Skip to comments.Generation X parents outshine Baby Boomers
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.
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."
I agree. As a Boomer (DOB 1955) I cannot recall ever hearing about leftist subversion in the schools. In fact, I recall typical 1950s and early 1960s focus on the family, the church, the country, in short "duty, honor, country". Doing the right thing, honesty, right versus wrong, absolutes versus relatives, all that made America right and good. The Boomers turned on America, and I am ashamed of much of our generation. We are,indeed,overall the "Worst Generation", who have been aided and abetted by the Boomer leftist media, the so-called "professoriate", and the purported "entertainment" industry. I have hope that the activities and attitudes of GenX may serve to swing the cultural pendulum back toward the traditional values once held closelyby most Americans.
As a baby boomer... I will admit the X generation has got to do a better job than we did at raising them.
God Bless the x'ers
God Bless all generations, and I am sorry for the failures I did as a boomer.
Was that sarcasm or just plain ol' stupidity?
Way to go Generation X...
Another example of generation X's refusal to participate in the economy in a meaningful way. Nothing like spending a Labor Day watching a Monty Python marathon with the kids. Get a job and grow up.
Your post # 38:
I do think conservatives have become alot more sophisticated in their ability to deal with the liberal threat, and its IMPOSSIBLE to understate the value of the New Media.
Folks under 30, try to imagine being a conservative growing up with no other source of news besides ABC, NBC, CBS and the NYT.
i think alot of us Xers who got into extreme sports, individualism and what not is a throw back for earlier times. once upon a time people went out and explored the world, found new places, set bars of achievements higher and higher, baby boomers had to live in the shadow of the "Greatest Generation," we didnt, but we have been inspired by the feats of our grandfathers and emulate them in our own ways. We were raised by our grandparents as much as our parents and baby sitters. i believe that once again the "Greatest Generation" has made a positive mark on our country.
Excellent article! I'm glad to see my wife and I are not in the minority. Please add me to your list. Thanks!
Hey qaml! I think I fell off your Gen-X ping list. Put me back on!
This article defintely describes not just my relationship with my family but my friends too. No one I know well is divorced and most have a stay at home parent.
However, the article neglects to state that Gen-X was the first generation that could be killed by their mother legally.
hmmm.... pretty global comment. Pretty judgemental. Boomers wouldn't make that mistake.
ONe has to wonder how the greatest generation may have influenced this. It would stand to reason that many xers spent more time with grandparents then they did with their parents. I wonder if and how much of that influenced the xers to be what they are now?
Written by Laura DeMarco, a GenX'er.
"We're better than yooooouuuu aaaaarrreeeeee."
Puleeze. Don't we have better things to do than re-enact the third grade?
Gabz, my hubby is technically on the tail end in 61 too and he is a solid, upstanding kind of guy. I think we know not all boomers were like this, but it seems like a larger percentage then in other generations were self-absorbed ninnies;-) Many more, like yourself, hold to traditional values and are raising good children. I'd consider too when you decided to have children. My oldest is also in first grade and I'm an xer. Perhaps you related more to this generation to begin with--its values and all that.
And you think this is a "global" and "judgemental" comment?
I think its generally true that kids tend to mimic their parents values
I think you are right, but what should be considered then is how many xers were exposed to their grandparents more than their parents. I know my grands were a big part of my life until we moved to Florida when I was 12 and incidentally I started going "downhill" when we made that move and I was then parented exclusively by my actual parents.
I really don't know. Divorce was a very rare thing in both my family and my husband's family and even those rare occurances (including my first marriage) rarely had children in the mix.
I think of some folks I know - both boomers and Xers that are on 2nd & 3rd marriages with kids from all of them.....not my idea of family.
Aah, hit a nerve in the middle of your incessant quest for the almighty dollar boomer? It must really torque your type off that your children are in many ways like your parents were--those old stuffy WWII types who you worked so hard to rebel against as teens and young adults and here for all your hardwork you end up with your parents to rebel against all over again. Grow up indeed!
Then what about the previous boomer mantra of "Trust No one over thirty"?
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