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Generation X parents outshine Baby Boomers
The Plain Dealer ^ | 9/6/04 | Laura DeMarco

Posted on 09/07/2004 8:49:33 AM PDT by qam1

Group called slackers embraces family

In the 1990s they were derided as cynical slackers. They were mocked in pop culture as lazy, selfish types who would rather spend their time moping in overpriced coffee shops than moving into adulthood.

But Generation X is all grown up now - and having children.

And when reality finally did bite the 60 million Americans born between 1965 and '79, they didn't react as might be expected. Gen-Xers are embracing family life with a vigor not seen in baby-boomers.

Generation-X includes more stay-at-home dads, fathers working from home and dads cutting back long hours than previous generations, say analysts.

Gen-X moms are distinguishing themselves from baby-boomers by embracing traditional roles. Though they're more college-educated than any previous generation, more Generation-X moms than boomers are staying home or working part time.

Xers' focus on home life shows up in several more parenting trends: they make financial sacrifices in exchange for family time; they're increasingly discipline-oriented; and they let their kids just have fun.

In part this is a reaction to their background, say sociologists. Their childhood was a time of personal and political upheaval. Xers were the first generation with large numbers raised in broken homes. Almost one-third had divorced parents, compared with 13 percent of boomers, according to the Yankelovich research analysis firm. Nearly half of all Xers had working moms. Before they were labeled slackers, they were latchkey kids.

Now Generation-Xers have become homebodies. And they're raising more than half of all children under 18 in the United States, some 40 million kids.

Fathers more involved

Three years ago, Ellen Barrett, program director for the Heights Parent Center, noticed more men coming to the Cleveland Heights gathering Place.

"In the last three years, we've really had a surge of dads, and not just dads who happen to have the day off or who are home on vacation," she says.

The center now has a busy father's play group with about 40 members, most in their late 20s to mid 30s, that meets several times a month.

The last decade has brought significant changes in the roles of fathers, says James Chung, president of Boston-based Reach Advisors. The company recently released the first major study on Generation X parenting. Titled "From Grunge to Grown Up," it surveyed 3,020 Gen-X and baby boom parents nationwide.

According to the study, 48 percent of Gen-X fathers spend three to six hours per week on child rearing, versus 39 percent of boomer dads. Forty-seven percent of Xers wish they could spend more time with their children, compared to 36 percent of boomers.

The number of stay-at-home dads has jumped 18 percent since 1994, to 189,000 in 2002, according to the Census Bureau.

For Parma resident John Benson, 35, and wife Maria, 36, the decision to swap roles was a financial one. As a writer, Benson could work from home while taking care of their 1- and 3-year-old sons, unlike his wife, who works in accounting.

But the choice was also based on his childhood.

"I was a latchkey kid, and I don't want my kids to be latchkey kids," he says.

That's a common denominator among many Gen-X parents.

"Gen-Xers grew up in the aftermath of a time of much social upheaval, in an era of rapidly increasing divorce rates and mothers rapidly re-entering the work force," says Chung. "Some of them want to raise their families different from the way they grew up."

Bernard Carl Rosen, professor emeritus of sociology at Cornell University and author of "Masks and Mirrors: Generation X and the Chameleon Personality," says it's not just family history that's influencing Xers.

"Generation X is far more insecure than boomers. Their family situation was a bad one, the economy was not in good shape when they were growing up, they've seen a lot of betrayal by politicians. The world they grew up in felt very fragile."

But mom still the anchor

When one parent does stay at home, it's still more often the mother. What's different is that though there are now more college-educated women among Xers, there also has been an increase in mothers staying at home and working part time.

Census figures found that 10.6 million children under 15 in two-parent homes were being raised by stay-at-home moms in 2002, a 13 percent increase from the previous decade.

Twenty-five percent of Gen-X moms spend 12-plus hours a day on child rearing, according to Reach, more than double that of boomer moms. (Even when boomer children were as young as the Xers' kids, moms spent less time with them, says Chung.)

Cleveland Heights stay-at-home mom Andrea Lynn, 32, says she had long planned to quit working as a librarian when she had children. A past nanny job helped make up her mind.

"I saw what the working two-parent household was like and I didn't want that," says the mother of a 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son. "It's too hard to have everything."

Many women are coming to that conclusion.

The number of professional women working part time - by choice - has risen 17 percent from 1994, to 2.9 million according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In part, this is due to the fact that Gen-Xers feel less loyalty to one company than past generations did. Women today also don't feel like they have to prove themselves as much as boomers did - it's a given they can have a career if they want it.

"I knew working full time wasn't going to work out after the birth of my third child," says Bay Village resident Amy Hannum, 33, mother of a 7-year-old son and 5- and 3-year-old daughters. She works three days a week as a development writer at Oberlin College. "I wanted balance in my life."

Hannum plans to return to work full time when her youngest enters school, a career path similar to many Gen-X moms'. Only 16 percent of stay-at-home moms will not consider returning to work, says the Reach survey.

"Now there are more options for women," explains Chung.

Discipline returning

Choice comes with a price.

"I told my husband that even if we had to give up a car, I wanted to stay home," says Lynn. "He was very supportive."

Willingly making financial sacrifices is a common Gen-X parenting trait, notes Chung. But the cuts are aimed at parents, not children.

There is, however, one thing for their kids that they seem to be cutting back on: the permissiveness of many baby-boomer parents.

"A lot of boomer parents think they have to be friends and buddies with their kids," says Hannum. "A lot of Generation X parents have a good time with kids but have clear boundaries that they are the parents.

Adds Lynn, "You owe it to your kids to teach them how to behave and to have manners. I really believe in limits for kids."

For many, that includes lighter extracurricular schedules.

"There's less demand for enrichment activities" among Gen-X parents, says Chung. "The attitude is more 'let the kids be kids.' " ."

Such attitudes are natural for Gen-Xers, explains Rosen.

"They are very sensitive to other people's needs," he says. "To the boomer, the world was more or less fashioned to his or her needs, and that included children. I think Generation-X will make better parents than boomers."

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News
KEYWORDS: babyboomers; culture; genx; parenting; parents
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To: cajungirl

BTw I am a war baby, born in 1942. For some reason people blame me for the boomers but I don't feel alot like them other than I have worked alot but never put the kids in day care, spent years at home with them.

That said, there is a new phenomena,,,the boomeers and my gen are helping out the gen xers alot more than we were,,ie,,we had to scrimp and save to afford a house, never got gifts from parents till they died and left it all to us,,,we were truly on our own. With my kids, we gift them money for down payments, for helping with stay at home moms, to go on ski trips with us, to help out. They work, the hubbies, alot and live frugally but it is nice to help them with a leg up. And we paid for college and grad school so they started out without debt. I swear, it is hard economically now, much harder than for us. I admire the gen xeers,,they have good hearts and love their kids.

121 posted on 09/07/2004 4:45:45 PM PDT by cajungirl (no)
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To: Unknowing
Baby Boomers may be a giant voting block, but the "Gen X" families shall not be reduced from penury to slavery, by political means or otherwise.

Go for it, we're all doing what we can. Owning one's own retirement is not a new idea. I support it now as I did when I was younger. Frightened seniors had other thoughts then as they do now.

122 posted on 09/07/2004 5:02:57 PM PDT by rhombus
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To: qam1
Ya know, Qam, this inability of yours to think multi-dimensionally is really defining you...and limiting you. Just for the hell of it, why not try thinking of the generations laterally rather than always talking about time slices. Every generation has its share of the selfish, the altruistic, the ethical and the balrogs. The expansion or contraction of these characteristics takes place over times that span generations. They are influenced by world events, religiosity, educational opportunities and affluence or lack.

Show us some of your generational kung-fu and do up an article on that! Howsaboutit? mmm, thought not.

123 posted on 09/07/2004 5:12:24 PM PDT by Ol' Sox (Issa u Akbar)
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To: Gabz

I'm a little late to this conversation, but when I read your post, you could have been describing my family!

My husband (1955) and I (1960) have a son in 2nd grade.

We moved away from Minneapolis this summer to a small town to give him a better education.

I gave up a 15 year career when he was two-years-old to be a stay at home mom.

Now I'm looking for a part-time job and there's definately nothing out here in my field.

I wouldn't change a thing about our decisions. (Wish I could've stopped working when he was born though. I had a contract to fulfill)

124 posted on 09/07/2004 5:22:26 PM PDT by mplsconservative
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To: qam1
Generation-X includes more stay-at-home dad

That's just so they can stay home and play video games.
125 posted on 09/07/2004 5:24:15 PM PDT by uncitizen
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To: mplsconservative

We moved out of Dover, Delaware to a rural area of Virginia for the better education opportunity for our daughter.

I was fortunate in that I was self-employed and basically worked from home so was able to stay home from the beginning. However, I was involved in government relations/politics/lobbying and moving out of the state capitol took away my opportunities. It was fun while it lasted, I really enjoyed taking her with me when I had to make a rare daytime appearance at the Capitol when the Legislature was in session.

Now that school has started again there are 2 reasons for me to find a part-time job.........the first is for my own sanity and the second is I'd like to go back to financially contributing to the household.

126 posted on 09/07/2004 5:41:34 PM PDT by Gabz (HURRAY!!!!!!!! School started today!!!!!!!!!!!)
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To: qam1

I'm a gen-Xer stay at home mom with 3 girls. :) One thing that I believed helped our generation the most is that most of us were growing up during the Reagan years. A lot of his optimism transcended onto us. Then, we had the learning experience of the Clinton years ( our rebellion period). Now any generation that is giving the opportunity to compare and contrast these 2 administrations and what the country was like as a result should gravitate to the more conservative.

127 posted on 09/07/2004 5:43:03 PM PDT by EmilyGeiger
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To: Gabz

Liberal Baby Boomers... Obviously a large portion of the boomers are good folks.... Isn't Bush a Boomer?

128 posted on 09/07/2004 5:43:45 PM PDT by Porterville (How can the median price of a home in CA be 450,000 dollars? How? Where is the money?)
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To: qam1

I don't know why I find it funny...but the idea of a bunch of hippy liberals (generalizing here)...

Breeding a generation of Rebelling Conservatives is hilarious.

Viva la Reagan Revolution. Maybe he was speaking of us the whole time.

I'm about ready for his tax revolt to hit

129 posted on 09/07/2004 6:25:49 PM PDT by 1_Inch_Group
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To: Melas

Durnit! I'm NOT a pessimist.

I'm a disappointed realist.

130 posted on 09/07/2004 6:34:28 PM PDT by 1_Inch_Group
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To: qam1
I think Generation-X will make better parents than boomers.

That's news to me...but I'm learning that my parents, my family and my upbringing as a whole were seemingly atypical.

It remains a goal of mine to give my children a childhood that is *half* as wonderful as the one my parents (Boomers) gave me (Gen-X).
131 posted on 09/07/2004 6:42:38 PM PDT by Sweet_Sunflower29 (God Bless The United States of America--)
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To: Glenn
You again.

Hello again to you to

Why do you persist on disrespecting those who made a life for you?

Sorry but my "real life" name is not Laura DeMarco or James Chung so I didn't write this article or do the study. I am the keeper of the Xer ping list, So when a article appears with the words "Generation X" in the title........I will let you figure out the rest.

Why are you so angry?

And why are you (and other boomers) so defensive? According to the study Gen-Xers have become better parents than the Baby boomers. Is this not a good thing? Do you wish we were worse so our country will slip even further into moral decay? Unlike you if 10-15 years down the road and someone here has a Gen-Y ping list and the they Ping an article titled "Generation Y parents outshine Xers" I would be very happy for them.

132 posted on 09/07/2004 6:46:04 PM PDT by qam1 (McGreevy likes his butts his way, I like mine my way - so NO SMOKING BANS in New Jersey)
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To: Ol' Sox
YOU are being defined by the finger-tossing, epithet screeching, unwashed harpies that marched on that Sunday.

No, those are still mostly Baby Boomer weirdos. Thanks for playing, please try again.

133 posted on 09/07/2004 7:06:03 PM PDT by Cogadh na Sith (--Scots Gaelic: 'War or Peace'--)
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To: qam1
"I was a latchkey kid, and I don't want my kids to be latchkey kids," he says.


134 posted on 09/07/2004 7:07:56 PM PDT by lawgirl (is RNC bound! W here I come!)
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To: bankwalker
As a boomer, I was just discussing with someone at work how the bulk of the problems in our country are caused by (some) members of our confused generation.

Example #1: William Jefferson Clinton.

135 posted on 09/07/2004 7:09:39 PM PDT by lawgirl (is RNC bound! W here I come!)
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To: samiam1972

THanks for the "pep-talk!" When I hear success stories such as yours, it gives me continued strength to be living paycheck-to-paycheck as we do now that I'm home with our son. Nice to know others have made it work for so many years when I have only been home for such a short time!

136 posted on 09/07/2004 7:13:36 PM PDT by rocky88 (" John Kerry has no such clear, precise and consistent vision." - Rudy Guiliani)
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To: Gabz

I hear you on the sanity aspect, and the financial aspect also.

Now that 'my darling son' is back in school I find myself with a little too much time on my hands.

When I realized that I had been ironing for AN HOUR this morning I thought I'd gone off the deep end because I absolutely despise ironing. LOL

Actually, I was listening to Laura Ingraham, one of my faves, and I guess ironing was kind of soothing. She was on fire today talking about the horrors at Belsan and the sheeples' failure to recognize the threat of islam.

I too have been self-employed off and on as a writer/producer since I stopped working in the biz full-time. My husband took vacation on shoot days to be home with the kiddo.

The last series I worked on was for the Travel Channel. The host of the show is an extreme lib. She drank the kool-aid during her stint in Los Angeles. Of course, most of the crew was liberal too. Don't know if I have the stomach for that kind of work anymore.

137 posted on 09/07/2004 7:17:20 PM PDT by mplsconservative
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To: rocky88
Next year he'll turn two and you'll want to do more than this year, because by then he'll be old enough to really have fun. That birthday party compounding formula goes over the top at about the age of seven, when you are hiring Spiderman to make a personal appearance, etc! ha

You sound like great parents, and are very blessed.

138 posted on 09/07/2004 7:25:28 PM PDT by BBT
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To: muir_redwoods

"We did the same and I'm 54. One of the things we were always grateful for is that we had the sense never to value money and material as much as our three daughters. They came first whether we drove used cars or went camping for vacations."

As one of three daughters myself, I have to tell you that I have an overwhelming respect for my Dad for what he did so my mom could be home with us, such as working two jobs wheen needed, always driving the "yucky" car, fixing things around the house on his own instead of calling the plumber... you get the idea.

That is why I wanted to marry someone like him, who knew how important it was to be home with the children. And to this day, I tell myself that if my parents could muddle thru the tough times, so can we.

We daughters may give our Dads gray hair, but you Dads teach us the value of hard work and sacrifice, to do what is right for our own families when we "grow up."

139 posted on 09/07/2004 7:31:00 PM PDT by rocky88 (" John Kerry has no such clear, precise and consistent vision." - Rudy Guiliani)
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To: TXFireman


140 posted on 09/07/2004 7:34:27 PM PDT by Jonx6
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