The Millennial Generation is now the largest living generation in the United States, having outpaced Baby Boomers in 2015. And as Millennials (roughly those born between 1980 and 2005) get older, more and more of us are entering into parenthood. Our generation has its own distinctions, of course, growing up with the Internet, living though 9/11 in our formative years, and entering the job market in one of the roughest economies in recent memory—all while being what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce calls "likely the most studied generation to date." So, it makes sense that we'd put our own stamp on motherhood. Here are 15 ways we've managed to distinguish ourselves as parents.
1. We're not worried about screen time. Think screens will rot our kids' brains? Research may show that little kids will grow up better if their time with TV and devices is seriously limited, but millennial parents just aren't that worried about it. A 2013 Common Sense Media study found that 38 percent of children have used a mobile device by the age of 2, an increase from 10 percent in 2011. The duration of screen time increased in those years, too, from an average of 5 minutes per day to 15 minutes per day for children 8 and under. The truth is, Millennials understand that we live our lives through screens, and we're more worried about the quality of screen time over counting minutes. If giving Junior an iPad means he gets to FaceTime with an aunt in Virginia and a grandparent in New York at the same time, let there be screens.
2. Technology keeps us connected. What are we doing with all of that screen time? We're not just watching cat videos (though there are moments). We put the internet to work for us. Millennial moms spend 17.4 hours per week on social media, which is 4 more hours than the average mom. This interconnectedness gives us more parenting support—"sharenting" through the highs and lows of motherhood—and also make us big digital influencers with a tremendous amount of word-of-mouth power. The message is clear: Be good to us, brands, or we're going to tweet about it.
3. We're shunning the suburbs. To our parents, having a family probably meant buying a house out in the suburbs with a lawn and backyard. Millennials believe that parenthood and urban living are not mutually exclusive, and are less willing to give up easy access to restaurants, shops and bars. A Nielsen study shows that 62 percent of Millennials prefer living near the amenities associated with urban centers. "They are currently living in these urban areas at a higher rate than any other generation," the report notes. "As a result, for the first time since the 1920s, growth in U.S. cities outpaces growth outside of them." As for that big house with the green lawn? You can keep it: Research by online investment platform rplan.co.uk shows that 1-in-10 Millennials expects that, for better or for worse, they will never own their own home.
4. We're not just working for the money. We're actually happy about our jobs. The Working Mother Research Institute's "Mothers and Daughters: The Working Mother Generations Report" found that Millennials are more satisfied with our career prospects, the support we get from our managers and our compensation than Boomers or Gen Xers. And we're even prone to sacrifice some of our salary to be even happier. Fidelity's "Evaluate a Job Offer Study" found Millennials are willing to take, on average, a $7,600 pay cut if it means better career development, purposeful work, more balance or an improved company culture. We know what's really important, and we're not going to give up family dinners for a few extra dollars.
5. We're health-obsessed. We're masters of compromise, but one place where we won't skimp is our family health. We're ditching fast food for better family dinners—is there any wonder that [Whole Foods is launching a separate line of stores just to appeal to Millennials?
6. We have the best pop-culture role models. We didn't grow up with June Cleaver and Donna Reed. Instead, the pop-culture moms of our youth were realer, rawer, more open about their flaws—and still darn good moms. Millennial kids grew up on Patty Chase from My So-Called Life and Helen Morgendorffer from Daria, who were the breadwinners in their families; Harriette Baines-Winslow from Family Matters, who held her own in a two-income family; Murphy Brown, who put a new face on single motherhood; and moms like Molly Weasley and Marge Simpson, who kept their families together in the midst of constant chaos.
7. And inspiring peers. Whenever we need a little momspiration, we can look around and find examples of women who make motherhood work. Confident, accomplished moms like Jessica Alba, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Brit Morin and Blake Lively are not only great parents, they're also successful in their careers, and show you can be both Mom and the boss—and how each helps you become better at the other.
