We talk a lot about today’s “young mom” minority, at least when looking at our generation as a whole. There are less 20-somethings choosing to start families than ever before — even less than the Gen-Xers. And of course Gen-X women were the original Put-Off-Parenting trend-setters, quickly spreading like an epidemic.
And as I’ve said 87 times, early parenting isn’t for everyone. I think it’s incredible that women have more options to create families that are right for them, whether that means waiting 10 years or opting out of procreation altogether. But there might be an even bigger reason why younger parenting is becoming a more isolating, unconventional lifestyle – more so than in any previous generation.
Because this generation — the Lost Generation — is taking the longest to grow up.
According to a CBS News article this morning, the newly released 2010 census shows that 20- and 30-somethings were hit hardest by the recession, resulting in a record-setting number of young adults moving back in with mom.
It’s not the first time we’ve heard this, of course — boomerang kids, failure to launch and the Peter Pan syndrome have all been used to describe this generation. Whether it’s unemployment, coddling “helicopter” parents or just a shift in our society’s priorities, there’s been a critical, undeniable change. A lot of the kids from our high school graduating class, from our college party circles, on our Facebook Newsfeed, aren’t just putting off becoming parents — they’re putting off becoming adults.
It’s no longer the soccer moms vs. the career women, but the adults vs. the adolescents. I’m sure every generation has had young adults who needed a little more time to grow up and leave the nest — a little more time to figure out a plan — but now it’s become the norm. It’s now far more common for 20-somethings to hold down jobs (not careers), party like it’s 2004 and then go crash in their parent’s house. Or maybe an apartment that their parents help pay for. It’s far more common for 20-somethings to wander from year to year, never too concerned about where they’ll end up.
I’m not saying that delaying adulthood is detrimental to our society, but it’s putting an even bigger (canyon-sized) divider between us and them. It’s not just a different path, it’s a different speed — which can make it harder to find common ground with our non-breeding friends. It can also make us feel like we’re missing out on an important part of growing up.
But that’s when we have to stand back and realize that the typical “20-something stage” was newly invented. And although it might look alluring and free, most of them are feeling a little lost.
Also check out: Backlash to Gen X: Is Young Motherhood a Trend?