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Generation Vexed
Sydney Morning Herald ^ | 5/17/05 | Steve Dow

Posted on 05/17/2005 7:37:29 AM PDT by qam1

Now the children of the baby boomers are having children. And they worry if they're doing a good job..

MARK and Ruth McCrindle go to seminars on child-raising, read a monthly parenting magazine, and have bought eight books on the subject. They share the caring of their daughter Acacia, who's almost three, and one-year-old son Jasper.

There is a baby monitor in Jasper's bedroom, which is hooked up to a receiver in the lounge room to listen for his cries. And when their son had a minor ear infection recently, Ruth sought the opinion of not one, but two, general practitioners.

Mark, 31, a social researcher, has investigated how generation X parents handle parenting. He and other researchers have found that contrary to the dated image of a cynical, aimless generation, Xer parents can't do enough for their offspring, investing almost every spare moment in their children's futures.

But many generation Xers have become "hyperparents", trying to plan every aspect of their children's education and leisure, while eschewing discipline to be their children's best buddy. Some experts warn generation X's bubble-wrap approach to parenting could leave their children lacking resilience to fend for themselves.

The McCrindles' close involvement with their children is typical of generation X's intense parenting, though the large amounts of extra time the couple has to spend with Acacia and Jasper thanks to flexible work arrangements is not typical of their time-strapped generation. Mark has long worked from home, so the bonus is he can watch his children grow - and regularly have little Acacia knocking on his office door.

Ruth, 26, who gave up being a lawyer to raise her babies, teaches one day a week. She insisted Mark should be hands-on - nappy-changing and preparing meals. "Perhaps," says Mark, "there is a pressure socially and morally to be involved as a father, but I want to do it, and thoroughly enjoy doing it." Ruth says she has found parenting a "rude shock".

"I feel confident but sometimes overwhelmed by the enormity of the task," she says. She's not alone.

Australia's gen X mums, now aged from mid-20s to late 30s, are having fewer babies - one or two instead of the three or four of their baby boomer forebears - with their first birth on average at 29. Xers thus have fewer children to divide their attention among and, after delaying birth to less fertile years, expend a lot more effort and stress to conceive at all.

Once the children have arrived, says the Australian Childhood Foundation's chief executive, Joe Tucci, 70 per cent of parents feel they don't have enough time to spend with them, given both mum and dad often work. So they concentrate on being an anchor in their child's lives as early as possible.

Parents today are squeezing what they can out of that non-work time to actively care for their children. In 1974 boomer mothers of children aged four and under spent 17.1 hours a week in physical interaction - playing, reading, emotional care, driving them around - compared to generation X mums spending 19.6 hours in 1997 (though that figure is down from 24.3 hours in 1992). Boomer dads in 1974 spent just 4.2 hours a week, while generation X dads in 1997 spent 9.6 hours. Michael Bittman, of the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW, predicts the next Bureau of Statistics parenting study, planned for next year, will show even more time actively spent with the children.

Mark McCrindle, who runs McCrindle Research in Sydney, has conducted focus groups of generation X parents for non-profit educational groups and commercial organisations to determine what challenges parents face. Theirs is a generation, he says, marked by concern over schooling, safety and maximising every opportunity. "But it's perhaps gone too far," he says. Indeed, last year a University of NSW study of 6000 parents found a quarter had stopped their children playing sport for fear of injury.

A study of 500 mostly generation X parents, conducted in March by Quantum Market Researchfor the Australian Childhood Foundation, showed that when asked if "parenting comes naturally", 75 per cent said it did not. More than half lacked confidence about parenting and, while 90 per cent rejected the adage that children should be seen and not heard, 58 per cent were confused about how to discipline children.

So what has made generation X, born during the 1960s and 1970s (the exact dates are disputed), such anxious parents? They're taking heed of where their own parents, the baby boomers and the war babies, went wrong.

The boomers, born between 1946 and 1965, especially erred by setting out to achieve basically one thing: financial success. To get there, says Thomas Muller, a professor of marketing at Queensland's Griffith University who has been studying the boomers for 25 years, they sacrificed traditional family values, stable marriage and guilt-free quality time with their children. The material quest meant an increased divorce rate for boomers and "playing catch-up in parenting duties".

Parenting educator and author Michael Grose says the Xers were the first generation to grow up where divorce and working mothers were commonplace. As children, generation X learned the hard lesson that valuing money and status above family life was disastrous as they saw their parents' marriages crumble, and close interest in the children falter.

