When I first discovered I was pregnant, I did what any resourceful Millennial would do, I consulted the World Wide Web. “How far along am I?” I asked Google. “How big is my baby?” “When am I due?” “When do I call the doctor?” “How should I tell my husband?”
What I found online was unexpected.
I did not expect to come across countless contradicting articles. I did not expect AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) to issue, what felt like, 10 new safety standards a day. I did not expect to feel irrational pressure to abide by all the safety guidelines and modern philosophies of parenting. I did not expect the cruel world of mommy bullying. And I did not expect to have to essentially learn a new language to understand the resources I found online (Click here for my Online Mama ~ English Dictionary).
These surprising revelations led me to consider how the Millennial’s experience in this world has impacted our approach to parenting.
The millennial generation was given advanced tools to solve problems. From the age of 9 or 10, this generation had new technology and devices to reach one step beyond where the prior generation had landed. Expedited problem solving and product delivery became standard.
This generation was expected to use new processes for learning. It became vital to get the highest grade, engage in various extracurricular activities, get the right internship, and score high on the SAT to even be considered for college.
Most students in this generation spent 4-7 hours a night on homework, and 10 hours a week in extracurricular undertakings. This generation was taught to focus on the grade and the resume.
According to this article published by the US Chamber Foundation, science is showing our brains actually evolved to produce equally excellent products while multitasking in order to accomplish assignments, squashing the myth that multitasking leads to decreased performance. A millennial brain literally operates different than other brains.
Due to the economic downturn of 2007-2008, this generation lived through the crisis of losing first jobs, or seeing their parents lose jobs. Many of our generation lived in families that suffered foreclosure, lived through homelessness, and visited food pantries for the first time during this economic calamity.
In the midst of this pressure, technology was leveraged by this generation as a means for social connectivity. As this generation entered adolescence and the approval of peers became increasingly important, they turned to social media. Under the pounds of homework, and unyielding pressures from schools and society at-large, this often became the quietest and safest place to pursue pressure-less relationships.
Therefore, this generation learned to cope with emotional pressure by connecting through social media. They learned how to appear perfect. They learned how to get the approval of others. They learned how to sound smart. They learned how to filter their lives. And they learned how to get answers quickly.
It was not that the importance of success changed from generation to generation, it was that the perception of success changed.
Success became remarkably quantitative. Extraordinary pressure was placed on this generation to achieve metrics, and to do so quickly. According to a recent poll, 67% of Millennials feel a debilitating pressure to succeed in life. And the underlying message based on qualitative research is that many members of this generation perceive themselves as failures if they have not reached lofty career goals by the age of 20. Much of this “immediate results” mindset is likely due to a lack of patience (a direct result of this technology-driven society).
A great deal of research has been done, and many speakers have graced the subject of “Millenials in the workplace” (If you are unfamiliar with the subject, I encourage you to watch this short video.) But, not many have approached the crossroads of Millennialism and motherhood.
According to Pew Research Center, Millennial women accounted for 82% of births in 2015. About 1.3 million Millennial women gave birth for the first time in 2015. It has been said that to be a mother is the most powerful position in our world, and so we must consider how the experience of this generation impacts their mothering.
There seems to be overwhelming pressure on this generation of moms to “get it right.” Instead of asking older women for input, this generation is consulting the Internet. Instead of calling an experienced woman for guidance, or checking out a book from the library, Millennial moms are sifting through 9,724 hits on Google, or reaching for real-time feedback from other moms on Facebook.
Studies have shown the wide array of options and choices available to this generation have actually compounded stress. Perhaps the overwhelm of information available to these moms feeds a perception that perfection is, actually, attainable.
Interestingly, Pew Research Center has found over half of the millennial generation identifies “being a parent” as a core element of their identity, which is remarkably higher than the generations before them. Unlike Baby Boomers and Generation X, who prioritized “having a strong marriage,” Millennials report that “being a successful parent” is their highest life goal.
By appreciating this generation’s history, one may better understand their parenting experience. The growing pressure to succeed, to achieve metrics, to stand on the shoulders of those before us, to use technology as a means of connectivity and problem solving, to seek approval of peers (which, with social media platforms, typically include often over 500 friends), and to constantly apply ever-evolving child-rearing strategies is a new and unique parenting struggle that has not existed in previous generations.
So, when a new, hormonal, millennial mama graces the web for pressure-less connectivity and answers but, instead, finds an entirely new world of expectations, an identity crisis is likely.
Parenting in this information age is a blessing and a challenge. There are different articles circulating on recalls and updated safety standards issued almost daily. Every week a new story is placed in front of us about how a baby died from an incident with a standard household item. If a mama admits to practicing a strategy that strays from what is recommended by AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), or the IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) community, she can expect immediate discouragement and, often, public online shaming.
So, be gracious to each other.
To the wiser and more experienced parents,
I urge you to consider before you “share” the recent article you found on Facebook about PPD, SIDS, walkers, strollers, car seats, outlets, bathtubs, sleep training, pacifiers, batteries, swaddles, rock and plays, breastfeeding, formula etc. Realize that she probably has already seen that article, and what she truly needs is your support and the advice you can give from your experience (when and if she asks).
To the millennial moms and future young-mamas,
let’s consider how our experience has shaped our approach to nurturing our babies. Could it be that we are becoming disillusioned by the plethora of information and countless safety standards in attempts of “succeeding” as a mom? Are we losing sight of what matters in the journey because we are too busy researching the details of baby gear and methodologies? Are we missing our baby snuggles because we are worried about “parenting” our 7 month old? Are we disconnecting from our kids’ hearts because we are distracted by the Pinterest possibilities or their test scores?
We need to lean deeper into the hearts and experiences of our grandmothers and our mothers. We need to disconnect a bit from technology and connect to our mama gut. We need to recognize that raising this human will not be measured in metrics, it will be a beautifully hard journey that requires wisdom found in human experience, not Google.
To all moms who love and follow Jesus,
our identity is not “mother,” it is “daughter of God.” Our goal in life is not to succeed as a parent, it is to love well. What God meant for good, the enemy uses to tear us down. Our online connection can be sanctified and powerful as we live out our true goal to love and honor one another. As we cower at the bullying, the shaming, and the unending standards that are put before us day after day, let us remember that we are not placed here to please other women. We are already a pleasure to God. We do not have to know it all, He will go before us and behind us. We need simply to be humble, and admit that we need a “counsel of many advisors” (Proverbs 15:22), not the counsel of the World Wide Web.
Please feel free to use my Online Mama ~ English Dictionary to help you in your online research.