Saturday, April 04, 2009

Talkin' 'bout my generation...

Has anyone else noticed that there is much discussion about going back to the values/traditions/whatnot of "our grandparent's?" I don't think our parent's generation has been referenced at all as a standard which should be hearkened back to. Interestingly, these references seem to uniformly looking towards people who came of age in the Great Depression which is not really accurate, at all, for most of the boomers. Is it just further resistance on their part of being able to say that you should have listened to your parents? It seems it would be the height of annoyance for those who spent most of their lives looking at their parent's values with scorn, to suddenly have to admit their wisdom. When it comes down to it, my generation is much luckier in that respect. It seems we can say with some confidence that the monetary values we were taught based on a lending economy aren't quite all they are cracked up to be- our parents really weren't always right. While we may not reap the same rewards of an implicit confidence that we will see ever increasing incomes and standards of living we may also have the benefit of at least knowing that what we have is ours and not actually the property of Visa.

This zeitgeist of "our grandparents" rather than "our parents" has been circling in my head a great deal as of late. My husband travels for work rather frequently. We have wound up calling on my mother for back-up and the experience has wound up being quite hard on me. She has tended to be astonishingly unreliable. Perpetually, she will agree to various dates only to then change her mind, need to leave a day or two early, arrive a day or two late, etc, etc. Her attitude is in constant flux as well. There are times that there will be tearful farewells and others when she will storm out in a huff. Sometimes she will anxiously ask if she should come down for the weekend to allow us to get a much needed break when my husband isn't traveling while other times she will need to stay at home for events that seem less than pressing when our need is much greater. While I wish there was another option- a friend to call upon, a sister, anyone- there isn't. (this is actually part of what drives my desire to have a larger family for my children) And, I get just enough intermittent reinforcement to continue to call her.

There have been several tearful discussions with my husband about the issue. We are thinking of another child and I just don't know how I will do solo parenting 2 young children, pregnant and sick with a third. A reliable back-up is becoming a more pressing need and will be for at least the next couple of years. I think that by the time everyone is at least 2 or so, things will ease a bit but right now, the physical demands are intense. However, I know that other mother's manage similar situations with calm and even panache. I am forever wondering if I'm just expecting too much from my mother or if I am just less than competent.

Last night, he suggested that my mother might be the least bit selfish. I'm not sure I would go that far. It seems not to be selfishness as much as self-centeredness. Another woman of my mother's age made the comment the other day that the students graduating into this very uncertain job market will be taught the value of "not having things handed to them" and that "sometimes you have to make do." This was so very lacking in self-awareness. While I do not know a great deal about this woman's background, I know enough to be reasonably certain that when she graduated college it was to a market that had jobs available and, more to the point, credit readily available. In addition, her parents were graciously making way in the job market to allow those younger worker the opportunity to work. To pretend that you could lump her experience in with those who came of age in the '30's is the height of ridiculousness. I find the continued experience with both self-centeredness and a lack of awareness to be particularly confounding when contrasted with the high level of social activism of the generation.

I started hunting for information about generational psychology and boomer psychology in specific as of late. I am one of those uber-reflective types that likes to know exactly why I find my parents' generation so annoying- is it simply the naturally occurring desire to develop my own sense of self or does it go deeper? Am I being self-centered in my own demands of my parents? Will my children look back in 30 years and wonder how my generation went so wrong? To the point... as I was searching I found several references to how the boomers refuse to acknowledge their own mortality. This aspect was the catalyst of my decision that my parents are stuck in a generation that seems to be slightly frozen in the teenage stage of development- once they were idealistic, now they are struggling with the superman complex seen most often in teens, with the narcissism, self-centerness and lack of awareness that they were complaining about seeing in us just 10 years ago. I would like to think I outgrew that but I guess I will have to wait to see if I did for another 25 years or so when my children call on me for help when I would rather be at book group.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have theories about this, that after years of privation the depression generation was glad to give to their kids what they never had, and maybe went to far. Then when you consider that a lot of those homemakers were trained during the war to work and keep a home, then you can see how they might have had the time to go to far. But causality is a chain that goes backwards endlessly.

As for the Social activism of the Boomers. You have to see that it's all about the pat on the head. "We hosted a party for autism, aren't we great". "My kids made the honor role, I'm a really super Parent". "Look at this picture of me and the grand kids aren't we so cute together". For people like that kids and then grand kids are a props, they don't want the reality they just want us to be good about something and goods props for bragging about how they are great for having such great kids. Of course for you it's only when you need help that you are seeing this for the first time. Some lucky children of divorce got to see this first hand when the Parent that didn't have the constant reminder of what it was to be a parent get vexed at their children for nothing more then the reality of being a child. "What Billy, I never explained anything to you and so between parent trap and all the other fiction you've been exposed to, you wanted your parents to get back together and now that I've gone and married someone else and shattered your main life dream, your mopeyness has upset my new bride, so you go apologize".

If your mom wanted grandchildren and does want to show off, tell her to put her money where her mouth is, or take the hard road and cut her off.

As for finding help, living in a neighbor hood with a lot of parents of kids the same age can help. It gives kids a chance to socialize, because they've got playmates they don't need you all the time so that even you watch them play it's more relaxing and if there are multiple parents involved you might be able to step away periodically if only just for long enough to change some laundry or go to the bathroom.

For more you might have to work on socializing more to make friends that you trust to babysit and who are willing to do so for you. Again people who are in a similar situation are good candidates, but that means that you may have to reciprocate. Of course you didn't mention your in-laws. Their not your parents but as the one raising their grandchildren fostering that relationship can be a good thing for the kids and for you. Especially if they are more willing and reliable to help then you.
Another tack is that now that you are settled down and maybe back in sync with college and hometown friends that you drifted out of touch with because your lives were in different places your live you will find valuable friendships to be rekindled that can help bring some sanity to your life. And even if none are near you can always commiserate or maybe if it's your style visit each other kids and all.

Also, adding the third kid can be much different from adding the the 2nd. First siblings can resent the addition to the family and may not be that helpful, but second siblings especially if they are a little older might love having a sibling and it may not be quite so bad as having two would lead you to believe that having three would be.