Millennials Become Family Caregivers

Becoming a caregiver for an adult family member is not uncommon. My sister and I dropped everything to take care of our mother in the last months of her life as her brain tumors advanced and she became helpless. Lorene Cary of the New York Times writes that one in five Americans care for dependent adult family members. She notes that, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute, “the annual economic value of unpaid caregiving is $470 billion.” While becoming a caregiver is a frequent experience for baby boomers when they hit middle age, I was surprised to read that more and more of the millennial generation now find themselves in the caregiver role for an adult family member. It seemed to me that they are a little young to find themselves in this role, but I learned that isn’t the case.

Susan B. Garland of the New York Times writes that due to changes in family structure during the boomer generation, millennials are finding themselves in the caregiver role earlier in life than previous generations. Garland reports that, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute, “one-fourth of the 40 million caregivers in the United States are millennials, ranging in age from their early 20s to late 30s.” What changes brought millennials to the caregiver role so early in their lives? Here are just a few:

  • Baby boomers had their children later in life.
  • Boomers had fewer children to provide care.
  • Boomers are more often divorced and single than previous generations, leaving caregiving to their children rather than a spouse.

Garland explains that millennials will experience long-term consequences that differ from those of the typical middle-aged caregiver. Millennials are just starting out in their adult lives to build careers and families. Consequently,

  • Caregiver responsibilities can make it difficult for millennials to start climbing the economic ladder. Younger caregivers spend an average of twenty-one hours per week on caregiver tasks, which can limit their employment choices. Limiting work hours and options so early in life can run the risk of lower lifetime earnings, retirement savings, and social security benefits.
  • Millennial caregivers are more likely than older caregivers to get warnings about performance and attendance, be turned down for promotions, and get fired, according to AARP.
  • Many millennials who are caregivers feel they have more limited choices when it comes to having children or getting married because of the demands on their time from work and caregiving.

We need a better system of care in this country that does not leave caregivers isolated and feeling they must carry these family responsibilities alone. The expense of numerous available services is prohibitive for many families. Surely social media can be used to help people coping with these stresses and responsibilities to find each other and share resources and support. We can do better than this.


Photo by AP x 90 on Unsplash

Millennials Want Paternity Leave

Many industries in the United States are engaged in a fierce competition for talent. Because millennials value paid parental leave for both fathers and mothers more so than did previous generations, Ronald Alsop of the New York Times explains that “an arms race to provide the best parental leave benefits for fathers as well as mothers” has begun in the United States. The United States remains the only developed country that does not require paid parental leave. This combination of competition for talent and pressure from millennials is gradually increasing the number of organizations, including technology, financial services, and state and local governments, offering this benefit to both parents, and increasing the length of time being offered—from six weeks to as long as twenty weeks in some cases. A recent study by Ernst & Young (EY) of 9,700 people for its global generational survey found that 83 percent of American millennials said they would be more likely to join a company offering such benefits. EY reports that “employees who receive paternity leave are far more engaged and trusting of the organization because they can live a full life.” The EY study also details benefits to spouses when fathers take paternity leave. Not surprisingly, spouses whose partners take paternity leave are able to focus on their careers, reduce their stress levels, and catch up on their work more easily after returning from their own leave. While millennials are demanding paid parental leave benefits, paternity leave itself is still relatively underutilized in the United States. While it has technically been available to fathers for some time, most men in the United States will not take paternity leave even when it is offered. A Boston College study found that, while nearly all men feel their employer should offer paternity leave, 86 percent said they would not use it because they fear the loss of income or retaliation that would damage their careers. It seems that millennials are leading an important shift in our culture, but organizations will need to be intentional about changing their cultures to support and encourage both fathers and mothers to take parental leave. Senior men and women will have to be role models and ensure that both men and women can take parental leave without damaging their careers. Millennials are making their mark on our societal culture, and it is a welcome one.   Photo by Rodrigo Castro, CC BY 2.0.    ]]>

Single Millennial Women Feel Pressure to Downplay Ambition

I am surprised by the findings of a recent study showing that single millennial women who are MBA candidates in an elite program feel they must downplay their professional ambitions when in public in order to attract a marriageable male mate. I realize I should not be surprised, given the support for traditional heterosexual relationships reported by voters for Donald Trump in the recent presidential election. Joan C. Williams, writing for the Harvard Business Review, describes the strong feelings about traditional gender roles that still exist in large segments of our society. She explains, “Trump promises a world free of political correctness and a return to an earlier era, when men were men and women knew their place.” With these attitudes still deeply embedded in our society, it is no wonder that many young women feel they have to minimize their goals in public settings. An article by Valentina Zarya in Fortune reports findings from a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research. These findings show significantly different responses for single millennial women when compared to the responses of female peers in long-term relationships and to both single and partnered male peers. When they believe men are watching, single women:

  • Are noticeably less assertive and speak up less in meetings
  • Minimize their goals and lower their desired annual salary expectations from $131,000 to $113,000
  • Lower their willingness to travel from fourteen to seven days per month
  • Lower their ambition for leadership roles in the future
While the study only analyzed and reported data based on gender and relationship status, it seems likely that there are racial differences for single women that are not reflected in this report. Yes, we have come a long way, but it seems we still have a long way to go. Society still teaches that it is not acceptable to be ambitious and assertive as a woman. While I’m sure that many women will say they are not impacted by these traditional attitudes, many women are still getting the message that they must tamp down their ambitions if they want to be acceptable to men. What role models and societal influences have shaped you?   Photo courtesy of COD Newsroom. CC by 2.0]]>