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."
Add me to the Xer ping list please.
"They are the worst generation (now I will qualify that by saying, well not all of you are).
Yeah. I think it was.
I agree. I think the generalizations are silly. The whole Generation X thing was an artificial creation of a pop sociologist. But it seems to have an hypnotic effect on otherwise sound people. It's true there was a marginal element of young people around the sixties that were spoiled brats, but it was always a marginal element. There's some sorry kids in every generation, but it's that minority that gets the attention. I wonder if these people born after 1970 who are trashing the "Boomers" have watched the documentaries of the turbulent 60s and have concluded that the attention-grabbing marginal element was the norm. What's painful for people our age is that we had to grow up enduring and loathing the spoiled counter-culture element in our age and now, years later, younger people are accusing our generation of generally being that which disgusted us when we were growing up.
Don't think a statement by Abby Hoffman the militant typlifies the boomers......any more than Micheal Moore typlifies the xgen.
Let's hear it, what differences?
Generation X ( jèn´e-rA´shen èks´ ) noun A group of people born between 1961 and 1972 typified by a college education, dissatisfaction with career opportunities, and pessimism. Excerpted from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition
Exactly. Everyone now understands how the MSM twists everything to suit their liberal worldview, yet fail to understand that the MSM of the sixties(members of the 'Greatest Generation' BTW) were doing the same thing thirty five years ago, and at a time when there was no dissenting opinion available.
Instead of enduring and loathing, you should have fought the extreme element. Now it characterizes your generation. It's unfortunate, but true....
"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."
Gee, I can't figure out what we are...I was born in 57, hubby 55. We've always lived within our means, the only debt we have is our mortgage (which is about the size of most peoples' auto loans) and I've been home full time with my kids for the past 15 years. (The oldest of which is a high school senior.) I know we're boomers, but we don't feel like it.
Well, I don't like to generalize, as I have not seen every 40-something parent, but it seems to me that a lot of the 40-something parents that have kids my kids' age don't spend half as much time being involved in their kids lives, from volunteering at the school, or clubs or sports. They also seem to be more apt to have a child who has behavioral problems, as they don't seem to have the stomach to enforce limits or follow good discipline suggestions. They are more inclined to find care outside of the home for their kids, not that there is necessarily anything wrong with that, but I've seen enough cases where I can generally tell which kids spent their early childhood in daycare, and which ones had some sort of family care provider.
But like I said, I have not seen every boomer parent, just the ones who have kids that are the same age as my kids.
Colonel - you've hit the nail on the head. Everytime Qam1 submits one of these Gen-X posts, I feel as though I am being urged to justify my existence or apologize. The "Generation" labels are completely artificial - just another brand of kool-aid that the discontented are all too eager to drink. Don't generalize. And don't pretend it isn't generalization when you excuse the good Boomers from the sins of the bad Boomers. Some of the most selfish people I have ever known are Boomers - the rest are X'ers, and from the Greatest and Silent generations.
What I found fascinating here, is that I find the opposite to be true. I've found that fortysomething parents seem to be involved than the thirtysomething parents I know. More than anything I've seen more parents who've never been married (not divorced) in the younger set.
They are more inclined to find care outside of the home for their kids, not that there is necessarily anything wrong with that, but I've seen enough cases where I can generally tell which kids spent their early childhood in daycare, and which ones had some sort of family care provider.
Of course there is something wrong with that, you can say it. A parent at home is ideal, and nothing can change that. A parent is even preferable to aunts, uncles, or even grandparents. There is absolutely no substitute for parent/child contact. I've stayed home with my children for almost 13 years now. The youngest is 10, so in 8 years, I'll be able to retire from this job and seek employment that actually pays real money.
I agree 100%. I was born in late '63, and I'm definately Gen-X, and not a boomer. The better sources place us in Gen-X as well.
We threw a party for our now 4 and 6 year-old this weekend, too. Their birthdays are 4 days apart so we combine them. We're going to be eating a lot of grilled cheese and PBJ until the next paycheck comes in!! It's hard not to get too carried away!
I was a teacher until we started our family. I'm at home right now but am finally considering getting back into the work force part-time. 6 years with only one income is finally taking it's toll. Fortunately, my parents just moved back to town and have offered to watch my daughter the 2 days a week that I plan on subbing. I've really enjoyed being at home with my kids and wouldn't change that choice for anything. We're not as well off as those who waited to have kids or chose to have 2 incomes via daycare. However, our kids are very well-behaved, smart, happy and healthy children! The time with them is priceless!
"Heck, the Greatest Generation gave us the welfare state. You simply cannot generalize."
Good point. The reds started all their nonsense long before the outbreak of wwii.... greatest gen indeed.
otoh, you can't really escape generalizations .... they tend to work, though the exceptions are real.
add me also please
Ah. Beware the siren song of self-congratulation.
It describes me also (1961). But it only describes me since I got saved back in 1986. Prior to that I was a typical boomer, self centered, greedy and just looking out for me.
It's amazing the change that finding Jesus (and making Him your Savior) will work in your life.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.