Helicopter Parents and Millennial Mooches

By Betsy Bradford

My father is a small plane pilot. One day when I was in high school, he was out flying. He looked at his watch, and realized that I would probably be driving home from school around that time. So, he decides to see if he can spot me from the air. He finds the route, identifies the car I'm driving (a candy apple red Volvo), and proceeds to watch me drive home from a height of roughly 500 feet.

Does this strike anyone else as a little weird?

Earlier today, I attended a presentation on generations in the workplace. Turns out, my father isn't the only one doing this kind of thing. I learned that I am a millennial, or a "Gen Y"-er, meaning that I was born between 1977 and 2000 by the presenter's definition. Our generation is marked by a loss of a sense of safety. This makes sense. After all, the older members of our generation did witness the end of the Cold War. Following this, we saw the Oklahoma City bombing. Ted Kaczynski starting sending people bombs in the mail. September 11, 2001 brought us the most substantial attack on the continental US in history. And with Columbine, parents had to start questioning whether or not it was even safe to send their children to school.

This meant the end of the "latch-key" phenomenon, replaced instead by "helicopter parents," or parents who are always hovering over you. In my case, this was quite literal, but usually it was metaphorical. Personally, I prefer autonomy (I'm more of a Gen-Xer in that respect), so I can't help but be dismayed at my cohorts who are more than happy to accept Mommy and Daddy's interference forever.

Perhaps the most visible instance of this are the number of people in their late 20s, or even their 30s, who still live "at home." Me, I tend to think of "home" as the place where I live right now, which is not my parents' house. But this isn't the case for many of my generation. They graduate from high school, go to college, and then move back into their teenage bedroom as if it's the most natural thing in the world.

What I find even more disturbing are the Millennials who rely on their parents to handle all of their conflicts for them. A friend recently told me about a co-worker whose mother calls into work for him. Frequently. I can understand this if you're so sick that you can't speak, and your mother is the only person nearby, or if you're in a coma, or paralyzed and can't reach the phone. Otherwise, you really should be calling your boss yourself.

I was disgusted by this, and even more disgusted when I learned that this is actually common. And not just for sick leave; Millennials' parents will call their bosses, deans, and teachers over just about anything. I can't imagine this. "Hey, Mom, my boss said my effort was 'fair' on my annual performance review. Can you call her?" "Sure, honey! I'll do that right after I make your lunch!"

I should add that the presenter also pointed out that Millennials have achieved some amazing things. Our generation grew up believing that we can do anything, and then set out to prove it. That's awesome! But why does this mean that we have to do it from our parents' basements? My fellow Millennials, I beg you, learn how to speak for yourself! Don't rely on your parents to do the dirty work for you. You're going to have to do it sooner or later, so why not start right now? Frankly, no one is going to respect us until we do!