Growing up, I was the oldest of four children. I liked having a big family. My siblings and I grew up close and continue to be to this day. I knew I wanted my kids to have the same kind of experience with their siblings. But then I grew up, and life hit me like a wrecking ball, as it did most millennials.
Don’t get me wrong; I was never under the assumption that raising kids wouldn’t be expensive. But I guess I also assumed I’d have a decent enough job to afford them. And a safe and secure place to raise them in. And… well, you get the point.
It’s not that we wouldn’t consider expanding (or starting) our families, but do you understand the resources it takes? Because newsflash, whatever resources were enough in our parent’s economy don’t go nearly as far in ours. So let’s be honest, if you’re a millennial or know one, it’s a fact: our generation got the short end of the stick.
Millennials have more student loan debt and lower-paying job prospects than the boomers who preceded us. Not to mention a housing market that is so inflated and overpriced that we would have to give up several lifetimes of avocado toast to be able to afford a down payment. It’s not that millennials don’t want to have kids (or more kids). It’s just that we can’t afford them.
Careers, Education, and Money are to Blame
So, what is holding millennials back, you may ask? Well, financial security, wanting to further our education, and careers definitely carry some heavy weight when it comes to decision-making around family planning. According to the CDC, in 2020, the U.S.’s birthrate fell 4% compared to the previous year. Now, I totally understand not wanting to bring a new life into the middle of this chaos we call Covid (and, honestly, the general dumpster fire that has been raging since March of 2020). But aside from all that, there are many other reasons millennials are postponing starting their family, or foregoing it all together.
We live in a time where a college or post-secondary school level education is required for “decent-paying” employment. Employment, which hardly covers the cost of the loans we took out to get said education in the first place. And even when we do finally land that dream job (eyeroll forever), we are basically expected to commit our entire life to our employer. So tell me again — when exactly are we supposed to find the time to raise a family?
Money may not buy happiness, but it certainly makes the world go round. Especially when it comes to starting a family. We don’t have the time to raise a family (please see explanation about being figuratively chained to our desks from 9 to 5). And we don’t have as many resources:read: money for diapers, a mortgage, and student loan payments. And no, before you even go there, we can’t stay home to take care of the kids or pay a nanny to raise them instead. These are only a few of a million different solutions that are thrown our way from well-meaning, though woefully uninformed boomers … I mean, people.
What Millennials (And Everyone Else) Really Need
Pay a nanny, or if you can’t afford one, stay home. Oh, you can’t afford either option? Well, maybe you should stop buying designer coffee and avocado toast, and then you could. No, Daphne, just stop. And for the love of all that is good, what do you have against avocados?!
Instead, here’s a thought worth considering. Pay employees livable wages (and not using that 1962 calculation). Make access to affordable, safe childcare for everyone. Not just the people who have to work a second job to pay the daycare bill from their first job. Does this sound like a broken record yet? Is it irritating to constantly hear about how millennials (and younger generations) are struggling to get by? I bet it is. But not nearly as annoying as it is to be asked (at every freaking family gathering) about why you haven’t settled down and started a family yet.
And please excuse me a moment while I dive into the icing on the cake. While millennials (both male and female) are postponing starting their family, statistics show that the ladies are fighting a steeper uphill battle than the guys in our life. Women still aren’t paid equally to their male counterparts. And women who choose to be a mom and a rockstar employee are overlooked for positions when up against a dude (family man or not). Yes, it’s a thing. The motherhood tax in corporate America is a whole other discussion for another day.
So, let’s just start with equal and fair treatment for all employees, parents or not. And let’s cut back on the cost of daycare. Not by taking away funding from daycare centers. And not by cutting their employee’s wages, but by having these companies who preach work-life balance actually follow through and match a part of their employee’s copayment. Radical ideas, I know.
Millennials don’t love skinny jeans, avocados, or designer coffee more than kids. We just want to be able to afford to raise them. What we really love is the idea of being able to provide safe, secure, affordable housing, education, and lives for our future children. But until the system is fixed that is holding all of that out of reach for us, don’t expect us to start our families.
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