Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Report looks at whether millennial moms are more traditional, happier

By Kelly Wallace, CNN
updated 11:45 AM EDT, Fri April 4, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Millennials, more than any other generation, believe one parent should stay home, report says
  • The report found millennials also believe a mom who works sets a positive example for the child
  • Millennials think parents should be able to step in and out of their careers, editor says
  • Millennials are happier than Gen Xers and baby boomers, according to the report

Editor's note: Kelly Wallace is CNN's digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. She is a mom of two. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.

(CNN) -- I'm a Generation X mom who works outside the home, and I've always felt strongly that women who have a choice about whether to work or stay home after having children should feel completely comfortable with either decision.

Should a mom choose to work, her children will be fine as long as there's a good child care situation in place. You know the mantra, "happy mommy (who wants to work), happy baby."

Based on that thinking, I have to say I was fairly blown away when I read one of the top findings of a new report by Working Mother Media, which examined the attitudes of millennials (born 1981 to 2000), Generation Xers (1965 to 1980) and baby boomers (1946 to 1964).

Millennials scored highest, over Gen Xers and baby boomers, when asked whether they believe one parent should stay home to care for the children: Sixty percent of millennials said yes, vs. 55% for boomers and 50% for Gen Xers.

Are people without kids happier?
Women opt back into the workforce
Expert: Millennials won't accept 'no'

What? Are we moving in the wrong direction here, ladies? Are we harkening back to an "Ozzie and Harriet" time when mom stayed at home, dad worked, and that was the complete family story?

What millennial women want now

Jennifer Owens, editorial director of Working Mother Media, says no. She points to what else the millennials said in the survey of more than 2,000 moms and dads: that both parents should make a significant contribution to the household income, that mothers and fathers should share equally in daily household activities and that a mom who works outside the home sets a positive example for the children.

"I think many men and women want ... the ability to step in and out of their careers and not be stigmatized for it, and I think the millennials are saying this, too," said Owens, who notes that most millennials currently have children who are younger than those of of Gen Xers and baby boomers.

"Many men and women want to stay home with that little guy in the first years," she added. They're saying "somebody should be home with that little tiny baby, but they do want a career."

In conversations with millennial moms across the country, I was struck by how much they believe the decision to work or stay at home is personal rather than political, how many would stay at home if they could and how they don't seem to feel the pressures of feminism driving their decisions. They are charting their own course.

Who are the millennials? Hear their take
Millennials: The most diverse generation
Millennials balance work and social life

Moms 'opting in' to find work doors shut

Aliah Davis-McHenry, 33, president and chief executive officer of her own public relations firm, has two sons, ages 8 and 11. She's done it all: stayed at home when the boys were young, worked part-time and consulted during their preschool years and now works full-time from home, which means she can be there when her sons get off the school bus.

"I feel like it's a very personal decision," Davis-McHenry said. "In a perfect world, with all the variables being aligned, who wouldn't want to be home every day? ... But that's not the world we live in."

Miriam Lane, 25, who works in sales for a television station in Huntsville, Alabama, says she or her husband could probably stay home with their 2-year-old daughter, but that wouldn't support the kind of lifestyle they want for their family.

"I think it's great if a parent can stay home," Lane said, "but there are a lot of situations where it's just not feasible to be able to do that. I know specifically in our situation, we do have to have both parents working to be able to afford beyond just our basic needs."

Brace yourself, Mom: Millennials move back home

CNN\'s Kelly Wallace, a Gen Xer, was blown away by how more millennials think a parent should be home with a child.
CNN's Kelly Wallace, a Gen Xer, was blown away by how more millennials think a parent should be home with a child.

Christine Esposito's feelings are influenced by her own mom, who didn't work. "I always had the image of me being like her and staying home," said Esposito, 30, who works in the e-learning field in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, and has a 2-year-old daughter.

"But I really feel like things have changed a lot," she added. "I don't want to stay home and never be able to go out to dinner and never be able to go on vacation."

For Patricia Downs, a 31-year-old mom with a 2-year-old boy in day care, the issue is clear-cut: She thinks a parent should be home with the child, and she wishes it could be her.

"I think that's the best thing for my child," said Downs, an account manager in the cosmetics industry in Stony Point, New York. "I feel like he misses out on time with myself, my husband. ... There are times he needs Mommy, and I'm just not able to go."

I wondered whether the views of millennials on this question of whether one parent should be home with a child were influenced either by their own upbringing as children of dual-income Gen Xers and boomers or by the experiences of people they know.

Meghan Lodge, 24, whose daughter is just 8 weeks old, said her views are definitely shaped a bit by the childhood of some of her friends.

"I have some older friends who ... had to stay in day care, or they had to come home by themselves" when they were older, Lodge said. The Thomasville, Georgia, woman believes that one parent should stay home with the child if they can afford it. "I mean, they turned out fine, but they always talked about how much they wished they had more time with their parents."

Survey: Reluctant breadwinner moms are less happy

Stay in touch!
Don't miss out on the conversation we're having at CNN Living. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest stories and tell us what's influencing your life.

Beyond the question of working versus staying at home as parents, millennials told us something else in this survey: that they are a whole lot happier than previous generations (PDF). They reported more satisfaction with their jobs, their family finances and their relationship with their partners than Gen Xers and baby boomers.

