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Rethinking mom some moRe:

PaRt 3 of the luckie Rethinking mom seRies octobeR 2009

BY: david stutts, vP / director of Brand Planning

Over the past couple of years, we at Luckie & Company have written several articles about “ReThinking Mom.” The first time around, we talked about how the Gen Xer Domestic Goddess Mom has eclipsed the Boomer Soccer Mom. Then we looked at the coming wave that will be the Mommy Tsunami, a massive cultural shift just now getting underway as Gen Y women reach motherhood age en masse.

In this article, we’ll be looking at the intersection of these two generations, why their approaches to motherhood are so distinct, and what impact the current economic downturn might have on Gen Y motherhood.

Depending on what source is used, Gen Y’s birth years are generally defined as 1978–1998, while Xers were born 1965–1977 and Boomers

1946–1964.

Maria Bailey of BSM Media did some research a few years back that found Gen Y females planned to start having families earlier in life – and wanted bigger families. That shift would reverse a trend that’s several decades old, thanks to Boomers and Gen Xers who put off having children and often opted for smaller families than previous generations.

First we’ll look at why Gen Xers waited to an older age than any generation before to approach the family-raising portion of their life cycle, and then we’ll explore why we think Gen Y is reversing that trend and what they will do during the current recession in regard to their own family aspirations.

Many have written about how Gen Xers were “latchkey kids,” the product of a nearly 50 percent divorce rate and dual-income parents who put in long workweeks. Gen X was the first generation to actively witness women (their mothers) in the workforce, fiercely competing for a spot in the corporate hierarchy.

In their youth, Xers were often labeled as cynical, lazy and indifferent, but as young adults and thirty-somethings, reality showed them to be driven, independent and resilient. While the perception was that Xers were doing nothing, they were actually busy watching, learning and formulating how not to repeat the work/lifestyle choices their parents had made.

Xers saw firsthand how the dual stresses of two-income households coupled with raising children could wreck

a family, and they wanted none of it. Many waited until they were older, more established in their careers and had grown out of the immaturity of youth to get married and start raising families. They demanded an acceptable balance between work and family, shunning long workweeks (and the material possessions that came with it) for quality time with their spouses and kids.

A line from the 1994 movie Reality Bites does a good job of summing up Gen X’s attitude toward the relentless

career pursuit they saw their parents follow:

And they wonder why those of us in our 20s refuse to work an 80-hour week just so we can afford to buy their BMWs. Why we aren’t interested in the counter- culture that they invented as if we did not see them disembowel their revolution for a pair of running shoes.”

Those in Gen Y have been raised since birth to be successful. They have had very organized and planned childhoods (some might say micromanaged). They’ve been raised in the “village” approach with parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, ministers, etc., all helping prepare and shape them to be successful – and they’ve often been told they will be successful at anything they do. Some have said their confidence is on steroids. The leading edge of Gen Y came of age in the prosperous 1990s, and they have had a greater opportunity than any previous generation to attend college.

Gen Y is the largest generation. They’re going to have a lot of children regardless of the current economic situation or any economic situations that may follow. Maybe some will delay a few years to make sure they are stable

in their careers, but we would bet they’ll still start younger than their Gen X counterparts. Gen X was so jaded

by the high divorce rate with their own parents that many put off starting families until they were sure they had the right partner.

Gen Y, on the other hand, has been raised through a very solid relationship with their parents (married or not), with more friends and buddies than kids in many cases. This has given them a better feeling about family and the desire to start their own families. Also, Gen Y is going to be the most educated generation (in terms

of attending/graduating college), so they will have better-paying jobs and be more financially stable at an earlier

age than Gen X – hence better able to support a family at a younger age.

Some have written that Gen Y exhibits many of the same behavioral/attitudinal characteristics of the Greatest Generation (the WWII generation raised during the depression of the 1920s) – who were generally raised in large families. So logic would hold that that bigger families will also be an element of the Gen Y life cycle.

Based on their upbringing and opportunities, those in Gen Y have no reason to doubt their ability to get married, start a family and be successful in their careers, all in a life-stage time frame before Boomers and Xers likely moved out of their first apartments. While a few will surely fail, we believe a strong majority will be successful and probably not even realize how well they have done.

Having children is not like buying a car or a house. It doesn’t feel like a decision that would be put off for a few years based on the current economic conditions. Once the decision has been made to have children, couples do so and figure out how to make their finances work. If someone can’t afford a house or car, they sell them and move on – no harm, no foul. Kids are a lifetime commitment that parents make regardless of their finances.

Recent statistics show that Gen Y, whose oldest members are entering their 30s, has already given birth to more than 13 million babies. The current economic downturn may slow down the parenting aspirations for some, but given the sheer size of this generation (nearly 80 million) they will be a parenting force to be reckoned with for the next 2–3 decades.

As time unfolds, Gen Y will single-handedly produce the next baby boom and likely reshape how parenting is done. Marketers better pay attention, learn and adapt as quickly as they can, or risk being washed away by the approaching Gen Y Mommy Tsunami.

To read more reports on generational news, visit Luckie.com, contact David directly at david.stutts@luckie.com or follow him on Twitter @stutts.

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