Parental Coddling and the Class Divide
The inclusion of a provision in the recent health care reform bill allowing young adults up to 26 to be covered under their parents’ health insurance plans seemed to signal open season on rehashing the entitled youth of today trope, but with new spins – the rise of recessionary coddling by the parents of Millennials and the corresponding consequences when it comes to youthful independence. Putting aside the most egregious boundary overstepping examples in the WaPo piece (If your parents are calling your boss to bitch about your work schedule, go straight to Intervention, do not pass Go and do not collect $200), is it a positive for parents of Millennials to provide their offspring with such a soft place to land? Where does reasonable parental support end and enabling a protracted state of adolescence begin?
Should hard times be avoided at all costs? While most responsible parents wouldn’t stand by and let their offspring flounder in true poverty if they had the means to help, what’s so bad about Junior having to learn about budgeting, delayed gratification and the truth that you can’t always get what you want the hard way, i.e., by actually living the lessons. Aren’t crappy apartments and ramen a character-building rite of passage?
Of course, you could also approach the argument from the other side, namely that factors such as high unemployment, the ongoing recession and crippling student debt loads mean that middle-class Millennials are facing an uphill battle when it comes to independently achieving the same standard of living that they enjoyed growing up or reaching the same material milestones (i.e., a house in the suburbs, retirement at 65, etc.) that their parents could be reasonably sure of attaining simply by way of being gainfully employed in the white collar world. In light of these obstacles, why shouldn’t parents with the means to do so give their kids every advantage when it comes to making their way in the world?
But what about parents (and their offspring) without the means? Who’s talking to and about them? By focusing on middle class twentysomethings facing hard times or nouveau phenomenon such as hipsters on food stamps (unthropology, as a fellow internet pundit refers to this field of trend invention) these pieces (and pro and anti-parental support arguments that flow from them) are just another example of media coverage of Millennials/Gen Y that sidesteps the very real issues of socioeconomic class that stubbornly defy attempts to homogenize the experiences, mindsets and attributes of those who happened to be born during a certain span of years.
So, I ask you, what about young adults who don’t have support systems to fall back on, for whom moving home isn’t a viable option, whose families don’t have the resources to float them a loan and/or who don’t have crushing student loan debt only because they didn’t have reasonable access to post-secondary education in the first place? Where is the hand wringing and ink spilling over their plight? Does their lack of purchasing power and consumer might (driving factors behind the newfound fascination with all things Millennial; let’s not kid ourselves) mean that their overdue day under the media microscope will never come?