I've said it before and I'll say it again: throughout human history, moms have had far more that unifies than differentiates us. We're busy, we don't sleep much, and we're pretty obsessed, in one way or another, with our children. But, of course, things change. I asked other millennial moms to describe what sets our parenting apart.
Not surprisingly, technology's effect on communication was a recurring theme. Hey, it affects every other facet of human existence in the 21st century: so, you know, why not parenting? This is a huge inter-generational difference between us and those parents who came before us. When I was born in the early '80s, a cordless phone felt high-tech. Now I walk around with a computer the likes of which I never could have imagined in my pocket. How could that not have an effect, right? Another thing that came up in my discussion with these moms was the shifting concepts of community: there was no firm consensus on whether we have it better or worse than our mothers and grandmothers, but it was definitely on a lot of our radars.
One issue that did not come up, but that I have thought about a lot is that, now more than ever, motherhood has become a choice. It use to be, more or less, just what you did because it was expected of you as a female-bodied person. Societal pressure, tradition, and lack of reproductive choice and birth control options often pipelined women into motherhood. However, many Millennial women are having babies later than previous generations while others are forgoing it all together. So, more than in the past, those of us who are doing this have made a conscious decision to go for it.
What exactly did my fellow Millennial mamas have to say on the matter? A lot.
"Easy access to information, both good and bad quality. My mom couldn't Google stuff or crowdsource info at 3 a.m. when she was considering how to handle a situation with me. But the downside to this is that there is a lot of misinformation out there and it can be dangerous."
"I am addicted to my phone, and as a result I find that I am often not 100 percent present for my kids. Frequently I wish that I was a parent 30 years ago so bringing my digital life with me everywhere just wasn't an option, because I just can't seem to drag myself away. I wish we still just rang our neighbors doorbells when we had a question..."
[Writer's note: Don't be so hard on yourself "Betty." If you think about it, I feel like this generation is still far more present than previous ones, simply because I think our generation is EXPECTED to supervise our children 24/7, which absolutely wasn't the case when I was a kid, much less when my mom was a kid. We were far more free-range than my kids are, and overall probably spent less time with our parents.]
"The internet and other easy, quick, cheap forms of communication. Both my grandmothers talked about isolation as young parents. While all parents can feel isolated, imagine not being able to call your long distance sister/friend without forking over lots of money, which neither [of my grandmothers] had."
"I think we have more access to information, science, and other moms than any generation to date. It can make us more likely to splinter off into cliques, but it also allows us to do our own research and make more informed parenting choices. I also think that Millennial moms have more peer support than past generations, and that's definitely a good thing."
This may sound a little self righteous, but I feel like there's a greater inclination to be considerate of your children and treat them with respect these days; an acknowledgement that they are autonomous (if mistake-making) people; less of a 'show them who's boss' authoritative power struggle and more of a relationship. Or maybe that's just a parenting style and not generational, but simply individual to any family of any generation.
"The access to information and research. It's both good and bad. Good because when you know better, you can do better! Bad because you may research things to death and drive yourself crazy! Also, there's this weird dichotomy ... It's almost "fashionable" to be a crunchy parent but also 'fashionable' to have the latest technology!"
"I'm not sure if this is specific to my generation but this is my take on why I think we have a good perspective on parenting when compared to how we grew up: after growing up in the generation of normalizing broken homes, we put a lot of emphasis on conflict resolution and don't shelter our kids from the fact that loving parents do argue. We also show them how to compromise and resolve things as well, and throwing in the towel is not an option. I think that is an important example and one I did not grow up with. We also try to balance older ways of thinking/parenting with newer ideas and trends. For instance, our girls were fighting a lot so we moved them from two separate rooms into sharing a room so they are forced to respect each other's belongings and space. ... However, we also get on their level and treat them like actual human beings rather than little people we can boss around until they are 18 - which I think is an older mentality regarding child-rearing."
Our kids are pushed to have 'grit' and '80s kids got a trophy for just showing up. Also, I don't feel pressure to enroll my kid in all the activities like I think previous, recent generations did. I attribute that to social media and ability to connect with more like-minded people who can help validate your choices.
"I'm one of the older millennials. My upbringing is different than how my husband and I approach parenting. For starters, my father was not very present. We knew him as the guy who was working but it was our mom who cared for us. I actually don't have strong memories of my father other than of him yelling at us for something we did wrong. There was also a very clear power differential between my parents.
My husband, on the other hand, is extremely present in parenting. I've never felt like all the work was on my shoulders. Second, we have an enormous amount of information available at our fingertips that our parents simply didn't have. Third, the concept of 'village' has changed substantially. I can't tell you how many of my friends and I have expressed feeling very isolated and alone when our children were very young. A lot of us found 'villages' in a virtual space but lack the physical benefits of a village close to home. Being able to have a neighbor or a friend/family close by to call on when you're in need can make a world of difference. I've experienced both and, as great as it is to have people to reach out to across the world, I would much rather have a great friend down the street that I can share a couple glasses of wine with after a particularly grueling week."
"I feel like we're more connected to a wider world as parents now, and I think that's a good thing. You're not just swapping tips and tricks with the moms on your street, you're reading up on parenting philosophies from around the world. I feel this could have helped my childhood suck a bit less, because my mom definitely took advice and cues from people who didn't know what they were talking about or doing, but she had no one else to tell her otherwise."
I think it's basically the same except we Google more.
"For me, it's technology in general. The phone can be a distraction, but it's also a quick and easy way to capture pictures and videos that I'll treasure forever. We can video-chat with relatives across the world whenever we want. We can select the exact programming we want our child to see and when we want them to see it, instead of relying on over-the-air broadcast. I can silently text my best friends while my son naps on me and still feel connected to the world but also like we're in our own little bubble. And, of course, the access to information is both a blessing and a curse. I think technology has a lot to do with the world feeling smaller too, and for all of us being more exposed to news, events, people, and cultures from other parts of the world. I think — or, at least, I hope! — that it's made me more open-minded in my parenting."