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Millennial moms open up about their decisions to start a family.
Millennials have worn many labels – self-centered, self-absorbed and selfie-obsessed to name a few. It’s no coincidence many of these terms begin with “self,” as researchers suggest 20-somethings are on a mission to discover exactly that.
So it should come as no surprise to anyone that when assessing the priorities of millennials, many studies have found having children is not high on the list.
Millennials are waiting longer to have children than any generation before us.
According to Stats Canada, there has been an overall decrease in age-specific fertility rates of all age groups under 30. “In contrast, the fertility rates of those aged 30 and over have generally increased,” the site reads.
What’s more, 2010 marked the first year the fertility rate was higher for women aged 35 to 39 than for those aged 20 to 24. By 2011, this gap had widened further.
The numbers don’t lie: millennials are waiting longer to have children than any generation before us.
But I know I’m not the only one whose Facebook newsfeed is suggesting otherwise. My friend list is full of 20-somethings, and with this comes the adorable photos of their babies – babies taking naps, taking baths and taking over my feed.
So if the majority of millennials are postponing starting a family in efforts to “find themselves,” what’s the story behind those who are going against the norm? I felt compelled to find out.
Various conversations have led to many theories. Could it be our infamous job struggles have actually convinced many young adults to explore parenthood now, and fight for jobs later? Research shows young people today are taking up to five years to find a job in their area of study. A lot can happen in five years. Some people are not willing to put off their dreams of parenthood for that long.
Or perhaps it’s our determined nature. Many millennials grew up with a timeline in mind for certain milestones in their lives, and they’re following through with it. After all, we’ve been told all our lives we could do and have absolutely anything – does this also include the coup of balancing a family with a career?
Enough with the speculations. It’s time to hear the other side of the story, right from the millennials themselves. (After all, that’s what we’re about here at The Reply). I reached out to the millennial moms who have been flooding my Facebook wall with sheer cuteness. This is what they have to say:
There came a point when I realized I can’t let my career control my life.
Meet 28-year-old Lia Paul, who gave birth to a baby boy this past July. Lia lives in a small town outside of Ottawa, Ontario, where she works as a teacher by day and a waitress by night. She, like many teachers of our generation, has been working towards gaining permanent employment status for five years now.
“Initially, I wanted to get permanency before I ever started a family,” she says. “But then there came a point when I realized I can’t let my career control my life. I wasn’t willing to let my life pass me by as I waited for a job opportunity to come around. Teaching will still be there when we’re done having children.”
She points out that it’s not necessary to put off having children so you can focus on self-discovery. “For me, becoming a mom is part of finding myself,” she says. “It’s the most amazing journey and my heart has never been this full.”
Knowing we each had stable careers was the biggest part in deciding to [have a baby].
Shaylynn Hurd is also a teacher. Understanding the difficulty she would face trying to find a job in her field in Ontario, she and her boyfriend of eight years (now husband) picked up and moved to Saskatchewan. She credits this move for the recent changes in her life. “I definitely felt ready at 26 to start our family,” she says. “Knowing we each had successful and stable careers was the biggest part in deciding to [have a baby]. Financially, having a child is a huge responsibility.”
Currently on maternity leave from her full-time, permanent position as a middle school teacher, Shaylynn says having a family will definitely affect her career when she returns to work. For her, being a mom comes above everything else. “I think having a family will greatly impact the way I teach, both positively and negatively,” she says. “I won’t be willing to put in nearly as much time when I return simply because I will want to spend that time with [my son]. However, I do feel that I will better understand where parents are coming from now.”
I don’t think you can truly prepare for a baby…When it is meant to happen, it will happen.
For Natalie St. Croix, being a mom was always a priority in life. Natalie knew she wanted to be a young mom, but the arrival of her son still came as a bit of a surprise. “I can’t say that I planned to be a wife and mom at the age of 25,” she says. “I had the dream, like most girls, of establishing a career, meeting my prince charming, falling in love and starting a family.”
After college, Natalie began her career at BlackBerry in Waterloo. She met her husband shortly afterwards. They had plans to start a family relatively soon following their marriage – but they weren’t expecting it to happen on their honeymoon. “I don’t think you can truly prepare for a baby and know whether the timing is right,” she says. “When it is meant to happen, it will happen. In our case, we are truly blessed it happened when it did and we wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Natalie says her employer is encouraging of her growing family, and she does not feel like having a baby has impacted her career. “Being lucky enough to start my family at a young age, and being where I am now in my career, I think it allows for big opportunities to still accomplish a successful career.” That being said, she is quick to add that her new number one job is “now being a mom.”
Motherhood is truly the best decision I’ve made. It brings me joy every single day.
Twenty-seven-year-old Angela Near had always planned to have a baby around her age. She married her high school sweetheart in January of 2013, and she and her husband made the decision to try to start a family within the year. After tragedy struck her family the following summer, Angela felt there really was no time like the present to make her dreams of motherhood come true.
Still, no amount of planning prepares new parents for what’s to come. “Nothing can prepare you for this new life,” she says. “Nothing prepares you for the sleep deprivation, the endless crying, the disagreements with your husband, the loss of friends you thought you’d always have (that’s a big one), the worry that you’re doing a good job and that your baby knows you love them even while you’re completely overwhelmed and crying.”
Angela is taking a year of maternity leave from her job as a caseworker with the Canadian Mental Health Association. She was also working to continue her education, and put off school to have a family – a decision she believes separates her from many others her age. But she has no regrets. “Motherhood is truly the best decision I’ve made,” she says. “It brings me joy every single day and a connection to my husband I never thought possible.”
I can’t say being married and having my first child by the time I was 26 was something I planned.
Dayna Wood is an environmental planner at a consulting and engineering firm in Thunder Bay. She met her husband in university. “I can’t say being married and having my first child by the time I was 26 was something I planned,” Dayna says. “I always tried not to have any expectations when it came to finding love and settling down with someone.”
For her, being financially stable was an important factor in the choice to have children. “That’s not to say we don’t have any financial burdens,” she says. “But we felt it was time to take that leap of faith knowing that our loans weren’t going away anytime soon and we’d be able to manage just fine the way things were.”
When it comes to her career, Dayna is confident she will be able to pick up where she left off. She recognizes that won’t necessarily be the case for every aspect of her life though. “Sure, I’d like to take that trip to Thailand one day and I know that’s not going to happen any time soon with a new baby, but having kids doesn’t mean your life has to end,” she says. “It does give you something new to live for though, and might just mean we’ll be taking that trip to Disney World first.”
Are you a millennial mom? How are you balancing your family, career and other commitments? Share in the comments below.