September 16, 2004

Getting to "No" Again

As both regular readers may remember, yesterday I posted on the Boomer Generation's self-made child-rearing crisis, as skewered by my friend Sparky.

Today, The Barely Attentive Mother, another real-life friend, weighs in on the issue from a slightly different perspective - the apparent traditional backlash in parental attitudes among Gen-Xers. BAM quotes the following suggested explanation for this from an article in the Oregonian with a considerable amount of skepticism:

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."

She goes on to suggest that the real reason Gen-Xers might be becoming more attentive parents is a disillusionment with the culture of material greed pursued by their elders and their own consequent refocusing of values.

Maybe, but from a personal perspective I think there is room for multiple explanations, including one both theOregonian and BAM might have overlooked: The article defines Gen-Xers as those born between 1965 and 1979. As it happens, I was born in 1965. My parents, now in the neighborhood of 70, were emphatically not Boomers, but rather of the generation just preceeding them. As such, they held on to the more traditional way of doing things right through the storm of the Boomers' Social Revolution - My mother was always home when we were young, my father's medical practice was one that always saw him home for dinner, and divorce was considered a social pathology, not an acceptable lifestyle alternative. Values such as hard work, prudence, delayed gratification and self-discipline were hammered into us.

I believe that there is a fair-sized chunk of older Gen-Xers who fit this model, never having been directly subject to the Boomer approach to begin with but rather looking on as horrified spectators. I often refer to such people as the "Reagan Youth" - those born between 1965 and, say, 1970 to pre-Boomer parents and who came of political age during the first flower of Reaganism. At least speaking for myself (and for the Butcher's Wife, for that matter), now that we are parents we seek to emulate our folks' way of doing things, not to run away from it. (N.B., of course we do some things differently, but these are variations on the theme, not rejection of the entire model.)

As for younger Gen-Xers seeking to be more sober fathers and mothers than their Boomer parents, I don't think there really is a difference between the bases of their rejection suggested by the Oregonian and BAM. The social upheaval and out of control consumerism witnessed in our society over the past 30-odd years are both phenomena that arise out of the common root of undisciplined narcissism, which, a I said, I believe to be the defining characteristic of the Boomer generation. In this, the Gen-Xers are simply rejecting two sides of the same hippie.

Either way, I am encouraged.

Posted by Robert at September 16, 2004 01:17 PM | TrackBack

I agree with you on this about the older Gen-Xers. I was born in 1967 and my sister in 1969. My parents were born in 47 and 45 - they're older Boomers and yet never felt one of that generation. I'm sure they'd consider themselves of the Reagan Youth as you describe it. My sister has two kids and we both agree than our parents were great models to emulate in child-rearing. They weren't perfect, but they were pretty close.

Posted by: jen at September 16, 2004 01:29 PM

Wait a minute, I got a little confused - my sister and I are Reagan Youth. My parents are that weird group of Boomers who loathe their fellow Boomers and probably fit more into the 50s parent model. Or maybe that's the Happy Days parent - they were just like the Cunninghams.

Posted by: jen at September 16, 2004 01:31 PM

Does that make you Joanie?

Posted by: Robert the Llama Butcher at September 16, 2004 02:20 PM

I have no clue. I never paid much attention to Joanie because I had a crush on Richie. :lol: I was the older of two, so maybe I'm the female Richie? And now I'm a little grossed out at that semi-pseudo-(your commenting system banned the word I tried to use here to imply brother-sister relations that are not natural) thought.

Posted by: jen at September 16, 2004 03:55 PM

I was born in 1970, my parents in 1943, pre-boomer. To this day, my mother has nothing but contempt for the feminist movement that derided her chosen profession of full-time mom. She still remembers cocktail parties where people talking with her would just walk away once she told them she wasn't 'working.' I will avenge my mother, if its the last thing I do!!! Can't stand any 'ism' that says you're free to do what the movement wants you to do, but not free to use your mind to make your own choice.

Posted by: Sparky at September 16, 2004 04:23 PM

Not so sure I like BAM... guess I should have thought about initials when I named my blog. But it has a certain power to it.

Posted by: Barely Attentive Mother at September 16, 2004 05:21 PM

I tried to think of some other possibilities, but none of them really worked out - I think it would have been outright presumptuous and just plain creepy to call you "Mommy."

Posted by: Robert the Llama Butcher at September 16, 2004 05:30 PM

I was born in 1961, but to parents from the WWII generation. I watched two older sisters (born at the height of the baby boom, 1946 and 1948) both utterly self-destruct, with horrific consequences for their children.

I mean, it hardly takes a great revelation to look at that and say, ""


Posted by: pep at September 16, 2004 05:39 PM

Excellent observation! I love the very ap term "Reagan Youth", too.

I must say that I think both the theories presented are applicable (I am a Reagan Youth, but my mother is a Boomer) and my husband is the children of "The Greatest Generation." I spent my youth in daycare and alone after school. I really didn't want for my children to be forced to deal with loneliness like I did.

Will think some more on this and get back to it.

Posted by: Rae at September 18, 2004 12:22 PM
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