"I think we're more motivated towards achieving satisfaction and balance," Davis-McHenry said. "I don't think it's only about making money. I believe it's more about fulfillment: feeling like we're making a difference and making sure that everything from home to work, those needs are being satisfied, and I think that's what's making us happier."

Many millennial moms say they are thankful to the women who came before them, the Gen Xers and baby boomers, who broke down barriers, allowing them to make the choices they want to make for their lives. But at the same time, they don't seem to feel any of the pressures of fulfilling anyone's expectations other than their own.

"We do things more according to what we see fit for our family, what's best for the family, rather than what other people think about it," Lodge said.

Owens, of Working Mother, believes that this optimism on the part of millennials has definite implications for the workplace.

"They're going to demand more. They're already asking questions about the 24/7 always on (work life)," said Owens, herself a Gen Xer. "They're asking for flexibility already as a given, and you know what, they're not even asking for it. They just expect it. And amen to them."

From this Gen Xer as well, amen indeed!

Do you think one parent should stay home to care for the children? Chime in below in the comments or tell Kelly Wallace on Twitter and CNN Living on Facebook.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
Not to mention your jeans, bras and pillows? Here's a definitive guide to keeping all your quarters clean.
Imagination Playgrounds have snaking tunnels, platforms and springy mats just like any other playground. But they're different in one fundamental way -- they're built by kids.
updated 11:35 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Sarah McLachlan, the Grammy Award winning singer, was barely out of her teenage years when her first album came out in 1988. Now, she's a 46-year-old divorced mom of two girls touring the country to promote her seventh full-length solo album called "Shine On."
updated 7:54 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Researchers say physical punishment actually alters the brain -- not only in an "I'm traumatized!" kind of way, but also in an "I literally have less gray matter in my brain!" kind of way.
updated 4:41 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
The case of a South Carolina mother arrested for allegedly leaving her 9-year-old daughter at a park for hours while she worked at a nearby McDonald's has sparked a robust debate online about whether this mother should ever have been arrested and how young is too young to leave a child on his or her own.
updated 11:15 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
CNN's Kelly Wallace reveals 5 common parenting mistakes that many parents admit to making.
updated 8:44 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Is it a bad idea for parents to let kids drink underage at home, or does an early sip make drinking less taboo? Studies are divided on the subject, which is a tough nut for parents to crack.
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Kids who takes cellphones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night
updated 2:40 PM EDT, Tue July 15, 2014
Professional photographer Timothy Archibald uses his camera to connect with his autistic son.
updated 9:16 AM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
Do you wish you could outsource the summer cooking, cleaning, and camp planning associated with kids? Here are 5 ways to do it -- and why you shouldn't feel guilty about it.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Tue July 15, 2014
The death of a Georgia toddler in a hot car raises the question: should government or automakers get involved to prevent accidental deaths from heatstroke inside a car?
updated 11:04 AM EDT, Tue July 8, 2014
It's not just the 'baby blues.' Postpartum depression affects about 15% of new mothers. Here's what one 'warrior woman' is doing to fight it.
Post your personal essays and original photos, and tell us how it really is.
updated 10:17 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
What does it mean to run "like a girl"? A new viral video points out that the answer changes depending on whom you ask.
updated 5:22 PM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
CNN reporter Moni Basu lived in the U.S. nearly 30 years before becoming a citizen. Here's what it meant to pledge her allegiance.
updated 5:07 PM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
Her daughter was cut from the team. Her son didn't get into that coveted honors class. It was hard but also helpful. Here's how one mom learned to find lessons in failure.
updated 11:56 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
The presence of transgender and gender nonconforming youth at NYC Pride March is latest effort to increase visibility of the transgender community.
updated 6:27 PM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
A new ad by the hair care company Pantene asks why women are always apologizing and raises the question of whether women say "sorry" more often than men.
updated 8:48 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
The American Academy of Pediatrics announced new guidelines this week urging doctors to tell parents to read to their infants and toddlers.
updated 8:27 AM EDT, Sat June 28, 2014
David Martinez grew up thinking he was just an average American kid. When he learned he was undocumented immigrant, it made him re-examine his beliefs about Mexican identity.
updated 1:47 PM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
A new survey says that working fathers, like working mothers, find it hard to balance work and family.
updated 6:29 AM EDT, Fri June 20, 2014
Jenny Mollen has no issue tweeting her breastfeeding. The new author talks motherhood and having a (more) famous husband
updated 5:20 PM EDT, Thu June 19, 2014
Experts say "mean girl" behavior begins as young as elementary school. Here's how to prevent raising a mean girl.
updated 6:40 PM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
While dads today don't get the same respect and attention as moms, and are often depicted as clueless, they've come a long way, baby.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Wed June 18, 2014
North West, the 1-year-old daughter of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, is already a social media darling due to her mom's active presence on Instagram. Now the child's new look is sparking some controversy online.
updated 4:48 PM EDT, Wed June 18, 2014
In this celebrity mecca, where the issue usually is "Who's your daddy," actor Jason Patric is engaged in a court fight that raises an even thornier question: What is a daddy?
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri June 20, 2014
If you weren't part of the "cool club" in middle school, you may have an extra spring in your step after hearing about a new study, which could be titled "Revenge of the Nerds."
cnn, parents, parenting, logo
Get the latest kid-related buzz, confessions from imperfect parents and the download on the digital life of families here at CNN Parents.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT