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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: CrazyJoeDivola
He's worth it make sure that a stranger doesn't raise my child. It's the only way we can be sure he's raised with the right set of beliefs.

We boomers grew up before people realized that a cadre of socialist ideologues was subverting the schools deliberately aiming to break the transmission of culture to the next generation and substitute their own. I can remember when even suggesting this was going on was enough to get you labeled "lunatic fringe". They tried to keep it under wraps in the Sixties, but these days, it's right out front and on parade.

You Xers, knowing instinctively that something precious has been lost, have now set yourselves well on the way to recovering it.

21 posted on 09/07/2004 9:19:07 AM PDT by thulldud (It's bad luck to be superstitious.)
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To: qam1


22 posted on 09/07/2004 9:20:54 AM PDT by TASMANIANRED (Kerry/Edwards. Between the two of them, I'd be safer with a slimy spitball.)
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To: qam1

Great article.

I'll be the half of the couple who has the much higher earning potential, but in a field where I cannot consult or otherwise work at home. Meanwhile my husband will be more able to work part time from home. It may not be possible for when we plan to have our first child, but good daycare is just so expensive for multiple kids that we will do our hardest to let him be a stay at home dad when we're blessed with children.

We both are at the tail end of Gen-X, both from loving, intact families where both parents worked. I don't feel as if daycare was detrimental to me...I think it's sad that sometimes people assume that daycare is a horrid experience. There are really good centers around here, but they come at a steep price. So for us, it's really a financial consideration rather than a philosophical one.

23 posted on 09/07/2004 9:21:47 AM PDT by Rubber_Duckie_27
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To: skeeter
think its generally true that kids tend to mimic their parents values

I respectfully disagree. I think it is common for children to rebel a bit against their parents' values -- and they often gravitate to the values held by their grandparents. See the book "The Fourth Turning" for interesting generational studies of America.

24 posted on 09/07/2004 9:22:25 AM PDT by ClearCase_guy (I have two words for John Kerry: "YYYEEEEAAARRGGGHHHH!!!!")
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To: MaineRepublic

Cool! This is me, too. 35 years young (stay-at-home) mom to 5 month old twins...

25 posted on 09/07/2004 9:25:47 AM PDT by LibertyGrrrl (
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To: qam1

As a Baby Boomer who never felt like one (born in "55), I, too,
grew up a latch-key kid in the '60's.

Today, I'm a stay at home, homeschooling mom who feels she fits in better with Xers than any of the boomers I know.

I had thought this might happen with the generation of kids who grew up the way I did. Glad to see my hunch was right.

Parents who have not grown up as a lacth-key kid, have no idea what it is like.
I still remember when my daughter was little and I would drive past day care centers, I would just cry. All of those kids who will grow up knowing mom and dad had better things to do than be with them.

26 posted on 09/07/2004 9:26:17 AM PDT by TruthConquers (Dominus illuminatio mea)
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To: qam1
Generation-X includes more stay-at-home dads,
more Generation-X moms than boomers are staying home

Good grief.
The Nintendo Generation of couch potatoes are beginning to replicate.
When are the parents of these Gen-X slackers ever going to kick 'em out of the nest???

27 posted on 09/07/2004 9:29:20 AM PDT by Willie Green (Go Alan Go!!!)
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To: qam1

add me to the ping list....great article

28 posted on 09/07/2004 9:29:51 AM PDT by hilaryrhymeswithrich (Vote Catholic Not Kerry)
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To: qam1
The greatest thing to me about this article is I've seen this coming for a while.Born in 68 I can relate to my boomer parents wanting to be my friend and not really the disciplinarian that they needed to be. As far as my three girls (7,5,1) go I really try to make sure that they are well behaved and polite where ever they may go a lot of that training comes from my wife being home with the girls. I also love to take part in what they are doing be it their dance classes or homework.

Also the way that all my "X'er" friends are much more conservative than our parents were is encouraging.

29 posted on 09/07/2004 9:32:36 AM PDT by Rightly Biased (I'm mad as Zell and I'm not gonna take it anymore!)
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To: MaineRepublic

Yup, that is me as well. I'm also 34--my hubby is 8 yrs older, but he grew up in a traditional family situation--no divorce and youngest of seven children.

