I wear skinny jeans and steal my parents' HBO-Go password to get my dose of Hannah Horvath's misadventures on "Girls." I lament the "good old days" of Britney's plaid skirts and Lisa Frank notebooks. In other words, I'm a typical 20-something girl in 2015. But one look at my iPhone tells a different story. There are texts with the babysitter about sippy cups. A BabyCenter app with teething updates. A photo stream documenting a curly-haired boy's first steps, ice cream cone and train ride. I'm a 20-something girl with a one-year old. And in 2015, that's not typical.
There's lots of discussion about how today's first-time moms are older than ever before. And while that's true, it's shifted the focus to the "older" end of millennial moms -- women in their 30s. The result is that 20-something moms are less-commonly seen and spoken to in "mom communications."
Things used to be different. In 1990, only 9% of births were to women ages 35 and older. Yet today, births among 20-something moms are declining, with a 15% decrease from 2007 to 2012. And while the American birthrate rose in 2014 for the first time in seven years, it was driven by "older" moms. There was a 3% bump in births for women ages 30 to 39, and a 2% increase for those ages 40 to 44 last year.
The numbers show that I'm not crazy for feeling somewhat out of place as a 20-something mom. At a recent baby gym class, another mom asked where my husband was. "He's at a bachelor party in Vegas," I said. "Ugh, that sucks for him," she responded, as if he must be so "over" that. Umm … what? In fact, this was his first close friend getting married. His first bachelor party (other than his own). But instead of saying that, I just nodded, as if I, too, look back fondly on my 20s but am glad to be firmly planted in suburbia as I count down to 40.
The challenges for today's 20-something moms to find common ground with "older" moms are not solely due to a difference in age, but values. When asked to rank what's important in life, 20-something moms ranked values such as enjoyment, wisdom, creativity and romance higher, according to Iconoculture.
Yet this group is rarely mirrored in the media. There are plenty of representations of motherhood today -- from frenetic Claire Dunphy on ABC's "Modern Family" to powerful Marissa Mayer, president and CEO of Yahoo. But where's the 20-something mom who lives vicariously through her friends' Tinder encounters and goes to Taylor Swift concerts because she actually enjoys them?
While pop-culture role models are hard to find, there are some brands well-suited for 20-something moms. Warby Parker sunglasses are "millennial-cool," while being inexpensive enough that it's ok if they get crushed by the stroller. Netflix allows for separate user profiles, so I'm not faced with "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" when I'm craving "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt." There's the creativity and curiosity of brands like Citrus Lane and Plum Organics. Whether by intention or by accident, these brands successfully understand what I want as a mom and as a 20-something.
These aren't the only brands relating to 20-something moms, but it's hard to make a long list. And while we may not be growing as a demographic group, we still represent an enormous opportunity. Of the nearly 4 million babies born in the U.S. last year, more than 2 million were born to moms ages 20 to 29.
So what's next? Here are five ways brands can better connect with 20-something moms:
1. Fuel our craving for shared experiences. A vacation shouldn't have to be a polarized choice between a couples' getaway or a Sesame Street resort. Where's the middle ground?
2. Depict us more often, and more realistically. Let's see some real 20-something moms in advertising and programming content.
3. Talk to us as young women. HelloGiggles speaks to us as young adults curious about the cast of "Fuller House." That's cool. Babycenter speaks to us as moms navigating breastfeeding. That's cool, too. But can we have both?
4. Keep our values in mind. We want to be responsible parents but we also value curiosity, creativity, and enjoyment to a higher degree than "older" moms.
5. Remember the stats. Just because "older" moms are on the rise doesn't mean that 20-something moms don't exist. With over 2 million babies born to 20-something women in 2014, that woman at the playground just might be counting down to the big 3-0.