8. We waited to have kids. The Urban Institute found that Millennial women are the slowest to have kids of any generation in U.S. history. A grim economic landscape surely factored in to that decision, but so did a desire for more education, career ambition, love of travel, and an inclination to enjoy the solo life a little longer than our predecessors. We knew when the time was right.
9. We're pretty darn smart. Or, at least, more educated. More Millennials have a college degree than any other generation of young adults, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers. The picture is even more dramatic for graduate school: While 2.8 percent of young adults had a grad degree in 1995, 3.8 percent received one in 2010, which amounts to a 35 percent increase. If knowledge is power, we have some of the most powerful moms out there.
10. We made nerd culture mainstream, and it made the world better. Things that would've meant instant wedgies in the locker room for Baby Boomers and Gen Xers have become badges of pride for Millennials. (Being called a nerd made previous generations bristle, but Millennials freely will say something like "I'm a total book nerd" without batting an eye.) Take, for instance, an interest in computer science. What was once a pursuit seen as totally geeky (think of the outcasts in Revenge of the Nerds) became counter-culture cool (picture the coders from Hackers or Clarissa Darling from Clarissa Explains It All). And the result? A booming startup culture set to revolutionize parenthood, be it through technological innovation (Mark Zuckerberg is a Millennial, after all) or a change in corporate culture (tech companies are in an arms race for the best parental leaves). And, now, we're set on raising the next generation of geek-chic tech titans.
11. We expect Dad to help. Working Mother's own "Chore Wars" report shows Millennial dads are more likely than Boomer or Gen Xer dads to say they take the lead on doing laundry, shopping for groceries, filling out school permission slips and scheduling appointments for their kids. If everybody pitches in together around the house—kids included—we can all get back to watching Netflix together faster.
12. Our kids' names are unique. At least we try to make them more creative. In a recent survey from Time, 60 percent of Millennials said it was somewhat, very or extremely important that their kids had a unique name, compared to 44 percent of Gen Xers and 35 percent of Boomers. (Maybe we're getting too creative? The explosion of Jacksons and Addisons inspired Salon writer Mary Elizabeth Williams to write, "If you want give your baby a name surely no one else in the maternity ward will have, may I recommend Mary?") Still, it's working: While it may seem like every baby you meet is another Sophia or Mason, baby names are getting more diverse. According to the Social Security Administration, the most popular baby names of 2014, Emma and Noah, represented just 1.0 percent and 0.9 percent of babies born that year, respectively. Meanwhile, in 1985, 3.4 percent of all boys were named Michael and 2.6 percent of all girls were named Jessica. With apologies to all of the Jennifers and Matthews out there, Millennials are proving to be more imaginative.
13. We're moms first. We let other people worry about what it means to be a Millennial—to us, we're just Mom. A study by Influence Central found we go through a drastic change when we become mothers. "Imagine a switch being flipped,” Stacy DeBroff, CEO of Influence Central, told Forbes. “As soon as Millennial women have a baby, they begin to align themselves with a mom group as opposed to a Millennial group.” In that way, we don't alienate ourselves from other moms regardless of generation.
14. We understand there's more than one way to be a good mom. We've come a long way from the days when the only parenting authority was Dr. Spock. Now, you can be an attachment parent or a babywise parent, a metric parent or a free-range parent, a slow parent or the dreaded helicopter parent. And for every type of parent, there's probably a meet-up group, online forum, blog or community that offers some kind of support or advice. The problem is not finding parenting info, it's sorting through it all and figuring out what works best for each family.
15. And we're confident we are good moms. That whole thing about Millennials having an, um, "healthy" self esteem? It's true. According to a Pew survey, 57 percent of Millennial moms say they're doing a very good job at parenting, compared to 48 percent of Gen Xers and 41 percent of Baby Boomers. Truthfully, we're probably all very good moms, but we're the generation that actually admits it.