Thursday, August 9, 2012

[Blog Buddies] Millennial Families: Reinventing [Home] Life, Generation-Sell Style

Our good friend, Kate, blogs at Perpetually Nesting about deliberately living a dynamic and diverse life and connecting the points to see the constellations of our shared existence. Deep stuff, indeed! In blogging and sharing about perpetually growing and changing as a parent in this complex time in history, Kate offers a unique perspective on how the rising generation is beginning to shape our shared future - not just in the professional and civic realms, but also in family and personal life. Read more below for her thoughtful take on how Millennial families will reinvent (home) life.

I was born in 1982. I am 30 years old.

That means I straddle the millennial/gen-x continuum. It also means that when I left the workforce at age 26 to have my first son, my friends were either in the first years of their careers or still pursuing terminal degrees. When I left work to have babies, our generation was at the bottom of the professional hierarchy, and I was the first among my cohort to do the motherhood thing. At the time, our generation was full of  assistants, paralegals and interns, med students and analysts.

And in 2008,  as I waddled my pregnant self out of that J-O-B for the last time, I didn’t realize that I was embarking on a professional journey. I thought I was going home to be a housewife, but it was so much more. The economy simultaneously crashed and the social media revolution began, I started to get antsy at home. My slightly younger colleagues were relegated to jobs as baristas and long-term unpaid interns. So…

It was the perfect time to have another baby!

And with that, I went from an unrealized public health professional with an (Canadian) ivy league education to a pregnant mother of a six month old. I started parenting, home-making (literally figuring out how to do dishes with two babies around) and blogging (to stay sane) while my generation struggled outside of the house to make some sort of dent in the worst recession since the 1920s.

Oh we struggled to forge a path, any path. Friends posted on facebook asking for help with rent, others couch hopped for months on end – and it’s not over yet. We just had the worst economic month of the year.

Back in 2008, many of us entered grad school with the full knowledge that we might never get to use our graduate studies in real life. Not that there’s anything wrong with education for education’s sake, but many of us felt like we were just killing time. It turns out that we were building roads. All that barista-ing frustrated us, so we became business owners. Our generational struggle has transformed us from emo hipster lackies into self-made emo hipster survivors. We’re resourceful now, and still fiery.

Our generation is still pushing, but now that I’ve re-emerged into the professional realm, I see that we’re rising too. And with our rise, comes a lot of unexpected change.

We’re different. We’re strange in a scary, threatening, diverse, exciting and motivated way, both professionally and in our private lives. We do things differently, but that difference is useful. Take my family for example. I have a new career that is sort of informed by my masters degree, but not always. I am multi-disciplinary, multi-passionate: a blogger, a business owner, acommunity problem-solver, a mother of two awesome, empathetic and creative humans, and a full-time seeker of what’s next. Just like you.

Our generation is driven by impossible dreams: to make money and also do good; to be individual innovators and social entrepreneurs. We believe that we can be an independent army – collaborative rather than competitive. We believe that we are more powerful than what the generations above us want us to think, and that’s a profound thing. Our generation is informing a complete and total cultural shift. And that shift, I think, starts at home.

Image Credit: Bob Jagendorf
We believe that we can be good leaders and great parents, and we’re willing to break molds in order to make sure that happens. And as more and more millennials become parents, we’re going to change home-life, too.

We are less willing to accept the status quo, more willing to customize. T, for example, recently made me a consulting widow. 4 days a week, he is at work for at least 12 hours; on the fifth day, he does more like 9 or 10 hours, and apparently it will get worse. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t take his job as Daddy just as seriously. We’re going to find a way to find quality, even if it means finding another way. And I’m going to start telling you about it, here, and anywhere else that will have me.

Our generation is productively subversive. We’re going to be the ones to figure out how to balance family life with our professional worlds and rebuild our nations into thriving, global, boundless places, starting in our houses. I hope I can make a drop in that bucket here.

If you aren’t in my generation, hold your horses, you’re still invited to come along. I’m not saying that you don’t embody these qualities. I’m not saying that you don’t value what I value. In fact, I know many fifty-somethings who espouse the innovation, forward thinking attitude of change and financial risk taking that puts us on the brink of a cultural revolution – you were the first wave that led us here. I’m saying, I guess, that those of us who feel this way have reached critical mass, and I’m totally and completely glad, despite all of the terrible things that keep happening in the world, that I live, right now. I can’t wait to see what new families innovate in the years to come.

Are you a millennial or Gen-X professional? Are you starting a family? I want to hear from you. What will you do differently, either professionally or domestically? What will shape your decisions about work-life?

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