What I learn from my millennials

August 20, 2018 | by Mary Lou Mastro

It seems like just yesterday I was changing diapers, chasing toddlers, carpooling to soccer, or demanding that the devices be turned off!

Today my kids are 24, 26, and 30 years old. They are all living in their own apartments, working hard at their jobs and enjoying life.

Now I wish I could take back all the worrying I did. I worried about the constant presence of buds in their ears, the cell phones, the seemingly over-reliance on texting for communication, the lack of planning (I called them “irresponsible”) and the last minute nature of everything they did.

I always knew my kids were growing up in a vastly different world than I did, but the following story was a defining moment for me:

I walked into my oldest daughter’s bedroom after school when she was about 13 years old. With fingers on a computer keyboard, headphones tuned to music, cell phone in one hand, TV on in the background, and a textbook on her desk she told me she was “studying.” She had taken distractive multitasking to a new level, and the interesting thing was it seemed to work for her. Her grades were good and she was learning. Nothing I could say or do could change her habits, and I just had to accept that she wasn’t going to spend hours in a quiet library cubicle like I had.

Yet here we are in 2018 and my millennials continue to amaze me and make me proud. Ashley is a mental health counselor and she balances work and play in a most envious way. She travels more than I ever did at her age, and she reports that she is on track to give $1,000 to charity this year.

She is incredibly frugal, bikes to work, cooks all her meals, and meets every week with her girlfriend to review progress on the individual goals they set in January. I said, “You do what??”

Christina is 26 and pays the bills by working in a retail clothing warehouse using her degrees in fashion and journalism. With an entrepreneurial spirit, she takes writing classes at Second City and is convinced she is headed to fame.

She is writing a novel and a TV show and schedules time to write every week. (Of course, she does this in a crowded Starbucks). Chrissy is deeply concerned about social issues and believes she can make a difference in the world. She has had several jobs since graduation and is still finding her way, but I have no doubt she will make a difference. I can’t wait to see her future unfold.

Jay Alex (the Prince) is 24 and it took him nine months to land a job using his biology degree. He was frustrated, ornery and miserable to live with until he found that job! Now that he’s working, he’s happy, kind and productive once again.

He, quite frankly, has NEVER been separated from his phone. He held it up one day and said to me, “Mom, I have the whole world in my hand.” He is incredibly global-minded and has a much greater command of world history, current events and political issues than I ever had or will have. He loves to annoy his sisters and worries about homelessness in Chicago.

My millennials are free-spirited, global-minded and compassionate. They say what they think and are incredibly transparent with their thoughts and feelings. They are confident, embrace diversity as if there is no other way, and behave as if life holds no limitations. They are environmentally conscious and wouldn’t dream of leaving the water running!

They teach me so much every day about how to embrace life, give back to my community and wear life just a little bit looser. Most days I thank God they were able to push back against the structure and boundaries I sought to impose upon them!


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