A Canadian writer, Douglas Coupland, coined the term generation X in 1991, borrowing from the US social researcher Paul Fussell, who identified an "X" category of people who rejected consumer culture. But this definition soon warped into shorthand for a generation of slackers who cared little for the future. Generation X's penchant for earnest parenthood has proven this reputation for aimlessness false. It turns out they are materialistic too: bigger mortgages for bigger homes for fewer children. (They've deemed playgrounds and the neighbours unsafe.)

Yet boomers, who set the pace for material expectations, cannot be entirely blamed for making today's parents anxious about their world and how to raise children in it. Broader influences - the need for greater education to get a good job, a less secure workforce, and too much damned advice in a babble of parenting white noise - are also unnerving generation X.

Grose says he tells today's parents that discipline is "not a dirty word", though the issue confuses them. "It's all right to be a parent in the parent-child relationship." Xers also unreasonably fear their children are at physical and psychological risk, so are over-protective, says Grose. They drive their children to school, regiment their daily lives and sign them up for every extra curricular activity. "I think that robs kids of opportunities to use their own resources," he says.

"The real danger is that the next generation will lack the psychological hardiness to deal with the curve balls that life throws their way. Too many will fall in a heap when they meet with challenges as they haven't the experience or developed the skills to cope with life's dramas when they were children."

Sydneysider Ellen Lonergan, 38, has made sure her daughters Julia, 9, and Niamh, 7, are signed up for dancing, netball and swimming. "I often think, 'Are we involving them in too much, and is it for us, or for them?"' She says she and her husband, Mark, rush the children from one activity to the next. But to let the girls roam the streets would be to put them in danger, so she forbids it.

"I don't feel anything else is safe," she says. "When we were kids, we could hop on the train and go anywhere. I don't let the girls play in the front yard. Perhaps it's my own paranoia."

Melburnian Jodie Potts, 28, had her son Lachlan, now six, as a single mother finishing her law degree. She didn't find changing, feeding and tending a baby through the night natural. In full-time work as a solicitor since Lachlan started school, she says she's come to feel more relaxed as a parent.

But there's not enough time in the day to be the parent she wants to be. Nights are devoted to whatever Lachlan wants to do: playtime gets extended to 9pm or 9.30pm or whenever he is tired - whichever is earlier - and weekends might be spent travelling on trains, preferably steam trains, which are her little boy's passion. Potts's partner, Craig, is an active stepfather, and does "everything a father would do".

"I have very loose discipline," says Potts. "I don't smack and I don't believe in it. We don't smack adults when we have a disagreement. I don't see why children need it. I still prefer to talk things through." Lachlan, she says, is an easy child to handle without smacking.

Potts's mother, Leanne Rose, 52, says baby boomers had fewer books on parenting to choose from. She was married to Potts's father for 20 years and put her teaching career on hold to raise their three children. "I don't think any generation is better organised," she says. "Maybe [Potts's generation is] a lot better educated, but that doesn't mean they can do it any better."

As a mother, Rose would smack her children when they were naughty. "In hindsight, I would have found a better way," she says. "It's just we weren't taught how to parent."

Generation Xer Ian Harrison, 33, also of Melbourne, says however he is an "advocate of controlled smacking". The problem, says the father of a 15-month-old, Imogen, is that parents who didn't know when they were hitting too hard have abused smacking.

Perhaps parents have been confused by the plethora of parenting books on the market, which Harrison and his wife, Felicity, also 33, refuse to read. "I find the books all so contradictory," he says. "All they make you do is think, 'I'm doing it wrong.' " Rather, the Harrisons asked other parents for advice. Their biggest learning curve? Assuming they will have much leisure time. The couple share preparing meals, bathing Imogen and changing her nappies, and take turns waking up in the night to feed her.

Generation X parents, despite being self-critical, feel judged by others about their parenting, says Tucci. While Xers are more in touch with their children's emotional needs than the boomers were, they feel deeply responsible for their children's problems and find it difficult to ask for help. "They want to know they are on the right track," says Tucci, "and that they are not alone."

Mark McCrindle's studies have found similar anxieties. Work and family balance are always the first topics to come up in discussion groups. And then, sorting through a morass of contradictory messages on discipline. Blame those damned parenting books.

