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Millennial Mums: Money, parenting and partying

 Millennial Mums: Money, parenting and partying (Photo: iStock)

Being a mom is a journey unlike any other. It’s waking up every morning to the sound of laughter and the warmth of tiny arms wrapped around you,”  says Amber Ray, a Kenyan businesswoman and socialite.

“It’s witnessing the miracle of life unfold before your eyes, seeing your child take their first steps, and hearing their first words. It’s feeling an indescribable bond that transcends time and space, knowing that you are their safe haven in a world full of uncertainties.

“It’s sacrificing sleep, dreams, and sometimes even sanity, all for the sake of their happiness and well-being. But amidst the chaos and challenges, being a mom is also finding beauty in the simplest moments – a shared smile, a whispered “I love you,” a hand to hold when the world feels too big. 

“Motherhood is knowing that you are shaping a future filled with love, kindness, and endless possibilities. So here’s to all the moms out there, who give their all, love unconditionally, and inspire us to be our best selves. You are superheroes in disguise, and the world is a brighter place because of you. Happy birthday to my bundle of joy Africannah Rapudo as you turn one year old.”

Amber Ray says she would love to teach her daughter emotional intelligence.

She says she would want her daughter to learn how to recognise, understand, and manage her own emotions, as well as empathise with others.

“I want to teach her the importance of self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and effective communication would help her navigate through life’s ups and downs with resilience, empathy, and grace. It’s essential for her to develop healthy relationships, cope with challenges, and lead a fulfilling and meaningful life and to also know that money is not the root to all evil,” she says.

Millennial mums in Kenya carry invisible backpacks.  They are laden with the weight of expectation, financial burdens, and the constant juggle of work and childcare. 

The financial burden of education

The cost of education is a major pressure point for millennial mums.

A 2023 survey by WorldRemit found that the average Kenyan parent spends a Sh68,701 annually on a school-going child.

This figure can be even higher for families in cities like Nairobi or Mombasa, with projections suggesting middle-class families spend upwards of Sh221,904.23 per year.

Valerie Otieno, a Nairobi-based mum of a five-year-old daughter, exemplifies this struggle.

“My daughter’s fees are around Sh100,000 per year,” she says, “and with the new CBC curriculum, there are a lot of unforeseen expenses.”

Valerie highlights the unexpected costs associated with school projects, like having to buy an entire set of paper plates when only one was needed.

To cater for all expenses, in addition to her day job, Valerie co-owns a matatu business with her husband and has ventured into selling eggs.

Balancing work and childcare

Many millennial mums grapple with finding a work-life balance that accommodates their children’s needs.

According to a 2022 study by the International Labour Organization (ILO), women in Kenya shoulder a disproportionate share of childcare responsibilities, limiting their career advancement opportunities.

Sally Mukami, a single mother living in Nairobi, made the difficult decision to send her 6-year-old son to live with her mother at the Coast.

“Co-parenting with the child’s father became hard,” she explains.

While this allows her to pursue her career, Sally admits, “It wasn’t easy as I don’t like being far away from my child.”

From her net salary of Sh38,000 per month, Sally sets aside Sh5,000 monthly into a Money Market Fund. 

This financial strategy, recommended by many financial advisors, allows her to save for her son’s education while maintaining some liquidity for unexpected expenses.

According to Forbes, Money market funds are “low-risk investments for parking your cash, earning interest while providing very good liquidity.”

The juggling act and the toll it takes

The constant juggling of responsibilities can have a significant impact on a mother’s mental and emotional well-being.

A 2021 study by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) found a high prevalence of mental health issues among working mothers, including anxiety and depression.

Valerie sheds light on the lengths some mothers go to: “I wake up in the middle of the night to work on my day job,” she says. “It’s more peaceful that way, no much distractions plus it gives me time to prepare my kid for school and work on other things during the day.”

Another mum, Rita*, left her job after returning from maternity leave because she felt misunderstood by her colleagues.

“Leaving my job was tough, but I felt it was necessary,” says Rita. “I didn’t want to stay in a place where I had to constantly explain what I was going through.”

However, Rita later regretted her decision, especially when she realized she didn’t have a backup plan.

“I didn’t realize it was a mistake until it hit me hard,” says Rita. “Depending on others for even basic needs like bus fare was challenging.”

About a quarter of a million mothers with young children have left their jobs because of difficulties with balancing work and childcare, according to a report by an equal rights charity that calls for the end of the ‘motherhood penalty’.

This juggling act, as well as the punitive cost, has led more than 249,124 working mothers of children aged four or under to leave their employer, according to the Fawcett Society.

Another survey highlighted by The Guardian also showed that 17 per cent of women leave employment completely in the five years following childbirth, compared to four per cent of men.

The social media struggle

The pressure to be a “perfect mum” adds another layer of stress.

A February 2023 report by parenting site BabyCenter found that nearly 80 per cent of millennial mums in the US said it’s important to be the perfect mom, compared to 70 percent of Gen X moms. Social media further amplifies this pressure, with curated portrayals of seemingly effortless motherhood.

Lynn, another mum, deleted her social media accounts due to the mounting pressure.

“It was too much,” says Lynn. “Seeing other women seemingly doing it all and flaunting their successes became overwhelming.”

Lynn stopped receiving invitations from friends to social events after she became busy with motherhood.

“Ati kwenda out,” she says laughing. “I don’t even know what that is anymore, my friends stopped inviting me to events because I became a busy bee mum.”

An online survey revealed that 53 percent of mothers considered taking a break from social media, with younger moms aged 18 to 24 expressing a desire to reduce their use of platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

The survey was done by Impulse Research, a communications and marketing research firm, and later published by Current Lifestyle Marketing.

“Through ongoing research we started noticing a trend of moms commenting that they are getting sick of social, millennial moms can be particularly vocal about it,” says Amy Colton, executive vice president of Current Marketing. “We wanted to check the trend, so we conducted quantitative research to confirm what we have been hearing.”

Impact on the next generation

A recent survey by luxury real estate firm Ruby Home suggests that the experiences of millennial mums are shaping the career aspirations of Gen Z women. Witnessing the struggles of their mothers, many Gen Z women are prioritizing career goals and delaying childbirth.

The survey found that 27 percent of Gen Z women don’t want to have children at all. Those who do choose motherhood may opt to have fewer children or postpone childbirth until they feel financially secure and have established themselves professionally.

After all is said and done, being a mum in the modern world presents unique challenges that often go unnoticed.

Millennial mums in Kenya are not simply weathering the storm of modern motherhood; they’re actively shaping its future.


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