by Leah Perlmutter
Published on Socialnomics
In today’s new family dynamic, Millennials (aged 22-37) are the heads of households. Approximately 9 in 10 new parents are Millennials. As new parents, they are continuing trends that have been true of their generation since their teenage years and are applying them to parenthood. They have to figure out how to parent in a technologically advanced world that changes both the joys and the challenges of raising children.
One aspect of parenting Millennials, more than any other generation, is finding new outlets for parenting advice. With two in three moms with a kid under the age of six in the workforce, the concept of “it takes a village” truly applies, and even goes beyond what it once meant.
In addition to their parents, kids are being raised by grandparents, nannies, teachers, after-school coordinators, coaches, and karate sensei. Beyond the day-to-day connections and role models, kids are also being raised by a vast network of online voices. Google is the new grandparent, the new neighbor, the new nanny. Whereas past generations had a book or two to turn to, this generation of parents has seemingly unlimited resources.
Due to this access, Millennials have become professional parents. BabyCenter says that 41% of new moms read mommy blogs weekly. Even before their babies are born, Millennial moms are downloading apps connecting them to other moms around the world who are due in the same month in order to share questions, stories, and support. They then proceed to join Facebook groups of local moms to make sure they are getting real-time information about school events and kid-friendly neighborhood functions. It’s really not the village that’s raising kids, it’s a million different voices.
Their professionalism as parents isn’t just about what they know; it’s also about what they are sharing and how they are sharing it. Millennial parents are uber sharers who are more active on social networks than non-parents of their generation, and they love Facebook in particular. Looking across Gen Z and Millennial research, we see shifts to Instagram and Snapchat, especially among the younger age ranges. Millennial parents, on the other hand, have a strong connection to Facebook because of their moms and dads, and even grandmas and grandpas are there. They’re not just sharing with peers; they’re sharing with older generations who need to see their perfect child. If you look at the daily social networking behaviors of Millennial parents (particularly moms), they over-index on everything from commenting, to updating their status, to sharing photos and videos, to reposting something they found that someone else had posted.
Facebook is also the perfect resource for tracking the growth of a child. From monthly pregnancy profile pictures with accompanying chalkboards that tell you the size of the fetus in terms of what fruit it is, to monthly photo shoots once the baby is actually born, Facebook serves as a public journal detailing the parental experience. While a child’s first day of school used to be about the day they went to school, now you have to buy a sign that lists her teacher’s name, her favorite subject, what she wants to be when she grows up. Next year Facebook will show you last year’s photos, and everyone will post about how fast the time is going and how sad it is that she grew up. Though occasionally all of the props are homemade, there is an enormous opportunity for brands and companies to cash in on products designed around living life on display.
There is, of course, a downside of so many voices and so many displays of perfect parenting. This generation of parents is developing unhealthy personal expectations. They are very competitive in comparing how they are raising their children, and are obsessing over even the most minor aspects of life (i.e. the types of characters and animals they can build out of their kids’ packed lunch sandwiches). Unsurprisingly, one in two are overwhelmed with all the information out there because it leads to uncertainty about what’s right and what’s wrong, and they are truly striving to be the best parents they can be.
Brands and companies should keep in mind that while these young parents are experiencing some anxiety over this new type of parenting, they are also all in when it comes to gathering more information and engaging in the professional and performative aspects of raising children.