TOPICS: Australia/New Zealand; Culture/Society; Extended News

1 posted on 05/17/2005 7:37:29 AM PDT by qam1
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To: qam1; ItsOurTimeNow; PresbyRev; tortoise; Fraulein; StoneColdGOP; Clemenza; malakhi; m18436572; ...
Xer Ping

Ping list for the discussion of the politics and social (and sometimes nostalgic) aspects that directly effect Gen-Reagan/Generation-X (Those born from 1965-1981) including all the spending previous generations (i.e. The Baby Boomers) are doing that Gen-X and Y will end up paying for.

Freep mail me to be added or dropped. See my home page for details and previous articles.

2 posted on 05/17/2005 7:38:21 AM PDT by qam1 (There's been a huge party. All plates and the bottles are empty, all that's left is the bill to pay)
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To: kjenerette

...another gen x thing.

3 posted on 05/17/2005 7:44:36 AM PDT by Van Jenerette (Our Republic...if we can keep it!)
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To: qam1


4 posted on 05/17/2005 7:47:22 AM PDT by PresbyRev
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To: qam1
Mark, 31, a social researcher

Well, there's the problem.

5 posted on 05/17/2005 8:21:24 AM PDT by mtbopfuyn (Legality does not dictate morality... Lavin)
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To: qam1

To be honest it kind of scares me to have a kid. I want children but worry that i won't know jack about raising them

6 posted on 05/17/2005 9:32:04 AM PDT by DM1
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To: qam1
They share the caring of their daughter Acacia, who's almost three, and one-year-old son Jasper.

They named their kids after trees. That might be part of the problem right there.

7 posted on 05/17/2005 9:35:28 AM PDT by Junior (“Even if you are one-in-a-million, there are still 6,000 others just like you.”)
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To: qam1

Main objection was how many doting parents got fooled when certain politicans said they was doing things "For the Children".

8 posted on 05/17/2005 9:37:01 AM PDT by Swiss
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To: qam1

It vexes me. I'm terribly vexed.

9 posted on 05/17/2005 9:38:24 AM PDT by Scythian
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To: qam1
...[the] bubble-wrap approach to parenting could leave their children lacking resilience to fend for themselves.

With the prevelance of this style of "parenting" -- which is really micro-management wrapped in anxiety -- Dr. Phil will have no shortage of program material as he explains the hit-your-forehead-with-your-hand obvious problems it causes in children.

10 posted on 05/17/2005 11:30:55 AM PDT by TChris (Just once, we need an elected official to stand up to a clearly incorrect ruling by a court. - Ann C)
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To: qam1
"overparented Gen-X" Wha....?

Must be a different Gen-X in Australia.

The X-ers in the US (that weren't aborted) were the original latch-key kids and children of divorce. Y'know, 'quality time, not quantity time' with mommy and all that....

11 posted on 05/17/2005 12:18:34 PM PDT by Cogadh na Sith (Steel Bonnets Over the Border)
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To: DM1
I want children but worry that i won't know jack about raising them

Well, you're light years ahead of all those who thought they knew it all before they had kids! lol!

12 posted on 05/17/2005 2:18:21 PM PDT by Marie (Stop childhood obesity. Give them Marlboros, not milkshakes.)
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To: qam1
She says she and her husband, Mark, rush the children from one activity to the next. But to let the girls roam the streets would be to put them in danger, so she forbids it.

Maybe if all the Leftist Boomers weren't releasing pedophiles and rapists into the streets for 'reformation' then I, as a GenX parent of a little girl, wouldnt be afraid to let my daughter play in the front yard untended. Maybe if the Leftists of the generation before me had not spent most of their poltical capital defending the rights of the criminal against that of the victim, I as a parent wouldnt feel the anxiety of making sure their perfidy took the only valuable thing I have in my life away from me.

I hate it when the author doesnt think of LOGICAL things like that.

13 posted on 05/17/2005 2:27:58 PM PDT by Alkhin ("Ah-ah," admonished Pippin. "Head, blade, dead." ~ Peregrin Took, The Falcon)
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I always find it amusing to see an ex-goth/rocker/punk couple with their kid(s)

Full sleeve tattoos, piercings....and a stroller.


14 posted on 05/17/2005 10:02:13 PM PDT by KneelBeforeZod ( I'm going to open Cobra Kai dojos all over this valley!)
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