Increasingly more unmarried 20-somethings are having babies, the U.S. Census Bureau tells us. What the U.S. Census Bureau doesn't tell us is who is supporting and raising those kids. Here's one not-so-crazy thought: A lot of midlifers are getting pressed into service to help raise their grandchildren.
As of 2011, a full 62 percent of women age 20 to 24 who gave birth in the previous 12 months weren't married, according to the just released Census report.
But the Census did not ask where these moms and their babies called home, acknowledges Rose Kreider, a family demographer with the Census Bureau and one of the report's authors. She told The Huffington Post that she thinks many of them live either independently or with their babies' fathers -- but added that she really wasn't sure because the Census didn't ask. She pointed us in the direction of a CDC study about premarital cohabitation for some more specifics.
Here's what we learned over there:
** From 2006-2010, 55 percent of women had cohabited by age 25.
** 40 percent of couples living together for the first time got married within three years; that means 60 percent did not.
** Nearly one in five women got pregnant during the first year of living together.
** 23 percent of recent births among women aged 15-44 occurred while living with someone they weren't married to -- up from 14 percent in 2002.
And here's what we didn't learn over there:
Where did the other 77 percent of the women go when they had their babies? My guess is they went home to their parents, where they likely rely on family to help care for and pay for their children.
AARP bears out my suspicions. Two years ago, it report that 4.9 million children under 18 in America -- 7 percent -- live in grandparent-headed households. That was an increase from 4.5 million ten years earlier. At the time, many blamed it on the economy forcing adult children and their families to move home. But 20 percent of those kids -- almost a million -- had neither parent living in the household and the grandparents were completely responsible for their basic needs.
I'm not preaching morality here. What I fear is happening is that more young women are moving home with their babies and handing mom and dad a bag of diapers instead of brochures for retirement cruises. Perhaps some midlifers welcome it. I'm sure it's a challenge for at least an equal number.
Personally, I live in the It Takes A Village camp of raising kids. I believe that in an ideal world, every child would have at least four parents -- more if they were colicky. I always thought the old Israeli kibbutz system of communal child care had some definite high notes.
Raising kids is a 24/7 job. It is relentless, requires deep vats of patience that few humans possess, and to do it well you need a multitude of skills -- again, skills that are rarely all possessed by the same person.
The idea that a child can be raised by one single person who works at a full-time job (after all, you need money if you hope to feed your child and everyone -- including babies -- needs health coverage), while admirable, is just not ideal.
Yes, life isn't perfect and some people do a pretty good job of single parenting, but why not wait until you can actually share the responsibility -- and joys -- with someone other than your parents?
"Discuss the expectation of parents and kids in terms of how you behave at home and what responsibilities they have," said Katherine Newman, dean of the school of arts and sciences at Johns Hopkins University and author of The Accordian Family: Boomerang Kids, Anxious Parents and the Private Toll of Global Competition. "It's better to talk these things over rather than be silent and grinding your teeth behind closed doors." Groceries, cooking, laundry and tidiness can all be areas of conflict, so lay down some ground rules. Photo courtesy of jim212jim
"Instead of saying, 'I don't see you applying for jobs and this can't go on forever,' talk about what you expect," Newman said. Discuss goals for hours per day that will be spent networking and searching for jobs or choosing and applying to graduate schools.
While you're talking about autonomy, also lay down some ground rules for privacy. The most obvious: Knock before entering. Photo courtesy of ricky.montalvo
Boomerang kids are young adults who have typically become accustomed to keeping their own schedules without answering to anyone. That can rattle parents who want more accountability, or just a little courtesy. It's fair to ask an adult child to text you if they are going out rather than coming home for dinner. While it may be fine for them to keep their own hours, it's not fair to come home late and disturb the sleeping occupants of the house who have to work in the morning. Photo courtesy of srwsrwuk
If young adults are doing everything they can to move toward autonomy, parents should be patient and recognize there are larger economic forces at work. Rather than having them pay rent, focus on steps toward independence -- such as eliminating any revolving debt and paying student loans on time.
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