts losing value the second it’s driven off the lot? Why would they balk at car payments, insurance costs, tabs/registration fees, and gas prices, oil changes, parking fees and regular repairs and maintenance? Don’t they care about the economy?!?! Why would they choose to keep another car off the road that pollutes the environment, increases already gridlocked traffic, is one of the top causes of serious injury and death and most importantly, requires you to STOP looking at your phone for extended periods of time?!?!
 
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 Are we really that cheap, or did we just emerge from a generation that aggressively bought things they couldn’t afford, didn’t really need, and paid dearly for it when it was time to collect? Millennials watched their parents lose it all when the housing market collapsed, unemployment soared and home values plummeted. They watched their parents lose their jobs, go into foreclosure on their homes and default on their credit card payments. At the very least, they came away with a sense that the American dream wasn’t what it once was, or even what they were told. Now that things have started to stabilize since the recession, we have found that mortgages are very difficult to get and not necessarily worth it when we’re leaving school with an entry-level job that pays $15 an hour and a shit ton of debt we aren’t sure how we are going to pay back. Mortgage companies are more stringent with their loans than ever (over-correcting, it seems, from the sketchy lending they were doing a decade ago.) and wages aren’t even increasing with inflation, so it’s costing us more money and we are getting less for it. Yooooooooo! Sign me up!
 
Ninja please
 “Ninja, please!”
2006 was the golden age of mortgage lenders.
 
Now, we are establishing ourselves in the labor market, starting to settle down and becoming parents. 60 million millennials will become parents over the next decade. We are surpassing baby boomers as the largest population demographic in the country. We’re here! [Some of us] are queer! Get used to it! And we’re having babies! I say we, because obviously I am one of the Millennials who is having babies. More specifically, had babies. I got started on my family quite a bit earlier than most of my Millennial counterparts thanks to the Hayes Super SpermTM, but I am a Millennial parent nonetheless, and I can tell you that we, as a whole, are doing a pretty damn good job. We may just be the best generation of parents ever, and here’s why:

1. We are determined not to make the mistakes our parents made.
Because we grew up over-scheduled, special snowflakes with an expectation of achievement we weren’t sure we could actually live up to, we aren’t going to put those responsibilities and labels on our kids, and hopefully avoid the anxiety and crippling fear of failure that comes along with them. Today’s Millennials remember being shuttled from piano, to soccer, to scheduled playdates and recitals, to Costco, birthday parties and beyond all in one Saturday. We see and feel the damage that causes, and will not do it to our own kids. Millennials know that kids thrive when they are allowed abundant unstructured, pretend play that fosters creativity and makes kids responsible for their own fun. While our parents certainly had our best interests at heart, it wasn’t necessarily the best way to raise a child.
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 We also now know that while every kid really is a special snowflake, they all can’t be praised for the same things and in the same way. We know that instead of telling our kids they are geniuses, we tell them that their good grades show just how hard of a worker they are, so they place their intrinsic value on hard work and not on innate abilities. We know that kids develop a much stronger and more sustainable sense of self-esteem if you praise their work ethic rather than their intelligence or skill.

We give our kids agency, and run our households more like a democracy than a dictatorship. Millennials just believe in treating their children like little humans with their own feelings, thoughts and ideas. We offer them choices, reason with them, and offer guidance, but ultimately let our kids make their own choices and deal with the consequences, good or bad. We don’t want them growing up with an inherent fear of authority figures and desire to comply. We want them to be respectful of others and their superiors in their life, but we encourage them speak up if they disagree with something and take responsibility for themselves.

