National Edition

Millennials plan to trade kids for careers — but it doesn't have to be that way

Published: Sunday, March 16 2014 2:40 p.m. MDT

A growing number of Millennials are planning to pass up parenthood because of the major stresses they see facing parents who are trying to juggle career demands with being devoted parents.

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Erin Wehmann, 28, can tell when she and her husband have been at work too long. They'll come home to find Jake and Macey, their 7-year-old lab mixes, moping around the house.

While she doesn't like leaving them for long stretches, she knows that during those occasional 10- to 12-hour work days, her dogs have plenty of food and water and access to the doggy door.

"But that's not like a kid," she said. "You can't just leave them in your backyard."

Wehmann and her 30-year-old husband, Ben, who until recently was traveling three weeks out of the month for work, used to talk about having children, but now she has second thoughts.

"I have been concerned...that I wouldn't be able to find a balance with adding kids to the mix," said Wehmann, who lives in Madison, Wisc., and works for a software company. "It's a struggle now to find a good balance between non-work obligations, being able to have hobbies and spending time with my husband. To think of adding a child to that is definitely something that I can't imagine being able to juggle."

According to data from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, many of Wehmann's peers feel the same way.

While a recent Pew Research Center survey found that 69 percent of unmarried Millennials want to get married, the Wharton survey found that only 42 percent of 2012 graduates planned to have or adopt children, compared with 78 percent of 1992 graduates, thanks to the intense conflict grads see between work and family life.

"The baby bust ... is not about young people forming smaller nuclear families, that is, with fewer children," writes Wharton professor Stewart Friedman in his new book, "Baby Bust." "It is about the many who say they are simply opting out of parenthood altogether. Being a parent is still very important for most young people, but many just don’t see how they can manage it, so they are planning lives without children."

While Wharton grads are a distinct population, and whether or not they actually remain childless 10 to 15 years down the road is unknown, the mere fact that they're considering opting out of parenthood highlights some valid concerns about the state of the American workplace, says Sarah Jane Glynn, associate director of women's economic policy at the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan institute in Washington, D.C.

Glynn and Friedman, who also directs the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, which studies the "relationship between work and the rest of life" of its students and alumni, point to a lack of flexibility, growing demands on employees' time and embarrassingly few supports for working families, like paid family and medical leave and high-quality child care.

"I think it's as bad as it's been," Friedman told the Deseret News. "We're starting to see the counter revolution — the slow (non-processed) food movement becomes the slow careers movement. It's getting worse, but there are more and more voices that are rising to say, 'Wait a minute, this isn't working.'"

FAMILIES NEED SUPPORT

Before her son, Jack, was born, Brie Reynolds, 32, worked out an arrangement with her boss where she would take 10 weeks of maternity leave, 6 of those paid, and then come back part time for a month to help her ramp up to full time.

Yet eight days after maternity leave ended and already knee deep in projects with her team of writers at flexjobs.com, the Dallas' mom knew she wasn't ready to come back yet.

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