Generation Trends: Gen X As Parents
The slacker image that Generation X earned in the early 90s is gone. No longer seen as lazy and directionless, the 30- and 40-somethings of today are regarded as driven go-getters. Extreme and maniacally focused on everything they do from sports (X games), to work (Silicon Valley pioneers staying up all night to launch new tech products), to parenting. That’s right; GenX is turning out to be some of the most conservative, protective, proactive parents in history. They enact legislation for smaller class sizes, volunteer at school, leave their fast-paced jobs to stay home with their children, and homeschool their kids in record numbers.
In a modern twist, Gen X parents use technology to ensure the safety of their young. Baby monitors with video cameras or alarms that go off when infants stop breathing are immensely popular. Nannycams and Webcams are used to keep an eye on kids in daycare. Parents today purchase swings that play music, voice-activated bouncy seats with bubbling brook sounds, and software to teach phonics to preschoolers. While the last generation of kids begged to carry cell phones and pagers to be cool, Gen X parents insist that their children stay wired and reachable for peace of mind.
Generational expert William Strauss calls Gen X moms “mother lions” because of their fierce drive to protect their children. But how did the generation that embraced grunge rock and invented hip-hop music become Little League coaches and PTA presidents? A look back to how Gen X was raised provides the answer. Kids in the 1960s and 70s grew up in an era that undervalued children. Popular movies featured evil children like Rosemary’s Baby and whiny brats like the ones that visited with Willie Wonka. Mothers limited the size of their families and wore pins proclaiming, “None is Fun.” One in three fetuses was aborted. More than half of kids shuttled between divorced parents, and latchkey kids were commonplace. Gen X parents of today grew up in an era with the “highest rates of teen sex, abortion and venereal disease,” say Strauss and Howe. The scholars go on to describe how generations “try to either compliment or oppose the trend initiated by the dominant generation.” The adults of Generation X experienced a collective parental void and have thus become super-parents and “mother lions” to fill compensate for their losses and give their children what they didn’t have.
A Blast From the Past?
As you read the generic descriptions of each generation’s traits, you may be nodding your head enthusiastically as you see members of your family revealed in each outline, or you might be shaking your head and wondering if you or your family missed the cultural boat. Remember, each generation has its own collective personality, but that generation is made up of millions of individuals with their own experiences. So while you may have had a Beaver Cleaver upbringing amidst the divorce culture of the 70s, the overall national trends in music, movies, politics, education, marriage, and childrearing earn a generation its reputation. Similarly, history has all but predestined the babies of today to mimic the Artist characteristics of their ancestors, yet every life is a unique story with millions of experiences shaping its outcome. Generations are groups of people, but people are individuals.
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