When you think of family values, do millennial parents come to mind? Or do you tend to think of millennials as more of the hook-up culture and assume that having children doesn’t really fit their lifestyle?
The millennials often get a bad rap! But research and statistics indicate that millennials—those born between 1981 and 1996—may be the most family-oriented generation in the last 50 years. Perhaps many of the younger generation haven’t bought into the kid-free, commitment-free lifestyle as much as it appears in the media.
When it comes to family, millennials are trying to do it better than previous generations did. Here’s how.
1. Millennial men are more involved in helping run the household.
In the ’60s, my mother did almost all of the household chores and took care of the kids. When I became a husband and father, I helped much more than my father did. But my wife was still the default cook and launderer. With millennials today, the father regularly surpasses my contributions—often because the mother works outside of the home too.
A 2015 survey by Working Mother Research Institute found that millennial dads are more likely to help around the house than previous generations. Melinda Gates made a splash recently in the headlines when she said that Bill was doing most of the trips to the carpool line at their kid’s school. Even though Bill is a baby boomer, his willingness to be involved puts him in a category closer to millennial dads in terms of progressiveness.
Some families have chosen to do a complete role reversal with a career mother and a stay-at-home dad. Even so, it’s widely known that women do more of the housework and care of the children than the father in most cases. Working mothers are still largely responsible for the care of the children.
What will the next generation do?
Note to millennials: Mommas, Be careful not to judge your spouse about whether they’re doing their half of the work. Love and help each other. Communicate instead of competing or comparing.
2. Millennials are putting a higher value on children and families.
Statistics bear this out. Millennials have increased the birthrate over the previous generation. An Associated Press review cited birthrates per woman reached the magical 2.1 population replacement rate in 2006 for the first time since 1971. Did watching Eight Is Enough or 19 Kids and Counting encourage this attitude? Possibly.
Or perhaps after growing up in a smaller family with their baby boomer and Generation X parents, millennials felt they were missing something and wanted more. One survey of high school students showed that 77% of students nationwide say “raising a family” is an “essential” or “very important” life objective. That’s 18 points higher than the same survey showed in 1977.
Millennials could be stronger advocates for the family than their parents.Their perspective about kids seems to be more reflective of that of King David, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3).
Note to millennials: Don’t make family your idol—don’t worship it. Build your life on Jesus and help your family to do the same.
3. Millennials are willing to put their kids ahead of their careers.
While their parents and grandparents built the family around their careers, more and more millennials are looking for ways to build their careers around their family. Many companies are finding that in order to keep highly-qualified individuals, they need to accommodate employees’ requests to work off-site from home, often at a great distance. This has changed the landscape of the modern workplace, which is looking much more like a dining room table than a cubicle.
Some mothers and fathers are also trying to juggle schedules so that only one caregiver is working at a time. One may work mornings and early afternoons while the other works mostly in the evening. The children always have a parent with them.
My son-in-law was offered an IT job in the heart of the city in a down job market, but chose to pass it up because of the one-and-a-half-hour commute. He said he couldn’t imagine taking three hours a day away from his family in addition to his working hours. His present job is about a 45-minute commute and he’s working from home whenever he can.
Millennials are looking at balancing career and family in a completely different way than their parents. They are trying to find ways to be there for their kids 24-7.
Note to millennials: Be careful. As you try to build your life around your family, don’t make your kids feel as though they are entitled and the center of the universe. Let them learn the value of delayed gratification. Prioritize your marriage above the kids—it’s the best thing for them.
4. Millennials spend more time with their kids.
Since millennials are choosing family preferences over career preferences, it follows that they’ve got more time at home. And they’re using it in the right way: to invest in their children.
The boomer generation tried to do better than their parents. A 2016 study, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family showed that dads in the ’60s spent about 16 minutes a day with their kids. Harry Chapin crooned “Cats in the Cradle” in 1974, singing, “‘When you coming home, dad?’ ‘I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then, son.'”
Millennial dads are doing it even better. Studies show that they’re spending about an hour a day with their kids.
There really is no substitute for time. It’s a great gift. When you’re with your kids, they learn so much from just watching you. And when you’re the one with them that much, you can have hundreds of conversations with your kids about all kinds of topics, some important and some mundane. All of these moments and conversations are important in building healthy children.
Note to millennials: Careful not to make your goal being your kid’s buddy. They still need you to be their parent. Approachable and available—sure! But still the one in authority.
5. Millennial parents are often more interested in good nutrition.
In a day when fast food is omnipresent, many millennial parents are choosing healthier options for their kids. According to a survey by Influenster, 60% of moms surveyed said they pack lunch boxes differently than the way their own mothers did, the primary difference being that the food is more nutritious.
Millennials are also looking for more nutritious options in purchasing their food. Millennial families are often choosing locally grown and organic options. Millenial Marketing cites research that shows that households with children are more likely to purchase food at farmer’s markets and food co-ops.
My own millennial daughter likes to make green smoothies for her children (don’t ask what’s in it). She puts all kinds of vegetables in their scrambled eggs. And they like it! You go, girl.
Note to millennials: Watch out for your kids’ health in all ways—mentally, physically, and spiritually. Give them good nutrition in all of these areas. Guard them against toxins in these areas as well—like too much screen time or watching the wrong things.
Millennials are making a difference at home.
Millennials believe in family. They’re doing their best to raise healthy kids. And they’re making great strides. I’m excited about the next generation and their children.
Of course, they’re making mistakes, too. All parents are sinful and broken—we need God’s help and grace for every phase of parenting. But let’s cheer each generation of parents on because we all know that raising healthy children takes heart, effort, hard work, and a lot of prayer!
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