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."
Frankly, the real reason for it is that our average IQ is higher than the baby boomers'. Just don't say that too loud.
Wow....this is the first time I've ever seen my birth year (1965) included in Gen X!!! 1965 had always been the year without a generation.
Everything I've ever seen has the boomers ending in 1964, but the earliest I had ever seen Gen X starting was 1966 -- usually it was 1967 though. The period between Kennedy and the Summer of Love (1967) was usually a fairly undefined period lost in limbo -- which is fine with me!
I don't fit into either generation, and neither does anyone else in my peer group that I know. Still, it's good to know that Gen X has somehow managed to learn from the mistakes of Baby Boomer parents.
The whole Benjamin Spock/Peace-Love/Groovy thing just didn't cut it. I'm glad to see that the MTV generation isn't letting their own mind-numbing hogwash influence the way they raise their kids!
Maybe there's hope after all.....
Please don't paint all boomers with the same brush. I am a boomer (DOB: 1951). I was raised in a small town, watched "The Mickey Mouse Club", "Captain Kangaroo" and "Howdy Doody" and went to church every Sunday. My parents told my brother and I that if we got into trouble at school, we would get it twice-over when we got home. We definitely knew our parameters. I got a job when I was 16 and worked my way through college. My husband was raised the same. I was a stay-at-home mom to my daughter. We raised her the same way we were raised - with love, discipline and respect for other people. Guess I missed out on all of the hippie, free love, me-first stuff. Now we are two middle-aged, conservative, hard-working Republicans looking foward to our retirement!
A better case can be made for those alive during the Rev. War, WBTS, Great Depression, WWII, and so on.
What a load of crap.
I was starving for direction. The one time she actually put her foot down and said, "There is no way in hell that you are going to do THAT" I was so relieved that I wanted to cry. Thank you for giving me your strength! Thank you for stopping me and giving me direction! Sheesh, woman! I was just a dumb, confused kid!
With my own kids, I'm there 24 hours a day. When we talk I listen, then guide them to truth. I whup their butts when they cross the line and it's a very narrow line. My parenting techniques are the exact opposite of my mom's. So far the results have been good. They're confident where I was timid and they're not as fearful in general. They both have told me that they are never worried because they know their father and I will be there for them and they feel protected. They're better educated and friendlier than I was at their age. We'll see more after things have unfolded in a few years. The proof is in the pudding.
Not that it matters, but that trust nobody over thirty quote was by Jack Weinberg who was not a "baby boomer" at all. Weinberg was born around 1941. He made that quote in 1965 when I was 6 or 7. I'm not going to take the blame for that quote, nor should all the people I know in my age group who have always been solid conservative Americans. In this country, we've always idealized individualism. This judgment of generations strikes me as something out of Old World socialism and struggles between classes. In America the only class or generation that matters is the one you see in the mirror. That's what we all have to answer for.
I just think to myself, "there goes YOUR Social Security, bub." They are completely intolerant of children.
What do you account for the difference in your children, if you were to hazard a guess? I'm just curious since I would assume you offered a similar upbringing to them all.
Yeah, I know a number of people like that too. Shame isn't it?
You sound almost as angry as I am! Nothin' like a good dose of productive rage.
LOL--just giving that little gift back to the poster I was responding too;-) I'm not angry--baby is asleep, my son has been home from preschool for alittle while and we are about to leave to pick up my first grader--I'm home with them all--life is good:-)
I've got a new complaint...
Add me to your PING list, please?
*sigh* I remember those days! I was just starting to get the hang of the whole "mama" gig. My son was still cute and wasn't starting his snake cage on fire with the heat lamp yet. (I just put that one out about an hour ago. lol!) My daughter didn't have boobs or an hour-glass figure.
This is a good time, too. No more car seats or strollers. Heck, they can run me into the ground. No more spoon-feedings. They're old enough to cook their own dinner and young enough to still want to. They're still cute and say the darndest things. Only now their humor's more sophisticated. They still love hugs and cuddling on the couch. Yes, life is good.
I'm sure that plays a part in many cases, but I am far more conservative than my late grandmother (born in 1909!) so one hasta be careful with those generalizations.
And I have nearly the opposite experience. Most older people tend to have a more tolerant attitude toward children than the 30somethings.
Heck I have a 6yo and have no tolerance for noisy obnoxious kids in stores including my own......there is nothing cute about an obnoxious child, ever.
It is very much a shame........the children suffer so terribly IMO.
I know a gal in her 20s, she has a 4yo and a 5yo who spend their weekends with their fatherS. 2 different fathers.
It's very difficult explaining that to my daughter who is used to mommy and daddy together.
"Baby Boomers are a very strange anomaly. They are the Worst Generation (apologies to the many fine people who don't fit the stereotype)."
They tend to be a pain, I agree. But, it's pretty simple, really. The anomaly has its origin in a simple fact: they were the first generation to practice in grade school, middle school, and high school scurrying under their desks kissing their rear ends good bye b/c of a white hot fire ball that the depression era folks kindly invented. Their parents never had to practice that when they went to school during the last 'innocent' age.
(Don't get me wrong; a very, very large number of Japanese and Americans would have gotten killed but for the reality of the bomb - C. LeMay was burning down the whole country quite nicely ... but it was still looking like a million US soldiers would be required as an invasion force.)
Indeed, the boomers showed us xers that despite the bomb, self centeredness is simply a gross feature of character and hurts kids. I spend a good bit more time w/ mine, than my boomer parents did w/ me. But, I had the benefit of seeing how the boomers practiced dealing w/ the bomb in their psyches. I suspect, strongly, that if I had been a young person faced w/ daily nuclear holocaust propaganda .... and I had been in the first gen to experience .... well, I think I would have done a lot of drugs and been cursed w/ a lot more self centeredness than I struggle with....
I decided to ignore that one - I was too irate when I read it to post something that probably would not have survived the mods!!!!
We're each of us shaped by the situation around us, thats for sure.
But I see generational differences not so much as a result of those forces than as a factor of whats inside us. Some of the most liberal people I've ever known were members of the "Greatest Generation" while me, a boomer, is just to the left of Ghengis Khan. Heck, the Greatest Generation gave us the welfare state. You simply cannot generalize.
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