30 posted on 09/07/2004 9:37:35 AM PDT by cupcakes
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To: ClearCase_guy
I think it is common for children to rebel a bit against their parents' values

Your point is well taken - kids are naturally rebellious as they become increasingly independent.

I should have been a little more clear - I think its generally true that adults tend to mimic their parents' values.

31 posted on 09/07/2004 9:37:56 AM PDT by skeeter
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To: CrazyJoeDivola
You obviously are not "crazy," Joe Divola.


32 posted on 09/07/2004 9:48:55 AM PDT by CDHart
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To: Edgar3; TalonDJ
Suddenly I am much more optimistic about the future. hmmm...

Anyway, I'm thrilled to see this trend being documented. There is always hope...

The future looks good, Obviously good parents = good kids -- See It's the morning after in America this looks like it's going to be a long term trend

33 posted on 09/07/2004 9:50:34 AM 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: qam1
I love being part of this generation, always have.

And to those that are complaining that we should all get off our butts and go to work - it just reinforces what this article is saying. We have different priorities - to us, family is more important than a fat check. Back to basics.

I would also like to point out that I recently read an article here about how youth these days actually respect their parents. I happen to have a 13 year old and can attest that, as strange as it may sound, my son falls into that category with ease. It seems to me in my feeble mind that paying attention to kids and giving them a strong upbringing actually may have payoffs in the long run.

34 posted on 09/07/2004 9:51:43 AM PDT by momfirst
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To: qam1

I see too many generalities in the article. It seems some people presume a status or condemn groups of people just because of the date on their birth certificate. A lot of it is contrived anyhow. I think the only significant difference is between the kids that were raised up pre TV and post TV. My brother was born in '41. His generation seemed generally better adjusted than my group born in the late 1950s. The kids born in the 60s, 70s and 80s shared with my age group the deleterious effects of the overpowering popular culture. The big difference between the kids of the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s were superficial like what no-talent popular musician was being forced upon us or what ugly clothing style was afflicting our particular age. This Generation X, Q and Z garbage sociology is just a reflection of a people with too much time on their hands.

35 posted on 09/07/2004 9:52:55 AM PDT by Colonel Kangaroo
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To: qam1
Interesting. This article describes both my wife and I to a very high degree. Being both born in 1961, we have been continually labeled as "late boomers". This is patently false. We are, without any doubt, "early Gen-Xer"s.

Click the Gadsden flag for pro-gun resources!

36 posted on 09/07/2004 9:53:59 AM PDT by Joe Brower (The Constitution defines Conservatism.)
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To: qam1

Ah yes, that may be the article I was recalling. Bravo X-ers! Keep up the good work!

37 posted on 09/07/2004 9:54:24 AM PDT by momfirst
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To: rhombus
As an aging boomer, I'm delighted by this news. Now get back to work and get ready to pay my social security.

That's why so many of us Gen-X young'ens are having only 1 parent work and getting by on less income -- We're making less money so there's less to tax and redistribute to old fogies and we're also waiting for enough of the baby boomers to die off or become senile so we can vote your socialist security, mediscare, prescription drug crap all right out from under you. Isn't majority rule wonderful?

38 posted on 09/07/2004 9:56:40 AM PDT by xrp (Executing assigned posting duties flawlessly -- ZERO mistakes)
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To: ClearCase_guy
Baby Boomers are a very strange anomaly. They are the Worst Generation (apologies to the many fine people who don't fit the stereotype).

I second that sentiment. I'm an X'er with two kids. The company I work for is far less important than the two of them. I don't see the same sentiment in boomers (as a group, since there are some great boomers among them).

39 posted on 09/07/2004 10:04:27 AM PDT by Rammer
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To: cupcakes

This confirms my observations. I'm the parent of two Boomers and one Gen Xer. The differences between them are stunning. The Boomers are selfish, arrogant, condescending, liberals who refused to have children. The GenXer is loving, generous and just became a father. I'm watching him with his baby and I'm amazed at his ability to care for her. The grandmas on both sides have stepped in to help her working Mom (teacher)by staying with the baby so she won't be raised by strangers. My son lives over his photography studio and is right near if he is needed. I see evidence of better parenting from the Genxers all around me. I say God bless em.

40 posted on 09/07/2004 10:06:54 AM PDT by WVNan
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