What’s Fueling the Fire for a Millennial Baby Boom?
LinkedIn had multiple posts about a “Millennial-fueled baby boom” being imminent in their news feed today. As a pregnant Millennial myself, you could say I was curious to see what others thought. People were commenting on the uncertainty making a Boom improbable, the rise in pregnancy tests, the ongoing pandemic factors, and more. But as a mental health therapist who works with fellow Millennials and Gen-Z clients, I think there are other factors at play as to why a Millennial Baby Boom could be accurate.
Now I can’t speak for everyone, but in my smaller network, people were getting busy in Spring 2021. What makes Spring 2021 significant? It was after the one year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. It was the kick off of summer and hopes for normalcy. And it was a moment of mixed emotions for many when we realized we weren’t out of the woods yet when it came to pandemic life.
As a mental health therapist, I was witness to this weekly in my sessions with Millennial and Gen-Z clients. They were wanting to be hopeful about the future but had a ton of anxiety. Some had thrived in the pandemic by achieving new perspective or a better job. Others were struggling with uncertainty, depression, and isolation. Regardless of their circumstances, one thing stood out in stark relief. The question on everyone’s minds was “is this it?” After surviving 2020, many of us had taken inventory of our lives to determine how to proceed. How to go forward. How to find momentum again. The gift the pandemic gave us was the opportunity to slow down and re-evaluate, a possibility for childless couples in quarantine. So how does this translate to a baby boom?
Quarantine Making or Breaking Couples
For many, the stress of the pandemic has tested our relationships. Perhaps it stretched couples to their breaking point around changed routines, too-much-togetherness, and poor coping. Or maybe it brought us closer together. I recognize my priviledge in being fortunate to maintain my job and finances to allow this to be true. The pandemic forced my workaholic ass to slow down a bit and enjoy my spouse’s company. We found ourselves working from home, eating more meals together, and taking walks as our new self-care. The hustle and bustle of the extra busyness was eliminated, making it that much easier to connect and think about the future.
Work Isn’t Everything
As we regained some semblance of work-life balance in the initial quarantine of March/April 2020, us driven Millennials had a wake up call. WORK ISN’T EVERYTHING. You see, Millennials have been stereotyped as driven and ambitious. Which is partly true. But once we were stripped of our self-care in the traditional sense — no vacations, limited socializing, etc. — we had to come up with a new plan. It was no longer the pattern of “work hard, play hard. “ So we had a choice, to embrace workaholism even further while at home, or question the very busyness that got us here in the first place.
A Shift in Priorities
With that questioning came future thinking. That is, if we weren’t stuck in languishing where brain fog prevented future planning. That definitely happened in the first year of the pandemic for many and for good reason. But if our basic needs were met, was it then possible that priorities shifted? I can only speak for my spouse and myself when I say we realized that we wanted more out of life than just work. Missing our families and not having a planned break to look forward to brought some values into perspective. Even in a pandemic full of uncertainty, we found ourselves clear on what we wanted to work towards next.
The choice for us was starting a family. It doesn’t help that society pressures women to get pregnant before their mid-30s at the risk of being labeled “geriatric.” With the oldest Millennial age 41 this year, there are millions of Millennials feeling the pressure to decide one way or another if a family is something they want. There is a group electing to live a childless-by-choice existence. And there is a group saying the time is now or never. With the pandemic carving out new routines for formerly childless couples including more quality time together, is it really a surprise that babies may be the result?
Okay that last sentence was a joke. Sort of. They do say that some baby booms happen out of snow storms and other isolation factors where sex and intimacy are embraced as a pastime. But maybe in this circumstance it boils down to having to redefine our self-care. If we formerly saved our hard-earned funds for vacations, adventures, and social occasions in the name of work-life balance, how has that shifted in this pandemic? For many, we had to redefine self-care so that it could be accessible during a time of restriction. So now instead of travel, are we engaging in more simple acts such as walks, game nights, reading, music, or cooking? These activities embrace quality time and connection, which could make the idea of becoming parents that much less frightening in the hopes that we aren’t doing it alone.
Another piece that could be shifting in this pandemic is our spending. As a Financial Therapist, I see patterns in how people want to spend their money. Perhaps our Millennial relationship with money was initially measured by how much we spend on food or eating out. A mixed bag of emotions with food and money, it comes up a lot in my work. So when we were told to stay home, the spending patterns changed. No longer were we spending money on airfare, trips, and dining experiences. Our focus may have moved to a stocked fridge and plenty of toilet paper! We saw an increase in Lego and Jigsaw puzzle sales in 2020. For Millennials who frequently feel that they will never get out from under debt, this change to spending habits may have contributed to their added hope of being able to afford to start a family.
A final element that may be contributing to the anticipated Millennial Baby Boom is a reduced obligation to ‘do it all.’ With the pandemic still in full swing, gone are the days of being overscheduled with activities and shuttling the kids from one obligation to another. COVID-19 stopped busyness in it’s tracks in 2020. It has given us expectant parents a chance to envision a life where we aren’t reduced to a role as the taxi service for our future children. It showed us how we can still raise responsible kids without feeling obligated to enroll them in a dozen after-school programs. This was a reassuring message I received through my clients with children as they navigated the constant changes of parenting in a pandemic.
This is by no means the full picture of why a Millennial Baby Boom is imminent. Each person’s choice to get pregnant or start a family is their own. Yet hopefully this adds perspective to some of the elements that may be at play for couples who are taking the leap into parenthood. The pandemic is still full of uncertainty, a feeling that is not unfamiliar to Millennials who have worked through uncertainty in their relationships, careers, and finances. Millennials, for all the negative stereotypes we are subjected to, are adaptable. So why wouldn’t we consider pregnancy and parenting in a pandemic? We are driven and ambitious after all, characteristics that can help us to face this next challenge like the many challenges that came before.