I am a 32-year-old middle-class, millennial mother of two and I call bullshit on this millennial “shame game”.
According to many articles and memes that have recently inundated my newsfeed, there is an entire cohort of entitled, unmanageable, lazy, and narcissistic young people scuffing up the shiny gold standard of those who walked this Earth before them. And, apparently, I am one of them.
Now, I am not a politician, an economist, an analyst, or a sociologist studying the trends of generations. But, I am just like so many of you. I am a smart, well-educated, hard-working woman and a mother who loves her children more than anything else on this planet. And so, as I look back on my journey to where I am now and consider what I do every single day presently, I can honestly say that I would like to confidently and politely tell anyone who called me any of the adjectives listed above to please knock it off.
I earned straight A’s in every class from kindergarten through graduate school. I attended (and helped pay for) high performing schools my entire life. I traveled the world for work and gained invaluable lessons on tolerance, understanding and acceptance first-hand.
And, I am a working mom who busts her butt every single day. (And let me be clear here, if I were home with my children 24/7, I would still be busting my butt every single day.) I have two kids under two. If I am not wiping noses, changing diapers, or teaching the meaning of life to my little ones, I am lesson planning for work or attempting to organize my home life and/or state of mind.
I commute hours a day to a job that requires me to educate and mind the safety of about thirty children who are not my own. I cook, I clean, I schedule, I pay the bills, I make lists of things my family needs and go buy those things with the two children in tow. I prep, cook, pack, and clean the food. I buy the gifts, write the thank you notes, do the laundry, kiss the boo-boos, answer the night-cries, plan the date nights, research the activities, and I drive to the events, the play-dates, and the schools.
I also married a smart, well-educated, and hard-working millennial man. We work together to manage a home life, a family life, and our careers so we can pay the bills, pay off our college debt, and save for the future of our family. We work together to make ends meet. We work together to make our past efforts “worth it” and our future “better” for our kids – just like most millennial parents do.
And, yet, most days we feel like the work we do isn’t enough. We struggle with the reality that, despite our best efforts, not only do we not have enough money to support our family the way we imagined we’d be able to back when we were busting our asses in graduate school, we also don’t have enough time to spend with our family the way we’d imagined we’d be able to either.
What’s more, we are ever-so-relentlessly (thanks to social media) presented with a “solution” to this delicate balancing act: starting a side hustle. The possibility of finally achieving financial freedom and time flexibility is especially appealing to “new millennial moms” – moms who are basically desperate to find a way to spend more time with their little babies since they receive virtually no family care leave from their employers.
Yet still, this seemingly sparkly “side-hustle/MLM/new business/social media influencer” option hits even the most ambitious moms in the gut when the reality of what is required washes over us and we see the writing on the wall: if we just do just one more thing, we will be better off. (And let me be clear again… this is not to put down the women who have managed to do any of these things, because you are truly amazing and I admire you.)
We receive the message over and over again that we aren’t doing enough. We—the moms only working hard at a career we’ve pursued for a decade while raising children, or the stay at home moms only working hard at being everything at all times to tiny little humans, yes, we—are not doing enough.
We don’t feel like we are doing enough because right there in the palm of our hands is someone we don’t even know showing us that we could somehow work harder and be better.
Well, that is why for the sake of you moms just like me and for the sake of our kids, I am calling bullshit on this millennial shame game nonsense.
I am calling bullshit because, as we sit upon the throne of educational debt while simultaneously attempting to build the recommended college savings account for our children from the ground up, the implication that we need to be doing more than what we are already doing is as much as it is insane as it is insulting.
Recently I started to think of things from a different perspective: What if it were my children standing in my shoes right now? What would I want them to think of themselves? What would I tell them?
I would tell them to look back on all they’ve accomplished and achieved and to be proud. I would tell them to let go of all of the incessant pressure to create a larger than life future and spend more time relishing in gratitude for the present moment in front of them.
That’s why it is important for me, and you if you will, to find the light peeking through the forest and focus on what really matters –- things like happiness and love—so we can be the most crystal-clear models of what this looks like for our children.
I want my children to be happy. And since happiness is truly state of mind, I want them to learn to find happiness on their darkest days by turning in to themselves instead of relying solely on other things—other people, other circumstances, or other opportunities.
My children don’t know what I have done to get where I am today and they don’t see the workload I carry. What they see is who I am when I am with them. What they see is how I answer them when they ask for something for the millionth time, how I respond when I pick them up from school or when they need comfort in the middle of the night, how I react when they show me something they’ve made or when glitter gets all over the floor, and how I behave when we are running late or when someone needs my help. They see how I empathize and validate all of their feelings, even the tough ones, and how I care for them unconditionally, even on tough days.
It is these little moments that make up their canvas of life when they are young, and it is this foundation of presence that will carry them throughout adulthood.
This is what they are learning from the most. They’re learning from me. And your children are learning from you.
So, I urge you to find peace and gratitude in our reality as it stands: despite the struggle to find a balance between work and play, spending and saving, resting and hustling, find hope in accepting that some of those status quo symbols that once mattered so much to us when we were younger and working towards achieving our own “American dream” might hold less stake in life than we once believed after all… that is, of course, only if we’ve found the true meaning of happiness right within our own selves along the way.
This is the ultimate legacy a parent can impart on his or her children - a parent from any gender, race or religion, any career or culture, any country or social class.
Be the change you want your children to see in the world, and, please, don’t let anyone make you feel less than what you truly are along the way.