My Message For Millennials: Turn Fears Into Action

The perils of working from home: I’ve been spending way too many hours on Facebook lately. Journalists like me are drawn to observing trends and behavior. And I can’t seem to pull myself away from the hypnotic morass of division and vitriol that has followed the Presidential election and that is playing out in Facebook posts. Never have I witnessed this level of emotion and discord, as well as fear. While Hillary Clinton may not have been the most inspirational candidate, for some of those voting for her, the alternative was frightening. And now, there’s speculation on whether those fears will be justified.

On a personal level, I’m concerned. My oldest daughter came out when she was 16. She was the subject of this article I wrote for Newsweek at the time. I was shocked by the hateful comments the article received from conservative bloggers, some of whom chastised me for not subjecting her to conversion therapy. But those pale in comparison to the hate that seems to have been unleashed throughout the election. Though Donald Trump says he is supportive of LGBTQ rights, he is a Republican. And conversion therapy is part of the Republican platform.

It’s been seven years since the article was published and my daughter graduated college three-and-a-half years ago. She’s now a community activist who fears not just for the LGBTQ community, but for many of the disadvantaged. I’ve been telling her, and her 19-year-old sister — who called me, sobbing the day after the election — that their generation can alter the course of history for the better. Though all my adult children voted, a factor in Clinton’s election loss was that millennials turned out for her in far fewer numbers than for President Obama in 2012. They may have been disgruntled because she didn’t inspire them the way Bernie Sanders did. Or they may have felt that she was likely to win, so their vote didn’t matter. That, of course, did not prove to be true. Under eight years of a Democratic President, complacency may have played a role.

I hope the surprise election results have had one positive outcome: instilling a renewed passion in the fight for human rights. The majority of young people who did vote cast their ballot for Clinton, according to this map. And millennials in coming years will make up a significant voting block. So to all the millennials out there, if you care about the state of the country, invest in it. Get to work now. Find your young, passionate, idealistic candidate who shares your ideals. Turn those fears into action. The future is clearly in your hands. For the sake of all of us, I hope your generation is already starting to chart a clear path to a better one.



Summer is ending and everyone is heading back to their respective lives, so I’m getting nostalgic about what it was like when my now adult children lived under our roof. Here is a blog I just wrote for The Huffington Post about missing my daughter and her friends. And these are my thoughts, below, about sending my son off into the world.

Thirty two years ago, the summer after I graduated from the University of Michigan, I eagerly stuffed my used Ford Escort with my scant possessions and drove 10 hours to Washington, D.C. to start my first job as a paralegal. The position was intended as a one year stint while I decided whether to pursue journalism or law school. Within a few months, I landed a job with a publishing company and ended up spending six years in our nation’s capital, where I fell in love with the vibrant city and began my life as a journalist.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I packed our 13-year-old van full of our son’s possessions and drove him to the identical destination the summer after he graduated from our alma mater. He’ll be starting a position with a federal program assistant teaching in a Washington, D.C. school. Though history is repeating itself in our family, it didn’t quite strike me until the long drive, where I had plenty of time to contemplate how the years since leaving D.C. had quickly flown by. My husband and I were newlyweds there. As we traversed the hills of Pennsylvania, I was awash with memories: the first friends we made who we’re still close with today; jogging in the sticky summers after work; lingering over dinners where we regularly split a bottle of wine; and riding the crowded metro to the mall for July 4th fireworks.

When my son was deciding where he should apply for jobs, I immediately suggested Washington, D.C. We hadn’t visited much since we left, so he knew little of it, but agreed it was worth trying. Once we headed there, staying with our long-time friends, he realized it was the right decision. He was immediately put at ease meeting his six new roommates, others in the same federal program. On the same metro we once rode, I pointed out all the young people surrounding us. We headed out to a hip restaurant in a revitalized area near the baseball stadium that was buzzing with excitement. I saw his eyes light up the way mine had when I first moved here so many years ago. Though I ventured here solo, not knowing anyone except one friend from college, he was able to have his parents accompany him, and see this city through our eyes.

This is our second launch. Our oldest child packed up her belongings three years ago and headed to the East Coast to start her new life. She attended college two hours away and spent the summers there, so the transition was slightly easier; we were more accustomed to life without her. Our son’s school is located near our house. Though he lived on campus with roommates, we saw him often. We could hear the door opening late at night when he stopped by spontaneously, desiring a cuddle with our cat or dinner leftovers. We could count on him to join us for birthdays and holiday dinners, or stop by whenever he needed the car. With our youngest heading back to her college in North Carolina in the fall we will truly be empty nesters without the occasional companionship of our only son.

When you drop your child at college, it’s difficult and heart wrenching to let them go. Still, there’s some consolation in knowing they’ll return home for holiday stretches and long summer breaks. College doesn’t substitute for the home where they were raised. But launching them after that is so much harder. We’ve already booked our son airline tickets to join us for Thanksgiving, and since the school will likely be closed for a winter break, I presumed he’d be back in December. My husband doubted it. “Washington, D.C. is his home now,” he said. Indeed, I realized that, though I wasn’t quite ready for it to be so. After parenting children for 25 years, I still like to think of our time apart as merely temporary.

I understand this phase is healthy, that letting go of your child is necessary and a part of life. But the separation is bittersweet. Those post-college years truly represent the end of childhood, when your parenting work is mostly done, your influence on their lives limited.

