We are going to be talking A LOT about unmarried mothers, especially Millennial single moms, from here on out. Factoids:
- 57% of babies born to millennials were out of wedlock. (John’s Hopkins)
- 64% of millennial moms reported at least one birth out of wedlock. (John’s Hopkins)
- More educated millennials are having babies outside of marriage. Of millennial moms who have babies outside of marriage, 67% have some college education, and 32% have four or more years of higher education. (John’s Hopkins)
The conversation is no longer about how to get people to get and stay married. Marriage is over. After all, 46% millennials and 44% GenXers say “Marriage is becoming obsolete” (Pew), and divorce rates for those who do marry (mostly white, educated and affluent), divorce rates have hovered around 50 percent for four decades.
Instead, the conversation is about how to support all family types (as of 2014, 46 percent of households with kids were ‘traditional' nuclear families with married moms and dads. The rest were single-parent families, gay and multigenerational families, and other configurations). We need universal, affordable child care so parents can work, earn and support their families. We need affordable health care and retirement plans, and we need family courts that promote equal parenting.
This guest post is from Kristi Eide, 33, who blogs at The Sometimes Single Mom. This Millennial single mom lives in Phoenix with Keylen, who is 6 years old, and shares her thoughts about why her peers are staying solo:
When I found myself as a single mom turning 30, my life looked nothing like the princess movies I grew up on. But with a little research and perspective, I realized I'm actually more the norm than Ariel, Aurora or Belle.
In fact, being a millennial mom means joining the ranks of more than nine million women. And before you get caught up on the ‘single’ part, realize that more than half of these millennial moms are not married either. Turns out, there are more Kourtney Kardashians out there than Kims, according to Johns Hopkins researchers. Choosing to be single right now is less about turning away from “traditional” values, and more about choosing the freedom to build your own life on your own terms. Society is finally releasing its grip on the idea that “family” requires two married heterosexual parents living under the same roof. And mommies everywhere are becoming more empowered to realize their full potential, with or without their baby daddy by their side.
So stop apologizing for choosing the path that is best for you. Sometimes, choosing to be happy also means choosing to remain single — for a little while longer, or forever. In this decade, that can be a really cool choice.
We are millennials. We are moms. And some of us chose not to get married — at least not yet. Here’s why:
- We prioritize parenthood over marriage. Being a mommy is forever, being married is something that only lasts eight years (at least, that’s the going rate these days, according to Census stats) — and millennials get it. Pew Research found that Americans aged 18 to 29 say that being a good parent is more important than having a successful marriage in much higher rates than the previous generation. Being a single mom during the turn of the century means belonging to a generation shaped by liberal and changing views of marriage. Let’s face it, most of us know at least one of our friends is divorced. So why rush to the alter? We have enough student loan debt already, without adding in another $30,00 for an overpriced wedding reception (the latest average, according to TheKnot.com). And we’re busy! Planning a grand affair while working, studying, carpooling, play-dating, and Pinterest-ing can get exhausting. We’ll get married. Someday. When we’re ready. Or not. Until then, we will continue to flood our Instagram feed with our little one’s #OOTD.
- We believe in cohabitation. The rate of unmarried cohabitation has risen 1,000 percent over the past four decades. With more millennial mothers single than married, test-driving life together before saying “I do” is critically important to us.3My son’s father and I tried living together for a few years right after he was born, and realized we were nowhere near ready to get married. If we had taken the leap, it would have been a terribly unhappy household, held together largely by a piece of paper, rather than love. All relationships are hard and take lots of work… and even greater levels of faith. We know this. But without coexisting together first, how else was I going to figure out if I could live with all of his annoying habits. I already had one kid to clean up after…
- We don't suffer as much pressure to follow our grandparents' idea of family. The stigma around raising your child in a single parent household is significantly less than it was for previous generations (insert big sigh of relief). As millennial moms, we don’t feel pressured to jump into marriage just because that’s what our parents and grandparents did. While we know that statistically speaking, kiddos who are raised by both parents is best, and easiest, the 1960’s idea of what constitutes a “traditional family” no longer majority of households anymore. How many people do you know whose parents are still married? I’m seriously betting the number is low. Millennial mommies march to the beat of our own drums. If something doesn’t feel right, we challenge it. And we absolutely challenge the notion that the old way of doing things is the best way. If we do marry, it will be when we’re ready. And if you want to challenge us, be prepared to fight an entire online community. Us single mommies stick together.
- We invest in ourselves first. We are not defined by the person standing next to us. Our identity is as an independent, single woman… who also happens to be a mom. Millennials are on track to be the most educated generation to-date. And millennial women are showing up in a powerful way, with one in four holding at leasta bachelor’s degree. Of the 9 million millennial mommies out there, the average age to have our first child is 26 and we are waiting even longer to get married. With the entire world at our fingertips we have barely begun to explore what really lights our fire and what our true passions are. Call us selfish and narcissist (everyone else seems to label our generation that way), but we want to finish school, start a career, travel the world, figure out how to raise this tiny human, and become the person we had always dreamed of being…before we get married!
- We can afford to be single now. Millennials grew up in an interconnected social stratosphere of free information. Everything we could ever want to learn has literally been at our fingertips. Prior to Google and wifi, it was infinitely harder for a single mom to earn a degree, start a new business, or further her professional skills — all of which are easily done from online learning resources. Now we can do everything from the comfort of our own home.
Not long ago — ands still today, in most of the world — women faced huge economic pressure to marry since they had scant professional opportunities. That is no longer true in the developed world. Further, it is now entirely possible to be a work-from-home mom, some (if not all) of the time. The Internet has opened up the flood gates to entrepreneurship for mommies everywhere. You can be a freelance writer, a blogger, an Etsy shop owner, a business consultant, a graphic designer, a marketing guru… There are so many amazing avenues to explore if you are trying to parent solo and need the flexibility of working from home.
But if you prefer the nine to five grind of Corporate America (I’m not knocking it, I work at a tech company myself), flexible working conditions are quickly becoming the norm. These trends mean that parents of all genders and marital statuses are freerer than ever to create the careers and family lives of our dreams.
Yes, being a single, millennial mom means burning both ends of the candle some nights (ok, most nights). But we are far from being a rarity anymore, and we have the advantage of belonging to the most educated generation that has ever walked the planet — and one in which there are more financial and career opportunities for women than ever before. Even more powerful: We have the freedom to choose when and if marriage is right for us. But being single does not mean we are alone. We are connected 24-7. We find solace, answers, and e-friendships in online communities. We plan our kid’s birthday parties via collaborative Pinterest boards and our Instagram documents our little one’s every, super-stylish, move. Just because we don’t conform to society’s traditional standards of the way of doing things doesn’t make us any less of a mom than our Baby Boomer parents. We are simply redefining parenting. Solo.
Follow The Sometimes Single Mom.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.