Why starting a family feels scary when you're a millennial
I was sitting down to write this when I came across an article from The Atlantic, stating that the next recession will destroy millennials. This isn’t the first warning about how dire things are for millennials. We are bombarded with them everyday: Millennials are destroying industries, our spending habits baffle bankers, and there is this pending rumor that our Achilles heel is avocado toast. So am I surprised by this latest armageddon-esque statistic surrounding my generation? No. But, like always, I think about what it means for my future. It makes me worry about my plans to start a family one day and I transfer my fear into another overtime shift at work or another freelance gig. Because, even though I honestly can’t see myself having kids anytime soon, I am already saving up for them.
There are messages everywhere telling us that if we just save a little money from each paycheck, then we can achieve everything we’ve ever dreamed of. Want to move out of your parents house? Just grit your teeth and save a little. Want to travel or purchase a house? Stop splurging on expensive movie tickets and you should be well on your way to financial stability. Not only does this message grossly minimize the financial struggle that younger generations are facing, but it undermines the rising cost for just about everything—including raising a family. It’s already been reported that many millennials aren’t planning on having children anytime soon and have diverted their focus to merely climbing out of the debt pit. A debt pit that is estimated to make millennials the first generation in the modern age to be worse off than their parents.
It is very telling that when the topic of children comes up in conversation with me and my friends, not a single person entertains the idea that they are ready. I’ve often heard people say that no one really knows when “they’re ready,” but it is clear that, in this case, the unease is financial. For my spouse, there is another layer to the financial fear: As an LGBTQ couple, the cost of IVF and adoption fees add another obstacle onto the already hefty price tag of starting a family “A parenting pathway is an intentional pathway,” says Dr. Dr. Mark Leondires, Medical Director of RMA of Connecticut and founder of Gay Parents to Be, a website dedicated to helping LGBTQ individuals navigate the complexities of becoming parents. “First, there needs to be a decision about whether somebody wants to have a biologically linked child, proceed with adoption, or become a foster parent. It is at least a year in planning, and for many, two years.”
That is two years of figuring out what procedures, if any, that your insurance might cover, two years of combing over your future rights as a parent, two years of prep work. There is good news, though. Despite the scary and intimidating landscape of medical costs and adoption fees, statistics show that more LGBTQ millennials are interested in starting families than ever before. In fact, more than 50% showed interest in starting a family. This could be due to the fact that a lot of millennials were reaching adulthood when the Supreme Court made marriage equality legal in all 50 states in 2015. This survey is the first of its kind, in that it included a wider spectrum of the LGBTQ community—including transgender, bisexual, and potential single queer parents.
This survey paints a different picture than the “unwilling to grow up” millennial who is too selfish for children—a narrative that is perpetuated by older generations troubled by the lowering birth rate.
It isn’t a lack of wanting to start a family, but an apprehension to raise children in a world that grows more expensive by the year with no signs of slowing down. There is no correct formula for life’s milestones, just as there is no correct age bracket to start a family. I don’t intend to start a family anytime soon, but it should be up to the parent(s) to decide when they are “ready” to have children—not the economy. The concept of families shouldn’t become another luxury that only the rich can afford.