Two days after we returned from leaving our son, we received a text. “I love it here,” he said. It was gratifying to know that though we will miss him, his transition is going well. And just a few weeks later, I had a just as satisfying experience, when I ran into a friend at the bank, as I was transferring my son’s last month of rent money for his college apartment to his account. “You’re witnessing history!” I said to her and the bank teller, reflecting on what hopefully will be the end of our 22-year financial commitment to our son.

My husband and I are trying to take comfort in developments like that and in the meantime will cherish the remaining three years we have with our youngest on her breaks from college. As I watched her pack this week, she talked about the next time she’d be returning “home.” I smiled, grateful that she still views the place she was raised to be that home. I’ll take that, for now.



Gray Parenting’s Fallout: Some Couples Marrying Younger

I was intrigued by Fresh Air host Terry Gross’ January 16th interview with Judith Shulevitz, who wrote The New Republic article, “The Grayest Generation: How Older Parenthood Will Upend American Society,” As someone lucky enough to meet my future husband in college at the age of 20, I realize I’m one of the privileged few: a woman who has been able to have a fulfilling career while raising three children. My husband and I dated for five years before marrying. Then we had the luxury of enjoying each other for four more years before embarking on a family. Starting parenthood when I was 29, I was able to realize my dream of having three children, spaced over a six year time frame. I recall my husband not wanting to wait past 30 to have his first child, fearful at the prospect of being an old father. How quaint that sounds now, when so many of my peers didn’t become parents until they were in their late thirties and older. One of my closest friends just gave birth to her first child at age 49! Like Shulevitz, many of these people weren’t fortunate enough to meet their mate until they were older. Uninterested in embarking on solo parenting, their hands were tied. But I also agree with her that the pressures in the workplace are also to blame. As a freelance journalist, I was able to taper back my hours as my family grew. I knew their precious childhood would be fleeting and I wanted to be there to cherish it. Now that they’re in high school and college, I work an insane number of hours. But the difference is that it’s my choice. I don’t have a boss I need to answer to and I control my own hours.

So many women of my generation, pressed by themselves, society, and in some cases, their own mothers, as my book, Making Up With Mom, indicates, felt the need to put parenthood on the back burner. The result was, in many instances, that having children of their own became nearly impossible or involved costly and heroic man-made interventions. As Shulevitz says, embarking upon assisted reproductive technologies carries its own health risks, an issue I’ve explored in an in-depth article. But just as significant are the emotional issues: realizing you may not live to see your grandchildren, or that your own children may not have the chance to know theirs. I think my generation, until recently, devalued that aspect. And I’m finding that the next generation of mothers is realizing this and charting a different course. I meet many young women today who are looking for their mate in college, marrying younger and starting a family in their twenties, knowing that they can either put their career on hold or work part-time. In an interview I conducted with her, Stephanie Coontz, professor of history and family studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and director of research and public education at the Council on Contemporary Families, says young graduate students she works with are starting families before earning their PhD — something she wouldn’t have seen in the past. “My impression is that most educated women continue to postpone childbearing but that there is a small group — not enough to pull down the average — who feel entitled to build their work around family in a way my generation didn’t,” she said. “I have certainly noticed that among a layer of professional women who 30 years ago would all have been terrified to have a child before their mid-30s, for fear of derailing their career, there are some who do feel free to start sooner.” A recent survey of the wedding announcements in The New York Times finds more couples ages 30-years-old and younger. It sounds like a very old-fashioned notion, but I think they’re forging a better balance and I’m hopeful, if this happens in larger numbers, employers will be supportive.

A young woman I know, age 23, recently married her high school sweetheart this past summer. She transferred to his college after attending a separate university as a freshman and dated him all through college. Marriage seemed like the next logical step. “John and I have shared our big life adventures: studying abroad in Mexico and moving out of our home town. Getting married young allows us to continue those adventures, which we would rather spend together than apart, before starting our family,” she said. They hope to have children within the next three years. Some of those at her wedding were her age and recently married as well. One of them, married at 24 and hoping to start a family soon, said “Living on your own is scary. It’s more fun to do it with someone. We can be scared together, be broke together and go through life changes together. There’s no point in waiting when you are the happiest you’ve been.” It will be interesting to see if more young women feel like this woman and, in marrying young, end up striking a balance that their own mothers found elusive.


When We Rescue Our Kids, Are We Preventing Their Success?


I’ve been spending quite a bit of time reporting about the lives of millennials: their spending habits, their future careers and passions. In the course of researching a piece I’m now writing for The Fiscal Times, my sources have raised the issue of how boomer parents are afraid to see their children fail, and they routinely swoop in to rescue them. My recent conversations with life coaches are particularly illuminating. They say that parents are footing the bill for sessions with coaches to give them a leg up in the marketplace. But they don’t stop there. Marketing professionals tell me they know of instances where parents actually attend job interviews with their children. I presumed this would be a deal breaker for the young adult, but I was astounded to learn that this doesn’t cause employers to wince. They know they need to respond to the needs of this age group, which soon will make up the majority of the work force as boomers begin to retire. Boomers often felt detached from their own parents, rebelling against their way of life. And they’re committed to sparing their child from any undue hardship. Only a minority of parents I know insist that their teenage and college-aged children get a summer job to earn their own money.  I, too, find myself guilty of swooping in, occasionally intervening with teachers to explain why my child turned in an assignment late (even though there was no valid excuse), or making calls on their behalf to potential summer job employers. (I at least insist that they work). But the experts I’ve spoken with say that young people learn from failure — and struggle. That often gives them the resources they’ll need to stand out in the competitive job market. It has led me to wonder whether we boomer parents — myself included — should rethink the way we approach our children. Ultimately, in trying to save our children from failure, we could be making it harder for them to succeed.