In my past episode Generation of Renters, we talked about how Millennials are more likely to rent than to own which is considered delaying adulthood. Millennials are also more likely to get married later and have kids later – or more likely to not have kids at all than our older cohorts. Getting a good paying job, buying a house, getting married and having kids are all supposed requirements of “adulthood”.
But who set these requirements? Well, the generations before us of course. Including our parents. When we aren’t completing items on the checklist of adulthood, we’re described as lazy, selfish, immature or adult child. And I call bullshit.
The generations before us had a warped sense of what life should look like and honestly I think we all grew up with a front row seat and said – nah, not for me. I think what we’re actually doing is rebelling. Which may be an immature thing to do – but not necessarily wrong. Let’s think about it.
In the 50’s you had the typical nuclear family household with the white picket fence that everyone strived for. The Dad would go off to his 9-5 while Mom would stay home and clean, cook take care of the house and the kids and have dinner waiting on the table when her husband returned. Usually men were at their jobs for decades. That as the norm. It was rare that women worked. Their whole life was kids, the house and maybe their small social circle. Travel was really expensive so if they took a vacation with the family, it was probably in car. They weren’t flying to Paris for a holiday. Although back then – when you see pictures or video of PanAm, didn’t it seem so glamorous. Take out the smoking on the smoking on the flight because that would have been gross to sit through – and that’s coming from an ex-smoker! But everyone would get dressed up and it was more of a special occasion and a big deal.
Now you get on a plane and people just rolled out of bed, they’re a mess, it’s apparently “cheugy” if you actually look nice on a plane and they act like they’ve never the house before and can be annoying AF. So one-income household, women were chained the house and had no adult life of their own and travel was a luxury most couldn’t afford. Does that sound good to you? Not me. That sounds fucking miserable. You pretty much just stripped away all of the things I love most.
As we went on, the 80’s you started seeing mothers entering the workforce. My mom was a career woman – which for the 80’s was a big deal. She got her associates degree, she became an interior designer, she was well respected and would go on work trips and was really good at her job. I don’t know for sure, but I think she even made the same or more than my dad who was an insurance salesman. She had friends that she would not only play soccer with but hang out and travel with as she want on a cruise with her friend. This was all very modern of my family. Now granted, she still got married when she was 19 years old which seems insane to me. And also is what makes it not shocking they were divorced before I entered high school.
Can you imagine if you married your boyfriend from when you were 19? Would you still be together? Hello no! Actually my boyfriend at 19 wasn’t so bad, and compared to some others – he was a god send, but that would have never lasted. No way. Because I didn’t know what I wanted in a partner at 19! Who does? Who could really? At 19, you’re still figuring yourself out! You still have years of figuring yourself out – so how could you be expected to pick a lifelong partner at that age? It literally seems impossible. So not surprising the divorce rate.
But as modern as my family was, it was breaking the mold of their parents in a way and that caused turmoil. My dad didn’t like how much my mom was working. My brother was mad she couldn’t always be there for his games or school stuff. She wasn’t meeting quote on quote expectations. The expectations from the 50’s. My dad eventually remarried a nice woman but their relationship is very much more like the 50s minus the kids because that’s what he wanted. And that’s not what he got with my mom.
But what I saw was a woman that had her own life and her family, and her career she loved and she seemed fulfilled to me. That is what I saw. And that is what I wanted. But I also saw a man that couldn’t handle it. He didn’t appreciate that she had her own life and was at times jealous that she had friends. He didn’t like that she didn’t have to rely on him financially. He didn’t like that she wasn’t Susie homemaker with dinner on the table when he came home.
So in a way, I learned that you can have your career, your life, your friends but not all men will accept it. And as I grew up, I learned that is very true. I had boyfriends that would get annoyed that I had to work late or make me feel bad for going on work trip. Or didn’t want me to study because they wanted time with me. Or felt embarrassed if I picked up the check. It’s funny because as women we can’t be gold diggers, but we also can’t be too independent because that makes men feel insecure. Lol fucking joke.
So when it comes to adulting – the whole white picket fence, marriage, kids, house in the burbs – what we were taught was being a responsible adult, Millennials lived in those houses and we saw the cracks. It reminds me of one of my favorite films, Pleasantville and American Beauty. Both are movies that basically talk about how things look perfect on the outside, but are fucked up on the inside. They exposed the illusion of happiness that is the American Dream that we wall grew up being told was the right way to adult. Nowhere in those movies or me growing up was the priority put on happiness. It was put on things. Success. Accomplishments. Parenthood etc.
All things that were presumably to give you happiness, or at least reduce worries. But what if those things didn’t make you happy? You should just stay in the job that makes you miserable because the paycheck is good? You should stay in the marriage that ran out of love because at least you have someone? You should do what your partner wants and forget about your own needs? No! No thanks! You can take that idea of the American dream and shove it.
Millennials are considered lazy, selfish and childish by our parents because we didn’t take the route they did and dare I say it – I think that makes us braver. We aren’t living our lives based on what others think we should do – we are making decisions that hopefully help us be happier adults which in-turn, helps us have more healthy relationships, be better parents and live longer. I’d say that’s the right way to adult no?
Maybe Millennials aren’t on the same path our parents were. There’s logical reasons for this like the financial barriers we’ve had that they didn’t. But there’s also emotional reasons – we grew up watching how the typical way of adulting didn’t necessarily come with happiness. And we want to be happy, above all else. Maybe that means not having kids in your 20s. Maybe that means switching careers. Maybe that means traveling the world rather than settling down. Whatever that means, prioritizing our happiness is probably the best thing we can do for ourselves and those around us. Is it selfish? Yes, it is. But why is that bad? If we can’t prioritize our own happiness, who will? The days of forgetting about our own needs and prioritizing others ahead of ourselves are over. Because we’ve lived through the repercussions of that. That is adulting – prioritizing yourself and being okay with others not accepting it. Isn’t that really what we all looked forward to as kids? Being an adult so that we can do whatever we want and not have to ask anyone? So let’s do that. And stop asking for permission from others to do what makes you happy!
Until next time!