Millennial women and motherhood don’t seem to be mixing well. We are coming to a point in our lives when a decision about what our roles are and who defines them must be made.
In another challenge to the status quo, some millennial women are going over the system and asserting their individuality.
We are saying “No” to motherhood, and to society’s traditional assumptions of what life’s milestones are all about, in a selfless attempt to save society itself.
Why am I willing to say no to motherhood?
As a millennial woman, this is what I’ve come to realize:
• Our world is overpopulated, therefore, procreation is not a “duty” anymore.
• Our world is polluted, and more people mean more trash; more landfills and greenhouse gasses.
• Our world has limited resources, and they’ve been managed and spent carelessly.
In his book, Friedman talks about the results of a cross-generational study, involving graduating classes from 92 and 2012. The study shows both young men and women from gen x and gen y understand the value of having children and the meaning of “family”.
However, from 92 to the present day, we’ve seen the definition of it change before our very eyes, and we like that it’s moving toward choice, flexibility, diversity, and inclusion.
What are the roots of our changed perspectives toward motherhood?
1 As millennial women, we have a greater grasp of social and environmental issues.
I believe our baby-boomer parents were, and still are, a pretty naive generation.
Every time I’ve asked a boomer mother to tell me the reasons why she went ahead and had children, the first and most astounding answer I get is the blank expression on her face as if saying: I don’t understand your question… or isn’t that what every woman is supposed to do… I mean, it clearly goes:
“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage… right?”
Babies are a long-term commitment and a high-risk “investment”; one which, as a matter of fact, is not panning out for our parents, thanks to the rising costs of education, the current state of the economy and lack of job market opportunities.
“Debt still powerfully shapes how Millennials envision their careers and families.” (p.13)
As Friedman points out, debt is not an illusion but a grim reality for most young millennial professionals.
We cannot come to terms with the fact that we must start a family, all while figuring out how to pay off student loans, make our paychecks stretch and cover our daily expenses, and follow our dreams and passions to fulfill our career goals.
2 We saw our mothers struggle to find “balance”.
According to the 80/20 principle, it’s impossible to divide your attention and daily activities 50/50 and truly achieve the level of success you hoped.
The very commendable goal of balancing work time and family time was always a big illusion. And as boomer’s or gen x’ers children, we could see right through it.
To be successful in our careers and incorporate motherhood into the mix would mean having to make a tough choice: to be honest with ourselves.
As of yet, a 9 to 5 work schedule is very much in the cards for most millennial professionals. It isn’t right to expect we’ll give our children our undivided attention if we only see them a couple of hours a week.
Thanks to our similar experiences, as children of working parents, I share the mixed feeling in the response of this millennial from the class of 2012:
“I wonder if it’s worth having kids when you aren’t there to raise them.” (p.11)
And I won’t even get into the concerning reality and significant hit to your wallet that is having to pay strangers to care for your child.
3 There are other meaningful ways to “mothered”.
As a generation, we are ready and willing to take mentoring roles, join movements and support external causes that explore our maternal instincts.
By getting involved in selfless activities we may, in fact, leave a legacy greater than ourselves.
As millennial women, instead of planning for our legacy to rest solely on our offspring and their accomplishments, we want to put ourselves at the center and plan our professional careers and personal lives accordingly.
“Social consciousness now competes with motherhood.”
We are finding ways to contribute to a society that involves altruism and philanthropy; doing something and caring for the people that already share our world.
Community out-reach is also a key factor when it comes to our satisfaction with the work we do and our “loyalty” to an organization’s values.
We must send out a clear message to traditional institutions: To Mothered is not exclusive to women who give birth, it’s a valuable human behavior that involves deeply caring, protecting and guiding another being.
We should all do what we can to develop that mothering instinct, for the sake of one another.
Basically, by having and nurturing a new perspective on motherhood, we are prepared to say “No. You’re welcome”.
• Millennial women must bring the issue of motherhood to their conversations with romantic partners, and, as always, make sure both are on the same page when it comes to life-long goals.
• As millennial women, like all women who have chosen not to be defined only by the role nature assigned to our gender and society, have come to expect from us, our fight against prejudice and tradition will be even more personal.
• As a generation, we must be prepared to face a backlash of criticism, from the traditionalists and the pro-procreation peeps. And of course, be understanding of the sad, unrelenting gaze of our grand-children-less mothers and mothers-in-law.
“The world has changed but our institutions have not.”
After being the second-largest generation to inhabit this earth, and now having to compete in an over-populated world for jobs and resources our parents and grandparents are still clinging to, the individual option and personal choice to be child-free have never been more significant for women.