Why It’s Hard For Our Parents To Support Millennial Dreams

September 25, 2019  |  
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Not feeling support from our parents. Is that a tale as old as time? Or is it perhaps a struggle felt more by the recent generation? I think there’s a bit of both happening. My mom has stories of her parents shutting down her dreams and questioning her goals. And of course she does—it’s in every parent’s nature to have concerns. It isn’t that they don’t believe we can do what we set out to do so much as it is that their heart breaks at the possibility of us not making it. They just don’t want us to get hurt. So, to some degree, probably everyone throughout history has had to fight for their parents to understand their aspirations. Though, I do feel that the millennial generation is part of such an interesting time in history that jumped ahead in so many ways from the previous generation, that the disconnect between us and our parents is greater. Here is why it’s so hard for millennials’ parents to understand our dreams.

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Their parents didn’t understand theirs

They’re still part of a generation whose parents told them to just get a steady job with benefits, have a family, and get a pension. Our parent’s parents lived through the depression—they don’t come from that dreamer mentality. They come from a survivalist mentality, and they passed that onto our parents.

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Family always came first

To our parents, having a career was good, but the whole point was to have a family. So when they see us living in tiny studio apartments, working late night jobs, and just generally living a lifestyle that is not conducive to family, in order to pursue our dreams, it makes no sense. It looks backwards to them.

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They didn’t have social media

Our parents didn’t grow up with social media and don’t quite understand the power of it. They don’t see how those little videos we make on our phones could somehow result in money one day.

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They come from a selfless generation

Our parents also may come from a selfless generation, or at least their parents did. What that means is that dreaming of greatness and just doing things to advance one’s own individual status and wealth was frowned upon as selfish. It’s hard to explain, but today, we really do live with the idea that of course our personal success will come above all else. Our parents didn’t think like that.

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They were independent by age 18

If it wasn’t 18 then 20. That’s probably around the age our parents were expected to be completely financially independent and out on their own. So they aren’t really down with this rise in adults living with their parents, because they can’t afford rent while pursuing their dreams.

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It’s natural for parents to worry

Like I mentioned in the intro, it’s natural for parents to worry, “What happens if my baby fails? She’ll be devastated.” Now consider that, for our parents, that worry is tenfold because we are using technology and systems to succeed that they don’t understand. At all. So it’s even harder for them to see where we’re going with all of this.

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We rely on someday money

There are a lot of millennials living on a prayer out there, just getting a new credit card with a zero APR period every couple of years, hoping some massive payday for that screenplay or software comes through before that interest kicks in. Our parents didn’t live like that quite as much. It concerns them.

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Our idols have changed

We, as millennials, know of people who have made millions if not billions using social media, and doing things like creating the Vine app and investing in Uber. Our parent’s idols looked a bit different. They were more like…engineers and politicians.

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Our paths are less clear

The paths we choose don’t have very clearly defined steps. For our parents, it was clear: you worked a few years at this level, were promoted to the next level at year X, and so on and so forth. There’s a lot of hoping and wishing and maybies going on in our paths.

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Our moms were told to have babies

Our moms were still of the generation that told women to have babies—that a woman’s main purpose in life should be to have babies. So it can really just frustrate/sadden/confuse them to see all of the millennial women who are just deciding not to have kids, in favor of their careers. For that reason alone, our mothers can resent our careers.

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Underemployment for men wasn’t an option

As for the way our parents view our partners, it isn’t great. It can be hard for our fathers, who worked their butts off to support the families they had by age 24, to understand that your boyfriend drives Uber, can’t afford to take you on vacation, and spends weekends performing in his band for $50 gigs.

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Their options were more utilitarian

Our generation is into the business of happiness. We create products and services that help people have more fun and make things easier. For goodness sake we have an app that puts dog ears on our selfies. Our parents’ generation was more focused on utilitarian careers—careers in medicine, law, engineering, finances. It’s hard for them to believe we can make much money just doing something that makes people happy rather than something that keeps people alive.

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They were on the retire-by-65-plan

Our parents come from a time when the idea was to retire by age 65. That was the deal. Now, they watch us take odds and ends jobs through our twenties, only to finally get some footing in a long-term career by our late thirties. How is that going to put us on the retire-by-age-65 plan?

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They never called themselves “a brand”

Today, people are brands. We are “building our brands” by tagging photos on Instagram. You have to understand that to our parents, building a brand meant renting a stand at a market or convention and standing out there for 12 hours, talking to people and selling a product.

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Career + passion were separate

Our parents also somewhat come from a time when passion and career didn’t have to be merged, and weren’t expected to be. They had their jobs that paid the bills, and then they had the things they loved to do, which they did on the weekends. It’s just a change for them to see us trying to merge our passions and our careers.

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