Thursday, September 16, 2004

Grunge Parents

I love the opening to this article addressed to managers trying to figure out their Gen X employees:
"Let's say you're a baby-boom generation manager (age 40 to 58), and you've got a team of people in their late 20s to late 30s working for you—or, heck, maybe you report to one of them. Does it puzzle you when a 30-year-old employee with a great track record and a stellar future goes out on maternity leave—and decides not to come back full time, opting for part-time work instead? Or when a Gen X dad asks for more time off—a lot more—to spend with his family?"
I should probably send that link along with my next request for shorter workweeks, extended leaves or other newfangled arrangements that don't really fit the corporate mindset. This got me digging into how Gen Xers are approaching parenting:So of course this stuff hits pretty close to home for me, having two young kids at home and thinking back to reading Douglas Coupland in university and remembering seeing Pearl Jam and Soundgarden at Lollapallooza in 1992. I was so Gen X, and I guess I still am, but it seems hilarious to imagine that all of those kids moshing to Ministry back then have kids of their own now. And their values are "alternative", but in a more conservative direction than I might have guessed:
"Gen X moms and dads tend to be homebodies - they are willing to sacrifice one spouse's income to have a parent at home with the kids, and frequently have to go into debt to own a house. Sometimes they choose arrangements, such as each spouse working a part-time job, that ensure that both parents get time with the children."
Much of this stuff rings so true for me -- I see it in the decisions and trade-offs I'm attempting these days, and in the values of many of my peers. One blind spot in this thread is the number of Gen Xers choosing not to get married or have kids, but I also see parallels in those choices because they're showing that we want to rewrite the old rules and create our own reality free of previous constraints and expectations.

At least some boomers resent the implication that Gen Xers are turning out to be better parents than they were, and of course there is always someone looking to capitalize on every demographic trend. The study referenced in all of these articles was done by Reach Advisors, a marketing consultancy that is doing their own kind of lifestylism project, except they're making a lucrative business out of it. Where did I go wrong?


Garth said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Garth said...

You linked to some very interesting articles on Gen X. I definitely fit the Gen X label well myself and have made some very deliberate choices regarding lifestyle, time, & family. My wife is a stay-at-home mom and loves it. We can't imagine both of us working but we do feel the extra financial strain with only one of us working.

I used to do drafting and made a pretty good salary for a twenty-something but I never was content. So I quit the corporate world to pursue my Master's degree and now as a thirty-something I have ended up teaching in a college. I still put too many hours in but I love what I'm doing.

Some of our babyboomer faculty seem to live to work and think I'm crazy when I question our workload as faculty. I keep pushing for margin but it is a struggle.

Cool articles - keep up the blogging!


Jeremy said...

Hi Garth. Like me, you are probably also fascinated by seeing some of our very personal decisions mirrored by potentially millions of other parents around 30. On one hand you're disappointed that your against-the-grain choices turn out to be not so alternative (like finding out that the "new" underground band you discovered has already sold a million albums?), but on the other hand it's a sort of validation or recognition that these values are shared across cultural and geographic boundaries.