As a parent, it’s only natural to imagine the amazing adventures ahead for your child.
With no baggage or paths yet taken, they have so many possibilities to choose from.
And with so many exciting career paths out of the question once you’ve hit adulthood without choosing that path, it’s hard not to dream big for your offspring: Perhaps they’ll become an athlete, or an astronaut, or the founder of an A.I. firm that doesn’t yet exist.
But actually, instead of dreaming that their child will become the next Jeff Bezos or Oprah Winfrey, parents today think happiness is more important, according to new research.
As millennials step into the role of mom and dad, Beano Brain, the insights consultancy from London-based Beano Studios, has documented the generational shift in parenting ethos when it comes to raising their children.
In a yearlong study based on more than 200 hours of face-to-face interviews and a survey of 2,000 parents—all published in the white paper Raising Gen Alpha—researchers found that 81% of millennials think it’s more important for their children to be happy than to be “successful.”
In fact, the army of 27- to 40-year-old parents are sacrificing their own careers in their bid to raise happy kids.
Happiness as a career goal
The research says that millennials mostly experienced “helicopter parenting” growing up—essentially, parents hovering overhead and trying to control and perfect aspects of their lives.
So now as parents themselves, millennials are purposefully rejecting the classic career-ladder expectations often placed on children.
Instead, millennial parents are prioritizing their child’s contentment, including by pushing back on traditional views around education and the celebration of individuality.
According to the research, 87% of millennial parents are encouraging their children to stand up for what they believe in and 83% are nurturing their child’s individuality, while 57% agree school is not preparing their children to be citizens of the future.
The report also adds that the focus on well-being—which was rated higher than getting a good education—has risen to the fore post-pandemic in both the U.K. and the U.S.
“Previously undervalued occupations such as supermarket workers and waste operatives gained massive exposure and respect, forcing the world to recognize their invaluable contribution to society, and to re-evaluate their views on education, career and the importance of happiness and health,” the report says.
That helps explain why an increasing number of parents are placing less pressure on their children to get a bachelor’s degree, with only 12% of millennial parents stating they have a desire for their child to attend university. In comparison, 38% of the 18-year-old U.K. population is currently at university.
As a result, the report predicts that when Gen A children (those born after 2010) grow up, they will find a job that enables them to explore their passions as their main source of income or juggle a traditional money-earning role with a passionate side hustle.
“Finding and maintaining a healthy work-life balance will not only be desired by the Gen A adult but sought after and perhaps even expected,” the report adds.
Parenting: The most important job
For 87% of the millennial parents surveyed, parenting is their most important job and they’re taking the role as seriously as, and sometimes instead of, their next big career move.
According to the report, “millennial parents are professionally parenting like no other generation before them.”
Parents today are planning their careers around having children to create the ideal nest, including waiting until they are financially stable.
Over a third of millennial parents actively planned and researched when would be best to have children, often waiting until they were financially stable, hit their career goals, and were married.
In comparison, only a quarter of Gen X parents deliberated in a similar fashion. This statistic rises to 40% in Gen Z, showing that younger generations are planning parenthood to fit in with their lives more than ever.
This mentality perhaps explains why they’re then happier to relax in their career and fully commit to parenting.
Being emotionally present is more important than ever with 77% of millennial parents prioritizing time with their children over careers—and parents in the U.S. don’t feel like they’re getting enough family time.
When asked whether they would like to spend more time with their children, 47% of American respondents strongly agreed, compared to 39% of Brits.
In order to focus more on spending time with and raising their children, millennial moms are more likely than dads (59% vs. 49%) to put their careers on hold or give less attention to work.
And although millennial dads want to be more present than previous generations, the reality isn’t so.
According to the report, half of the millennial dads surveyed say they give less attention to work in comparison with 37% of Gen X dads, yet they are no more likely than Gen X dads to actually physically prioritize time with their children over their careers.
“Instead, it is the most educated and successful generation of women who are choosing to take a step back from the career ladder and making the necessary adjustments and sacrifices to focus on raising happy children by being present and available at any given time,” the report warns.
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