Being a young parent can suck. Debt, joblessness, and the rising cost of living are factors that have contributed to millennials ending up poorer than their parents; young parents are also frequently isolated by their peers. No wonder why the average age of mothers in America keeps rising.
It's not all doom and gloom, though—having a baby creates a sense of purpose to peoples' lives, and anyway, being a young parent doesn't mean you can't have fun. Millennials are finding cheap and creative ways to have a life while raising kids, and we asked some young parents how they're reclaiming the idea of "me" time.
There's an outdoor recreational center across the street from the apartment my boyfriend and I share, and it only costs $9 to rent a kayak for the day. Before we had a kid, my boyfriend and I would rent a kayak, bring a couple of six-packs, and have fun goofing around on the water; now that we're parents, we go "dry-aking" instead—specifically, kayaking without the alcohol. It's less fun, but it's way safer, and we also see dolphins sometimes. We plan on sharing the "dry-aking" tradition with our daughter when she gets older—and we'll bring a few six-packs when she's of age, too. - Callie, 23
My son is 16 months old, and I'm currently expecting twin girls, so finding time to unwind is hard. I try to take time out for myself every day by finding peace in solitude. Being alone—even if it's just for an hour—helps me get my mind together and prepare for the day. More often than not, my version of fun is sitting in a quiet room and reading a book. I'm partial to African American authors, whose work helps me feel connected to something beyond my daily life—as if I'm actively working toward learning things that will make me a better mother. - Ash, 21
NETFLIX AND KID SHOWS
I work in the morning, and my girlfriend works in the evening. There isn't much time for us to be together as a family, so all of my free time is dedicated to hanging out with them. On Sundays, we'll go on walks or go swimming, but the easiest thing for us to do is watch TV—a lot of Wallykazamand Paw Patrol. Netflix also has a pretty good collection of kids' shows. I don't have time to keep up with "adult" TV anymore, but I don't even miss it. The bright colors, funny voices, and easy-to-understand plotlines of my kid's TV shows are all my brain can handle anyway. - Bryan, 20
OPERATING A SMALL BUSINESS
One of the biggest adjustments I've made after having a baby is not having "me" time anymore—specifically, doing things outside of just being "mom." So when I have time to myself, I work on my small business. I'm a doula, so I spend anywhere from 15 to 30 hours a week on administrative work—or helping someone else give birth. My husband also works for himself and spends his free time similarly; our version of fun is creating a future for our child that also preserves freedom, creativity, and control over our own lives. It's scary, risky, and amazingly fulfilling. - Madi, 24
This sounds stupid, but I go on Facebook for fun. Having children killed my social life, so I spend most of my time waiting for my friends to catch up—and until then, I stalk Facebook. That sounds depressing, but it isn't, I swear. I read what other people say, and then I research the topics they're discussing. I surf the web and form strong, well-researched opinions I'm proud of; then, I write a weekly Facebook essay about parenting, relationships, or politics (sometimes it addresses all three subjects simultaneously). The essays get a lot of likes—it's nice to know people appreciate what I'm saying. - Sheri, 28
Photography is my passion. I used to take mini-road trips to take photos, and after I had my daughter, I spent a few years exclusively taking photos of her. As much as I love documenting my daughter's growth, it got tedious. So I made it a priority to schedule time for photographing forests and wildlife—subjects that drew me to photography in the first place. Making time to regularly reconnect with my first love has made me a better mother and fiancée. I'm glad I overcame my initial guilt to remember that it's OK to have fun on my own—and to take photos of things other than my daughter. - Audrey, 23
KIDS' MOVIES—WITHOUT THE KIDS
I loved Disney and Pixar films before becoming a father, and I still do—but I don't love watching them with my daughter. It's nothing against her; I just only enjoy a movie without any distractions. One of my regular guilty pleasures is going to the movie theater alone and watching the newest animated movie—sometimes, I'll see the same movie twice in one week. I enjoy them so much more when I don't have to answer my daughter's questions. I hope she never finds out. - Mike, 28
LEARNING HOW TO BE VEGAN
I've wanted to become vegan for a while, but it's hard when you have kids and everyone tells you that going vegan will kill your kids. I don't have enough time to research whether that's true, but obviously, incorporating more fruits and vegetables into a diet never killed anybody. So when I have free time, I learn how to cook a new vegan recipe and work on my vegan recipe book. I used to bake with my mom as a child, and I hope to pass down this family hobby—with a twist—to my own children. - Joelle, 25
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