In response to the New York Times’ portrayal of millennials
The photo illustration by Tracy Ma caught my attention as much as the title itself — The New 30-Something: Have you or haven’t you cut the financial cord with your family? published earlier this week in the New York times. Or perhaps it’s because I’m a millennial myself.
First, let me make a few things clear. I’m a millennial, married with two children. I make a decent salary. I work for a progressive company that’s thriving. I live in one of the best neighborhoods in town. Our place is small, but it’s certainly bigger than the three-bedroom houses that many of my fellow millennials share with six other roommates. My husband and I are both fairly healthy and so is our kids. You may say that I’m pretty lucky, and I’d have to agree.
But reading this article only made me feel angry and underprivileged. The intent, I’m sure, is to ascertain the normalcy in a new cultural shift — parents helping their adult children, but for me, someone who considers herself a typical millennial, the story did more damage to my ego than anything else. There’s so much irony in the people that they featured.
The first irony comes from the immigrant who is quoted saying that his student loans feels like a jail sentence. Later on, it’s mentioned that he makes six figures. Then there’s the woman who lost two years of “normal” salary earning potential but who received money from her parents to buy a home near the beach in San Diego. What’s also a laughing matter is the lady who decided to have a third child simply because of the 20–25 hours of childcare she receives from parents every month (an average of 6–7 hours per week). She saves about $6000 in childcare costs, she says. I wondered about the cost of the other six days of the week that she doesn’t receive help.
After reading the article, I browsed the comments that people made. I couldn’t possibly read the 600+ comments, but I could tell from reading the first 20 that there is clearly a generational divide between baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials. This should not be happening. As the baby boomers start to retire and their health deteriorates, they will need millennials to take care of them. And as millennials step into the workforce as doctors, lawyers, aids, and policymakers, amongst many other professions, we need to rely on the wisdom of our parents (the baby boomers) and the Gen Xers. We can all stand to learn from one another. Instead, what results is a discussion thread filled with anger, resentment and jealousy, in which both generations feel cheated out of opportunities and that they worked harder than any other generation.
For an average person like me, who normally feels so lucky, I was reminded that my own path to where I am today is nothing like the individuals mentioned in the article. Unlike Ms. Alvarez, the YMCA director who claimed that she didn’t get a decent paying job with benefits until she was 23, two years after college, I didn’t get a decent paying job with benefits until a decade after graduation. Like her, I also graduated during the recession. Unlike her, I did not come from a middle class family (however, we’re both immigrant families), and besides the $5000 that my mom took out of her retirement savings account to pay for my education, I received no other help from my parents or other family members. My husband was dealt a much worse hand in life — he received no help at all from either one of his parents.
The biggest irony of all comes from Ms. Ho, the 32-year-old executive director of an organization that works with millennials on issues of inequality and privilege — she is the recipient of the truest form of privilege. Because of her parents, she was able to avoid the 200K in student loan debt that would’ve happened had she had parents who were poor and/or uneducated. Instead, she got a free education, a fantastic job, and help with buying a condo in addition to getting thousands of dollars in cash gifts every year.
Where does the New York Times find these people? Do they really think that featuring privileged people who makes good money AND lives in expensive cities to be icons of achievement? I am very disappointed in this kind of journalism.