Are Millennial Parents burning out?
The pressure to keep all balls in the air is so intense it's no wonder that many young families are struggling, writes Olivia Willis
Something noticeable in very recent times is the amount of articles and blog posts popping up everywhere voicing concerns over parental burnout and giving people advise on the various ways to avoid this feared state. A new report reveals that millennial parents (those born in the '80s or '90s) are close to burn out, trying to keep it altogether while faced with an endless merry-go-round of long hours at work, while trying to juggle childcare and family life.
I asked the parents of our familyfriendyhq.ie community about their thoughts and focus on this subject regarding millennial parents. Many commented that they never heard their parents or grandparents speak of being "burned out" by their jobs, responsibilities or commitments. Some commented that while they themselves were not millennial parents they still had families to support, bills to pay, tough jobs and still got home to have dinner with their families by six o'clock. So what is going on with the new generation of parents and why are the results of a new survey out so alarming?
It's human nature to want to have it all - the career, the family, the social life. For today's young parents, however, the pressure of keeping all the balls in the air is intense. That's according to the 2016 Modern Families report, which was conducted in the UK but which will undoubedly resonate with young Irish parents. The report revealed that millennial parents, from 1,000 people surveyed are now both likely to be working - 78pc of couples both work full-time. When it comes to adding in childcare and squeezing in family time, life becomes tricky. And they are feeling worn out.
Some of the key indicators that the report mentioned include that a total of 42pc of millennial parents admitted they felt burnt out most of or all of the time. Compare this with 22pc of 36- to 45-year-olds and 17pc of those parents over 45. One of the biggest reasons is money - young parents living in today's society simply cannot afford to make it work for their family on one salary. But they really wish they could because 38pc said they would take a pay cut if they could reduce their working hours and spend more time at home with their children.
A staggering 46pc of parents surveyed said that their working life was becoming more and more stressful. Over a third of them indicated that their work negatively impacted their family life and 35pc of them admitted to taking annual leave to cope. And 28pc of these parents admitted that they would take 'a sick day' to just have a breather.
The report finds that while both mums and dads prioritise spending time with their kids after coming home from work, it interestingly says that traditional gender roles still persist in the home. Mums are more likely than dads to start doing chores once home. (Mums, 45pc and dads 25pc)
Millennial fathers feel the most indignant towards their employers and also represent the group that is least comfortable asking employers for working time limits. Some 58pc of millennial dads would not feel confident asking their bosses about reducing their hours or flexible working arrangements.
Disappointedly the report concluded that income and use of flexible working are related. There was evidence that people on higher incomes are more likely to work flexibly: nearly 80pc of high earners reported they are able to access flexible working. I imagine a large proportion of those parents on the lower to medium income brackets are young parents with young kids.
One of the biggest reasons millennial parents are saying they are stressed out is money. While it's typical for young and less-established parents to struggle more financially than their older counterparts, are millennial parents in particular dealing with headwinds that weren't as pronounced a generation ago? They're working in an economy where it's increasingly important (and expensive) to have a college education. And having children only exacerbates the difficulties involved in earning and paying for further education to try and stay ahead.
Despite being members of the most educated generation in history, their earning power has been stifled because of bad timing: many entered the job market while the economy tanked. This is according to some of Family Friendly HQ's parents. For those working parents who started their careers during the recession, they feel they earn less than those who didn't.
There's an age old phrase that burning the candle at both ends causes burnout. But what is the alternative for the millennial parent? And what about time carved out for these adults to be alone together, to nurture the other, and for each adult to be able to nurture her or himself, with each meeting her or his individual needs (including exercise and sleep!). I know this is not entirely unique to the millennial parent. I'm not one myself (I'm borderline Generation X) and alone time, sleep and exercise are hard found for any generation of parent! We use up so much time for others and leave no time for ourselves.
As much as the young parent may want to think they are Superwoman or Superman they are not. As parents, everyone makes demands on our time, energies and talents. It is incredibly hard as a parent to say no. But if parents don't start putting themselves first (sometimes), their health - physical and mental - may suffer.
Olivia Willis is the co-founder of familyfriendlyhq.ie, an Irish family website with information for parents, things to do, daily blogs, reviews and expert family advice.