I have always been intrigued by each generation, the strengths, differences, and similarities are so vast. I have a special interest in generational parenting, it amazes me to see the changes in parenting but also to take notice of the things that have not changed over time.
I thought and thought about how I would approach this subject and realized I couldn’t do it alone so I reached out to some blogging friends of mine and together we have created a month long Generational Parenting Series. Each week this month you will hear from a mother telling us her perspective on parenting. Look for a wrap up of my point of view on the last week. I look forward to sharing this journey of motherhood with each of you.
Parenting as a Baby Boomer ~ by NoniKay of www.happyhour786.com
As a baby boomer there were very few resources for young parents. No webmd.com at the touch of your mouse. No FaceTime to call Grandma and get some expert advice from the previous generation. No unlimited texting to your friend who is a nurse. No quick email to the pediatrician’s office.
Landlines were the name of the game and long-distance phone calls were expensive. Snail mail was the primary means of communication with out of town family members. Encyclopedia Brittanica or a Mayo Clinic Family Health Book (or both) were on bookshelves in many homes. Junior is running a temp? Someone broke out in a rash for an unknown reason? Run to either the encyclopedia or the family health book. Try to glean as much info as you can and try to decide if you need to take Junior to the family doctor or not. (I had never heard of taking a child to a pediatrician until the mid-70’s). Someone in the family needed to go to the doctor? Regardless of age, everyone went to the family doctor (a general practitioner).
The late 60’s and early 70’s were a time when many young families moved a distance away from their birth home to gain employment. These moves may have gained them a steady income but it came at the price of leaving their primary support system. Left behind were friends they had known since childhood. Also left behind were grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
I gave birth to my eldest son as a single mother at the age of 19. Unwed mothers at that time were a source of great embarrassment to their families. I was sent away to Seattle, WA. Throughout my pregnancy, I received a tremendous amount of pressure from my parents to give my child up for adoption. I gave birth with only the doctor and a couple of nurses in attendance. I decided to keep my child which brought down the wrath of my parents. Several religious social workers were immediately called by my parents and told to contact me. Those social workers then attempted to put even more pressure on me to relinquish my son.
My father refused to see my son at all. My mother visited me in Seattle one time during my son’s first 1 1/2 years of life. My father saw him for the first time (not by choice) at 18 months of age. Resources such as MOPS, Parents Without Partners, Love and Logic classes? Those were either non-existent at that time or I missed the memo. Money was in short supply and help to new parents (especially an unwed mother) was a scarcity.
How did I differ as a parent from my parents? I can only hope I was better but I live daily with the knowledge that I could have been so much more and done so much better.
My father believed that if you spared the rod, you spoiled the child. Never was there a word of praise or encouragement. The leather belt was almost a daily occurrence in my life. By today’s standards, he was an abusive parent. The best days were those that my father was gone and my mother and grandmother were the only adults in our lives.
How did I differ? I tried to tell my children multiple times each day how much I loved them, how proud I was of them, how glad I was to be their mom. I made mistakes. Many mistakes. There were days when I lost my cool totally and ended up being that mom who sounded like a shrew! Days when stress from money problems, motherhood, marriage issues (I married when my son was 3 yrs of age) became too much and I lost it. I’m not proud of those days at all. Especially with my firstborn child, I feel there were many times I was too rough on him. That whole first child thing? Where we, as parents, want to do it all so ‘right’ and in the process probably make ourselves and our child a little crazy. Can you relate to that?
I feel it wasn’t until the late 70’s that I had started to relax into the role of motherhood a bit more. I think by then I found my groove a little and didn’t stress about every tiny thing. I let myself have more fun with my kids by that time. My oldest son was almost 10 and he was a great kid. Such a good big brother, already a budding artist and a friendly kid with a killer smile that he flashed often.
Like many couples in the 70’s we needed extra money. One income just wasn’t cutting it. We weren’t able to make ends meet so I went back to work. It was an era when many women were either entering or reentering the workforce. The reasons were varied. Whether it was because their family needed the extra income or because Mom didn’t feel fulfilled being a stay at home mother, the end result was the same.
Child care became a bigger and bigger issue. Licensed daycare facilities were not yet common. Many young couples had no family nearby. Children as young as 8-10 often became latch key kids. Left unattended in the home for 2-4 hours each day until one or both parents got home from work. While quality parenting is of utmost importance, the quantity of parenting time is important also. Not fully understanding the impact on the children when they do not have adequate time with their parents is very likely the biggest downfall of baby boomer parents. Like any other detrimental event in the life of a child, the full impact isn’t realized until the child is grown.
While in a 2013 Huffington Post article we were called the “worst generation ever” and a “generation of narcissists: the baby boomers.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gene-marks/this-is-why-the-baby-boom_b_4441735.html ,
that has not been my personal experience. My friends, my ex-husband and I all worked hard to provide for our young families. We volunteered as room mothers, fundraisers, Little League coaches, soccer coaches, etc. We tried each day to help our children learn, expand their world with new experiences, feel loved, feel confident in their world and their ability to meet new challenges.
I can’t speak for everyone in my boomer generation. I can only speak of my experience and what I observed of my friends as we raised our families. Many of us struggled financially. Many of us were unable to hold our marriages together and experienced the heartbreak of divorce and it’s devastating effects on our children. Many of us had little or no support from extended family.
In my circle of friends and family I know we tried to support each other. We tried to support one another’s children. In that immediate circle we have raised teachers, doctors, nurses, lawyers, pastors, welders, carpenters, artists, musicians and more. They are productive, respectful, loving and kind. They are now great parents to our grandchildren.
Did we make mistakes? Oh, you bet we did. Do we wish we had done things differently? Of course. Hindsight is always 20/20. Do we think we parented better than we were parented? Yes. We loved our kids and weren’t afraid to articulate that to them regularly. We tried to talk with them, discuss with them, teach them to think independently and hopefully make smart decisions. We tried to be there for them then and now as they are experiencing their own parenting challenges.
NoniKay is a blogger, coffee addict, lover of wine (only a few specific kinds) and margaritas (especially those made with Mexican tequila – yup, those are good!).
She is a mother of 4 adult children (1 deceased), stepmother to 2 adult children, grandmother to 7 bio grandchildren and 3 she gained when she remarried in 2010. A baby boomer herself, she has parented as a single teen, a co-parent with her ex, and as a single parent.
She spent her career in government work on the county and city level. Additionally, she owned/operated her own contract Guardian ad Litem business for 16 years.
She is now retired and enjoying retirement. She and “The Husband” enjoy traveling and love being an active part of their children and grandchildren’s’ lives. Although she is pretty sure she learned more from her children than she ever taught them, the most worthwhile accomplishment in her life is, in her words, “raising my family.”
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