At the age of 25, I have decided that I have my life in order. I have finished postsecondary education. I have a teaching job that I love despite the low-ish pay, but that salary will only increase over time. I have health insurance, I have a roof over my head, and for the most part, I am debt-free.
And I’m having a kid.
Well, not me per se. My wife, Brittany, is the one actually having it, meaning, giving birth. We met each other over five years ago and were married in the summer of 2014. We have shared many ups and a few downs, but we are head-over-heels for each other.
Okay Hunter, I get it. You have this cutesy life where everything worked out in a happily-ever-after fashion. What’s to stop me from clicking away from this love-fest?
So, what am I hoping to accomplish by writing all of this? It’s simple: I’m a millennial. I’m a soon-to-be dad. I want to share my experiences in the hopes that people will learn from my successes and mistakes.
After teaching in high schools for about three years, I have become quite interested in generational gaps and characteristics. There are a great many definitions of the inescapable term “millennial.” To some, a millennial is a reference to an adult who enjoyed their most formative years right around the turn of the century. (75 seconds of research has shown me this term refers to those born between the early 1980s and the year 2000.)
I arrived in 1990, so I feel I’m about as millennial as they get.
Others have some stronger definitions. The millennial generation has been called the most entitled generation of our time. Concepts like manners, chivalry, and politeness are no longer coveted and everyone deserves a trophy. You have folks on the other side running to their defense, but the stereotype has stuck whether we like it or not.
I don’t take offense to these characterizations. Now that I’m on the cusp of parenthood myself, my only rational take on those stigmas is that they are simply a result of how they were brought up.
However, that does leave me, and millennial parents like me, in an interesting position. We will be shaping the next generation. Our beliefs and our experiences will guide us towards cultivating the next group of individuals who will go on to lead the youth voice in this country.
Millennial adults everywhere are now largely entering key parenthood demographics. Over the past five years or so, the average age of marriage for men was right around 29 (women have been getting married at just under 27). Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) the average age of first-time parents is just over 25 for men and right around 23 for women. Look around you. Do you notice that many of your friends and connections on social media are starting to “settle down?”
On top of that, you and your wife have only been married for 18 months or so before having a kid? Why did you settle down so soon?
On average, couples will wait about three years before having their first child. There is a high value placed on quality time between two people before decided to toss a third, yet central, wheel in the mix.
Of course, we also need to remember that marriage is simply not a necessity like it used to be. For a multitude of reasons, the millennial generation’s marriage rates simply do not carry the same weight as those of Generation X and the Baby Boomers.
So where does that leave Brittany and me?
I got married at 23 (below average) and am preparing to become a dad at the age of 25 (average).
Brittany tied the knot with me right after her 28th birthday (above average) and is going to give birth as she cruises in to 30 (above average). And, as the voice inside my head keenly pointed out, we have been married for 18 months as we prepare for the arrival of our firstborn (below average).
I believe the timing of all of these things to be a combination of things. I have been told, and thusly always felt, that I am mature for my age. Despite the fact that my age cohort is characterized by party-filled weekends, I much rather enjoy calmness and more easygoing get-togethers. I sometimes don’t feel all that old – my sense of humor can be childish at times and my facial grows at a glacial pace – but those brief sparks of youth make for a good fit with Brittany.
We are pretty much in lockstep with each other. Even during the low points, we have always been strong communicators and have been able to work through things. We share many of the same interests and having a child was something we both wanted.
The question remains: Why now?
As I began, we are in a good place in our lives. Plus, as her age would imply, Brittany is approaching the back nine of her reproductive years. Just as it felt throughout our adventures, our love, and our marriage, it feels right to begin this journey now.
I am the oldest of six siblings. Brittany is the oldest of five. Suffice it to say we have a general idea of what it takes to raise a child. (No, we are not planning on having 5-6 kids. We’ve already survived the circus.) We were there when our parents had mastered the art of parenting, and some of those experiences, strategies, nuggets of wisdom have made their way to us.
This is also the first grandchild on both sides of the family. Junior hasn’t even been born yet, and just the thought of how many people will be surrounding us once we get back from the hospital seems overwhelming. We are, of course, thankful. I wouldn’t like it to be the other way around; little to no support when it’s needed most.
Between the baby shower and everything we have collected ourselves. Our room looks like a whole new world. Where it was once organized and simplistic it is now occupied and ready for action. Bassinet, rocker, smart sleeper, pack and play, changing station, diaper pail, and more. It is a welcome invasion, but I am still getting used to everything.
Technology, most importantly, has changed everything. When we were babies, the walkie-talkie was a glorified baby monitor. Now, with the opening of an app on my phone, I have access to a room monitor that gives me a live feed of the room, can detect motion and sound, and also serves as a measure of air quality. To help us sleep a little bit better at night, we acquired the Owlet, a medical-grade device that monitors baby’s oxygen levels.
If I’m going to be a millennial parent, I sure as hell am going to have the millennial gadgets.
As inevitably all first-time parents encounter, we have had to grapple with unsolicited parenting advice. The advice from family is welcome, but it’s the comments from strangers that can get pretty irksome. (Thank you, random stranger, for talking my ear off about circumcision.)
Despite our hope that when parenting we will do simply what feels natural, we wanted to be as prepared as possible. After we had excerpted What To Expect When You’re Expecting, Brittany and I settled in to read Harvey Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block. While Karp’s prose is extremely limiting, he was very effective and mechanical at teaching us proven techniques to help make our baby as comfortable as possible in during the early months of life. (Vintage Dr. Phil interview here; amusing mostly because, you know, Dr. Phil.)
With all of this stuff and all of this reading, am I prepared?
I’m as prepared as I ever will be, but truthfully, I still feel out of my league.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a slight sense of nervousness. The what-ifs have been polluting parts of my thinking all throughout Brittany’s pregnancy. I am indebted to the people in my life who have been there to calm and reassure us, but it’s hard to ignore.
Brittany and I have also both come to the understanding that our lives simply will never be the same again. It is easier saying it myself rather than having to listen to random strangers saying it for the umpteenth time.
But I do know that this is what I want. This is something I have been waiting for, and I feel that part of my anxiousness stems from the fact that I am tired of waiting. I cannot wait to hold him in my arms for the first time. I cannot wait to see him smile. I cannot wait to see what he is going to do in this world.
Throughout this entire experience so far, I am most humored by my fellow millennial brethren who act as though I have been handed a death sentence when I tell them Brittany and I are expecting. They get wide-eyed, mouths gaping, then finally – as though they forgot about where they were or who they were talking to – force a smile and a half-hearted, “Oh my God, that’s amazing. Congratulations!”
It’s moments like that when I have to laugh and I can think to myself confidently, “I’m ready. Let’s do this.”