Millennial mothers adapt to child-rearing in fast-paced times

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Simi Valley native Keelin Kirby poses for a family portrait with her two daughters, Althea and Lilia. Photo courtesy of Aum Photography.

Whittier data analyst Vivi Cortez gets out of bed every morning well before dawn. She makes breakfast and school lunches for her two kids, Leo, 13 and Luke, 7, and has them getting ready for the day by 6 a.m.

Everything is strictly scheduled through cell phone alarms, and that’s before the family is even out the door. Cortez said that as a single mother of two growing boys, it’s the only way she can get them through the day.

“Everything has to be out by a certain time,” Cortez said. “For my kids to get ahead, I have to do so much more than my parents did.”

With a packed schedule like hers, it’s no wonder she already has her Mother’s Day plans squared away: Probably sleeping in, Cortez said with a laugh, adding that she’ll probably also cook breakfast with her kids.

Cortez is part of a growing number of millennials who are facing the world of parenting with no small amount of stress, but just as much gusto. According to the Pew Research Center, 16.2 million millennials were mothers in 2015, and USC researcher Morley Winograd said the number increases by millions each year. Millennials tend to have children later in life, and the average age of childbirth is 26, he said. The statistic includes both single mothers, like Cortez, and those with partners, such as Simi Valley resident Keelin Kirby.

Kirby bucks the age trend. She has two daughters, aged 8 and 18 months, and was only 17 when oldest daughter Althea was born. Kirby said that at first, her youth posed some problems.

“A lot of people didn’t like that I was a young mom,” Kirby said. She admits that being a young mother took some getting used to, but that now she sees serious advantages to being a millennial parent, something Cortez quickly agreed with, despite being older herself. Both women said they have more energy than their parents did for keeping up with kids, and being millennials also makes it easy to keep up in other ways.

SUBHEAD: Generational advantage

Millennials have a unique advantage when it comes to raising children, due to the social and technological changes they grew up in, according to USC Clinical Psychologist Kelly Greco.

“Children of all ages are being exposed to social media at younger and younger ages,” Greco said. “What they’re exposed to as children is nothing like what I was raised.”

Greco, who has two children, said that awareness of technological and social changes is key in all parents (not clear, do you mean a key in parenting), and older generations struggling to raise kids in an ever-more interconnected world must adapt if they want their kids to have an advantage.

And kids with parents who understand their world will have advantages, Greco said, sentiments shared by both Kirby and Cortez. Both parents said that they were working to raise their kids to be more tolerant and accepting of others, and to have awareness of the world around them.

“Having grown up with all this technology as it was changing, I definitely understand where Althea is coming from,” Kirby said.

But with those advantages come no small degree of stress, Greco said. Parents of all ages should remain aware of their stress levels, especially when addressing their own personal development.

SUBHEAD: Millennial stress

Winograd said that millennial moms have huge burdens, despite egalitarian views of childrearing common to their generation. Student debt drives economic fears, and the high cost of raising children compounds that stress. Insure.com’s Mother’s Day Index estimates that it would cost $67,619 a year to hire someone to do household tasks traditionally associated with motherhood, like cooking and watching children.

New technologies, like Cortez’s use of alarms for scheduling, can make things easier. Cortez also works from home, an option Winograd said many millennials use. But that can only take young moms so far, Winograd said.

“It still falls to a great degree on the mom to balance all that,” Winograd said. Oftentimes, relying on family members can ease some of the burden. Kirby agreed, saying that without help from her daughter’s father, College of the Redwoods student John Hopkins, she would have a much harder time raising her kids.

“I wake up with the little ones in the morning and let her sleep in,” Hopkins said. “I just try my best to provide the fullest amount of myself and what I can give to her and our kids to give them the life they deserve.”

Much has also been made of the millennial approach to mental health, but Winograd said that higher reporting of mental health issues doesn’t necessarily mean that millennials are more stressed out than other generations, independently of whether they have children or not. Mental health issues have lost a lot of its stigma, Winograd said, and younger people tend to be more stressed than older people as a rule.

But despite the stress, Cortez said she would do it all over again for her kids if she had to.

“It’s difficult at times,” Cortez said. “But this was my choice. I chose to have these kids.”

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