Child(ish) Reads: But You’re Still So Young

So in case you haven’t noticed, this blog is run by two Millennial moms and we lean into it hard. For this Child(ish) Read, I chose this book because I wanted to learn more about Millennial thinking and sociology; specifically about the reasons we are the way we are and how this directly affects how we parent.

But You’re Still So Young: How Thirtysomethings Are Redefining Adulthood
by Kayleen Schaefer

First things first, this book isn’t terribly gripping. While it does have some good supporting insights and statistics, it is mostly personal stories that illustrate the struggles of our age group. While I could relate to the contributors, many of them did not have kids yet.

Am I an adult yet?

According to the book (and this I agree with), there are four things that thirty-somethings need in order to consider themselves “adult“:

  1. A full-time job/career plan
  2. To get married
  3. A house
  4. Kids

Pretty standard. But, we can’t forget the context of two recessions, a pandemic, most likely student loan debt, and the overall age delay in getting these four things. You don’t see as many couples getting married right out of college. More of these couples are co-habitating longer or even still living with parents. And the housing market is…ugh…

We don’t have access to anyone’s interior life, so it always seems like everyone has their sh*t together. Specifically, everyone else but you.

As a result, we feel like we are delaying adulthood. I can distinctly remember being 25/27/30 and not feeling like an adult yet, because I was still very much paycheck to paycheck. Can delaying this “adult mindset” slow psychological growth? Actually No.

The Thirty-Something Brain

I think my single biggest take away from this book is this little part about neuroplasticity.

Consistent, repeated habits become wired and set in the brain, causing it to lose plasticity. Think about our parents who encourage settling down, finding long-term careers and then retiring. When adults find themselves doing the same things day in and day out, their brain will wire itself to that routine and prune away other unnecessary functions, like critical thinking, creativity, or flexibility. It’s like these muscles atrophy with unuse. We talked about something similar in our Whole Brain Child posts.

However, new experiences create new neural pathways. If our brain spends more time being active and not static, it will create and discover actual new ways of thinking.

The typical thirty-something has faced many terrain changes when it comes to finding a long-term career. Think about side hustles, jumping from job to job, exploring different fields, contract work or gig economy. Similarly, there’s the growing dream of traveling abroad and the overall “I have so much more I want to do before I settle down” mindset.

And as you can see on TikTok, there are plenty of Millennials out there picking up new hobbies (hello, rollerskating), creating content, and using social media as a platform to deep dive into all of our off-the-wall interests.

We are introducing so many new things to our brain that we are essentially training it to be younger, to be more flexible, to break out of the box of traditional thinking and expectations.

How does this affect our willingness to pivot? Professionally or otherwise. Pivoting to online dating, later marriages, co-habitating, changing household gender dynamics, women having long-term careers, working remotely, etc.

So if we are completely changing how we approach and value careers, marriage, and financial stability, we might as well do the same to our parenting.

Millennial Parenting

Of course, it kind of seems like we’re preaching to the choir. We have lived this reality since we graduated college. We’ve had ample time analyzing and reflecting on our own upbringing, and now it seems like we’re actively breaking the cycle.

In the “Do I have a child?” chapter of this book, we learn about three couples who are embarking on the same decision. Do they try to have a child without job security? Do they have a child if they are not married? Do you have a child when you don’t have a committed partner and would be a single parent? These are not simple or straight-forward questions.

When Troy and I first decided to try for kids, I had just turned 31. I had planned a big birthday weekend and decided that that was going to be the last time I would have another birthday without a child (haha, yeah right…). We had a house, were financially stable and it seemed that we were at the right age where we could handle a child without essentially bankrupting ourselves. Both of our families have had financial issues in the past so financial stability was a key factor in the “do we have a baby” decision process. This is a stark difference from my parents who first had me at 26, lived on a single income and later divorced.

This is simply a change in priorities based on the last 20 years. I can’t imagine trying to have a child and not having all of the other questions be answered. And now that I have kids, parenting is something I’m actively doing and working on every day.

If we begin to apply this same hyper-conscious mindset to parenting, will it have positive affects our relationships with our kids? And then in 10+ years when our kids are teenagers, what will that be like now that parenting has become a practice and not just a checked status box? If we are taking bits and pieces from all of these archetypes of positive/lazy/free-range parenting and coming up with something completely different from previous generations, I feel hopeful (and maybe even a little excited) about the type of relationship that I am building with my kids.

End Note

A theme I saw in this book is that these couples want more purpose in how they plan and conduct their lives. They want jobs that they’re passionate about that also do good in the world. They want relationships that are meaningful, that feel right and not just jumping into marriage because you’ve been with a person for a long enough time.

Bringing it back to parenting, I do think that this mentality shows as well. We want to create meaningful relationships with our kids. We want to learn from our past traumas and make sure that we are breaking this intergenerational cycle. We want to inspire our kids; bring them out into the world, bring them out to the woods. And we don’t want to be dismissive of things that they are passionate about just because we ourselves are not passionate about them. We’re not pushing them to win scholarships or only go into fields that make money. Right now, we really just want them to be well-rounded and happy.

This all might be over-generalizing, but I feel that when we know better, we do better. And right now, we know way more than every before.

Who knows what lies ahead but TBH, I still feel pretty young at 37. Not trying to be a cool mom or anything… 🙂

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