Millennial parents are shaking up the traditional ways of raising a family and providing care for kids, and doing so while ensuring their commitment and loyalty at work. However, balancing work and life demands also raise personal and professional expectations, and it appears that millennial parents are struggling.
WORDS DR NICOLA DAVIES
According to the Modern Families Index 2016, the millennial generation is the population aged 16 to 35 years in 2016. This generation is quickly outnumbering the older generations and by 2020 will make up half of the global workforce.
Millennials have the unique desire to “have it all”: well-paying jobs, praise for their work, significant promotion, and proof that they are making a social difference. Many are now also becoming parents and want more time with family too. Indeed, millennial parents are shaking up the traditional methods of raising a family as they simultaneously try to secure their performance and commitment at work while also having significant time with their children.
Consequences of “Having it All”
Having the best of both worlds when it comes to work and family sounds ideal. However, millennial parents could be placing too much pressure on themselves. Aiming to be accomplished both in their employment and at home requires them to work much harder. In such a volatile economy, both parents are likely to be employed full-time while also juggling family life. Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, explains, “Long and inflexible hours remain the norm, with many parents telling us they work up to ten extra hours a week.”
Not only are millennial parents finding it difficult to dedicate quality time and attention to their children, they are also at risk of experiencing stress, burnout, and resentment.
Brigid Schulte, the author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, emphasises uncertainty and lack of control to be the main causes of stress among millennial parents. Rapidly changing work environments and gruelling parenting standards are some of the other factors that add up to work-life conflict. It is, therefore, no wonder that some millennials are resentful towards their boss.
Seeking Work-Life Balance
In a 2015 survey conducted by the auditing firm Ernst & Young (EY), it was found that nearly one-third of millennials believe achieving work-life balance to be more difficult in the recent past. In the hunt for balance, they are willing to take a pay cut, forego promotion, or switch jobs to manage their personal and professional life in a better way. Many, however, believe that these struggles are normal for any parent. Steven Rotenberg, a professor of Organizational Science, Psychology, and Management and an editor of Journal of Business and Psychology, says, “Millennial parents are no different from other parents. All the advice that applies to any parent dealing with work/life issues applies here.”
Regardless, arguing with a baby boomer boss for flexible work hours can be challenging. The EY survey indicated that one in six millennials reported facing negative consequences of demanding work flexibility. It remains essential, however, for millennial parents to be open and honest with their employers if they require flexible working arrangements. With robust research that considers the nature of their job and the welfare of the company, parents can create a sound proposal that thoroughly explains the need and feasibility for flexible schedules. The adeptness of millennials to advance technology also supports any argument for flexibility since it allows parents of the 21st century to get the job done more efficiently and to work from anywhere, not just the office.
Meanwhile, there is no substitute to proving oneself to be reliable and of value to the workplace. The Modern Families Index 2016 shows that people on higher incomes are more likely to receive flexible working conditions. Therefore, if young parents want flexibility, they need to increase their experience and skill sets. Equally, employers would gain if they better understood the legitimate concerns of millennial parents regarding work-life balance.
Reducing Work-Life Conflict
Schulte shortlists the following two tips to banish your busy life as a millennial parent and reduce any work-life conflict:
1. Tame your to-do list: The pressure to have it all might spread millennial parents too thinly. Determine whether you are falling into the ‘busyness trap.’ Rethink your priorities. Jennifer Deal, a senior research scientist at the Centre for Creative Leadership, advises, “Every individual needs to think about what they want in their life, and prioritise accordingly. Time is finite, so people need to make choices among their priorities. If they can clearly identify what is important to them and prioritise their activities, they’ll be closer to achieving what they want.” In order to help you prioritise, Schulte suggests performing a ‘brain dump,’ or listing down all the errands that need to be done on a daily basis and reducing the list down.
2. Take time to pause and play: Constantly switching between work and family tasks can be overwhelming. Pausing to get some perspective helps. “You must slowly build in time for a lunch break, a meditation session, or doodling on paper about what you’d really like to do if you had the time,” suggests Schulte. Young parents should also take time for themselves — individually and together. It can be as simple as taking walks together. If keeping to such an activity is tough, include it in your list of priorities.
Being a parent is always challenging, but millennial parents especially want to excel both at work and in life. Achieving a work-life balance is not impossible, but it requires a lot of effort. Proving your worth at work can make it easier to argue for work flexibility. But to ensure family time, set your true priorities and stand by them. Most important of all, communicate and co-manage these priorities with your partner.