2. We are progressive liberals.
Much to the chagrin of anyone who supports “The line of ‘Make America great again,’ the phrase, that was mine” “Some, I assume, are good people” Donald “Why doesn’t he show his birth certificate” Trump or Ted Cruz in the upcoming election, as a whole, Millennials are increasingly liberal. Aside from the great red/blue political divide that seemingly puts all of us on opposite sides of each other, this is actually really good for our society. Millennials are more accepting of those who are different than they are especially marginalized groups, minorities and people of different income levels. Millennials have the highest levels of empathy and compassion of any previous generation. They support LGBT rights, they fight against racism, misogyny and income inequality and they do not support war or political aggression they deem unnecessary. Millennials know that embracing people from all different walks of life improves the quality of life for all Americans and helps us grow as people. Face it, old white dudes aren’t going to run this world for very much longer, and Millennials know that equality isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s a good business strategy. There’s a reason that zealots and evangelicals and racists are screaming so loud. They know their support is wavering and that public opinion of their ideologies is declining. They’re shouting the loudest because their old ways of oppressing everyone but other white dudes isn’t gonna fly. It’s the wail of a dying man. Unfortunately, “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” Thanks, Huffington Post!
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National debt in the trillions, an endless war we still seem to be fighting, a disappearing middle class, black lives being devalued, women being blamed for their own rapes, children starving in one of the richest countries in the world and you think selfies and ‘the gays’ are ruining this country? Fight me, Helen.
3. We are painfully optimistic
Despite the terrifying financial climate we grew up in and the seemingly rigged political climate that we are now a part of, Millennials still believe the best days are ahead. Bentley University says, “Research studies consistently find millennials, ranging in age from 14 to 34, to be inexplicably positive despite facing higher levels of student loan debt, poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than any other generation in the modern era.” Despite the fact that the baby boomers (the “best generation”) consumed and almost depleted every single resource they could get their hands on, despite that we will likely be retiring without a social security or Medicare system that we have paid into since entering the workforce, despite that we are the lowest paid demographic, we are still positive! Maybe it’s the fiery passion and idealism that comes with being young, but we Millennials feel pretty damn excited about the future, and optimism is what helps power social change and can bridge gaps between what is dreamed and what is possible. We are changing the world, and we are going to pass that optimism and positivity on to our children, who are also going to go on and do great things. It’s the circle of liiiiiiiiiiife! Yaaaaas!
Circle of Life
 4. We are the most educated generation….like….ever.
We know stuff. We’re smart. We have many leather bound books. We grew up in the digital age and we now know how to harness a wealth of information right at our fingertips. I promise, we’ll only use our fingertip powers for good! Except for maybe Tinder. I wouldn’t know because as I said, I left the dating game long before many in my generation were even thinking about putting a ring on it. Tinder could be a sophisticated place with reasoned choosing of mates and intellectual banter…I really don’t know, but man, am I glad to be out of the game! Right now I’m blogging in my Gryffindor hoodie and yoga pants, watching Making a Murderer and eating goldfish crackers and drinking Sprite Zero LIKE A BOSS, so basically my ideal night, and somehow Steve still finds that attractive! You know what a hard sell that would be on Tinder?!
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Haha swipe left, amirite bae?
 Anyway, in addition to holding the world’s information in our pockets, we are apt problem solvers and use that information to solve problems with the least amount of work involved. That’s not laziness, it is efficiency. We also have the highest number of college graduates of any generation, with over half of them being women! Yaaaas queen! Get it! Educated parents raise children who achieve more, are more successful in their occupations and are inherently less aggressive and violent.
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5. We value ethics and sustainability over profits
Millennials hold businesses to a higher standard than their parents and grandparents did. They don’t just look for the lowest price; they are looking for companies that have pledged to run their business sustainably and ethically. Millennials grew up in a time where scientists were telling them that climate change was ruining our planet, and that humans were in fact directly responsible for accelerating that process by wasteful consumption. They were told to “go green” to save money and the environment, and while many companies only jumped on the green bandwagon to make more money and appeal to their demographic, Millennials are taking that advice to heart. They know this is the only planet we have, and pledge to treat it better than previous generations. I am a little cynical whenever I hear a baby boomer talk about environmental issues. As a matter of fact, at the vacation house we recently stayed at, there was a sign that said “Please help us protect the environment by turning off the AC when you leave house” and a part of me was just like, “Do you really mean that, or are you just trying to appeal to us by using buzzwords so you can save money on your electricity bill?” Millennials have said they will spend more on a product if they know the company is running their business ethically. They are looking for environmentally responsible companies who won’t use every resource and cost-cutting method just to improve their bottom line. Millennials also value a company that is socially responsible; they won’t give their business to companies that exploit their employees and trade partners for profits, as demonstrated with widespread boycott and scorn toward Walmart. They demand that employees earn a living wage and get treated fairly. They want employees to have good health insurance and acceptable working conditions.
planting
A Civics lesson from a slaver. Hey neighbor
Your debts are paid cuz you don’t pay for labor
Millennials also value community and shopping locally. They know that large corporations don’t always have their best interests at heart, and can see that stimulating the local economy benefits their community as a whole, even if that means higher prices and less convenience. That said, they are still fiercely loyal to some of the cutting edge companies they grew up with that offer the best services, like Amazon, even though Amazon has become quite the corporate giant itself, gentrifying local neighborhoods and muscling smaller competition out of the market. Free 2 day shipping? Drones dropping off packages at our house? Streaming of movies and shows on all our devices for one low price? Yaaaaaaaas! Oh, you say Amazon is becoming the Walmart of book sellers and working their employees to the bone (albeit paying them well)? Yikes. That’s a problem for us to worry about later, after we get through Season 4 of Downton Abbey.
weekend
Dowager Countess is my spirit animal.
We aren’t perfect. We are admittedly distracted by all this technology and perhaps our kids won’t thank us later for broadcasting their entire lives, from their first poop in the potty to their first awkward date, out to hundreds of others on social media. But armed with a desire to overcome the shortcomings of the past to create a brighter and happier future by using all the tools that technology and globalization has to offer, I think we are gonna do all right. And so will our kids.
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