Walking through the West Village in New York City, I caught a glimpse of the mythical and oft-discussed Millennial father in action. This particular unicorn, wearing an infant on his chest while pushing a stroller with a sleeping child, walked with a swag-filled jaunt and cool airiness that said, “I got this, ain’t no thang.” But there’s more: attached to the stroller via Strollerboard—a contraption that is exactly as it sounds, a skateboard that attaches to the stroller—was a sunglasses-wearing toddler riding along. Three kids, one father, all dressed like a posh Tony Hawk. The foursome rode along until they met up with another Millennial dad with his two children. I couldn’t stop staring as this odd conglomeration entered a Mexican restaurant for Sunday brunch. As an expecting father, I thought, Is this the new fatherhood? Will this be me in only a few short months, weeks, days? Babies? What?
Yes, Millennials have delayed typical adult milestones: marriage, pilgrimage to the ‘burbs, having kids. But with the oldest of us at 36 years young, the reality is that older Millennials are hitting this life stage–hard–and making parenthood our own. Millennials grew up with TV role models like Tim “The Toolman” Taylor and Uncle Phil, dropping knowledge on their kids and heading off to work. As a soon-to-be Millennial father, I can safely say that our generation is looking for the opportunity to be more present in the parenting process. The BabyCenter found that 9 out of 10 Millennial dads say it’s important to be the “perfect dad,” and 77% of these Millennial dads defined the “perfect dad” as one that balances personal time with family time. Adding to that, the Pew Research Center found that fathers have nearly tripled their time with children since 1965 as the role of the father has been redefined.
Along for the Ride
As Millennials strive to become “perfect” dads, they are not willing to give up their independence entirely. The integration of work and life is of vital importance to Millennials, and Millennial parents are bringing their kids along for the ride. It’s not uncommon for gyms and workout studios to have a daycare center, or even parent-child exercise classes. Baby carrier and wrap sales have increased since Early Millennials started hitting parenthood (not to mention the invention of the Strollerboard), as parents have taken their young children on international vacations or even just day-long adventures to the state fair. Add to that the now full-force subscription economy with monthly deliveries from Bluum, The Honest Company, even Target, and Amazon—life now molds to parenthood, not the other way around. Having the ability to take your child anywhere and everywhere allows for parenting and adulting to happen at the same time. That skateboarding NY toddler—try as he might—can’t slow down Dad.
Caution: Children at Play
For years, toys were designed with only the child in mind. There’s a reason you find the same toys, games, and books bandied from garage sale to garage sale. Millennial dads, however, are looking to enjoy the learning and playing experience alongside their children, and the market has molded to their desires. From throwback toys like Ninja Turtles and the explosion of the Nerf section, toys have been more inclusive of parents’ own childhood nostalgia and interests. Even children’s books are being written for the enjoyment of both child and parent: famous comedians like BJ Novak, Jimmy Fallon, and Russell Brand have taken their comedy to the Barnes & Noble children’s section by writing colorful, odd, and genuinely funny picture books. And who could forget the adults-only parody that hilariously speaks the words no parent can actually say: Go the F*ck to Sleep.
As for kid’s music, mommies and daddies will no longer have to endure the unrivaled torture that is Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Raffi and The Wiggles. Rockabye Baby! has turned the likes of Michael Jackson, Sublime, and Fallout Boy (to name a few) into instrumental lullabies. Millennial dads now have the chance to get their child hooked on their particular brand, tastes, and interests before they can even walk.
Tell Me Something I Don’t Know
The minute that plus sign appears on the pregnancy test, people want any and every excuse to give you advice. Announcing the newest family addition seems to be an open invitation for every horror story and lesson-learned from fatherhood past. Millennial fathers aren’t running away in terror; instead, they’re finding resources that fit their lifestyle and interests, especially ones that accentuate the positive experience of becoming a father. Fatherly.com, a website aimed at informing and entertaining Millennial dads, holds the mission to “expand your mind and possibly turn you into a super-dad in the process”. Fatherly provides parenting tips, know-how, and purchasing suggestions categorized by developmental stage or interest. Many articles are witty instructionals, like “Soundproofing an Apartment for a Baby” and “Burger Time: When to Introduce Solid Foods to Your Baby.” Others are clever and buzzworthy: “11 Guinness Book of World Records You Can Beat with your Kid” and “A CrossFit Pioneer’s Workout For Guys with Kids (And Other Excuses).”
As Millennial fathers, we’re still finding ways to make this process our own—fighting to keep our independence, disrupting the typical cycle of fatherhood, all while being true partners in raising the newest generation. Millennials are tribal; from Yelp to Facebook, we are looking to our peers for advice and recommendations. Becoming a parent is no different. As I embark on my journey as a Millennial father, I look to my peers for ways to take on parenting without losing my Millennial identity—or my sanity.