Gen X parenting

As Richard mentioned in his last post, our group of bloggers have gone through a number of changes in the past year that have unfortunately bogged down our blogging.  Here’s what happened to me:

My partner and I have been talking, literally for years, about starting a family.  Since we are both men, this isn’t quite as straightforward as it is for many straight couples. After years of debating surrogacy vs. open adoption vs. foreign adoption vs. adopting from foster care, we decided to move forward with adopting from foster care.

We found a Foster Family Agency (FFA) to help with the process, spent a few months getting certified (parenting classes, background checks, home safety inspections, CPR/First Aid training, etc.) and then late last year we were officially certified to become fost/adopt parents.  Our main criteria for accepting kids was that we wanted to make fairly sure that their birth parents’ rights were almost certain to be terminated in short order.  We also wanted two siblings, both under 5 years old.  After turning down a few placements that weren’t quite right, on one particularly memorable Wednesday in early February, we got a call about 5-day old twin girls.

After a quick discussion, we decided to accept the placement.  The next few hours were a whirlwind of shopping, setting up a crib, installing car seats, and driving to pick up our daughters.

I’ve been blogging about the experience at Blitzkrieg Babies, so feel free to poke around there for more details.

Needless to say, this has been a life-changing experience, so I’m sure my focus here in Fructify will be more parenting-centric now,  and a little less pop culture centric than I originally assumed.

More to come!

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Leave a Comment August 18, 2010

…And We’re Back!

Hi again and WOW has it has been a while since our last post (October 10, 2009 to be exact). Never mind that the last post was a few short sentences talking about our commitment to the blog… Woops! Well, we are going to give this blog another try.

As for what we have been up to in the past year? Well… two of the authors changed jobs. Another adopted twins. Two negotiated a workplace where an increase in workload was attributable to a downsized workforce. we could go on, but it is safe to say that the past year was particularly tumultuous.

And now we are back! A motivating factor for writing this blog was our frustration with the status quo. Having spent the last year sorting our lives out, we return to this blog with a new perspective. We are glad to be back, and excited to see what comes next.

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Leave a Comment August 18, 2010

Welcome to our Humble URL

Hello everyone. We finally did it – we finally have our own URL! Welcome!

To returning visitors, thanks for the support. To new visitors, hello!

We are still tweaking, optimizing, and getting the site fully up to snuff. Oh yeah, we are writing posts too. Be sure to check back soon – more generationally relevant posts are to come.

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Leave a Comment October 10, 2009

Gen Y is Not *Just* Treading Water

Earlier this year, Fructify authors pondered what high unemployment, especially for Gen Y, meant for new college graduates. We observed a high rate of unemployment, 14.1% US workers aged 20 – 24, and speculated that this would strain (but not break) recent graduates looking for their first post college job. In the months since, this number has predictably risen. The August 2009 US Bureau of Labor Statistics report indicates that, since March 2009, unemployment has increased a full percentage point to 15.1% for this age cohort. Several months after the 2009 graduation season, we find ourselves compelled to ask “how Gen Y is getting on?”

Gen Y expert and University of Notre Dame professor Carol Phillips proclaims that, For Millenials, 2009 Was a Year of Waiting:

Meanwhile,  a generation famous for being optimistic, is becoming increasingly discouraged by their ‘life on hold’ status.  The immediate response was to make the best of things, opting for low paying jobs with non-profits, unpaid internships or going overseas to teach English as a second language. Others opted to spend their time as unpaid journalists, blogging away and honing social media skills in the hope of catching the eye of someone willing to pay them for their time. Others gave up in favor of using the time to travel, hike the Appalachian trail or pursue another degree.

Phillips references a recent Business Week slideshow profiling 23 recent college graduates as they search for a career path. Phillips observes the frustrated optimism of those profiled, concluding “they cannot stay behind. The recession will push many to new heights of efficiency and creativity, but unfortunately, it will leave many with emotional and economic damage that will take years to sort through.”

I don’t entirely disagree. Phillips points to a Yale School of Management study indicating that starting a career in the midst of a recession can negatively impact long term earnings to the tune of ~$100,000. If the Yale report is any guidance, far reaching economic inhibitors will severely limit Gen Y’s ability to express wealth in a manner similar to their Boomer parents. Surly decreased earnings potential, in conjunction with constrained employment prospects, will have some negative impact on Gen Y. However I am somewhat hesitant to view these factors as generationally crushing.

Yes, money is one aspect of happiness, but it is certainly not everything. Gen Y may be forced to scale back their expectations for physical items, however, they clearly have yet to scale back personal aspirations. This may prove inspirational to other generations, especially Gen Y’s Boomer parents. Heroic may not be the correct word, but this helps contextualize why Boomers are so quick to brand their offspring as such.

But then again, what do I know, I’m just one of those Gen Y dreamers!

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4 Comments October 1, 2009

"Even tho you are my daughter you are my hero!! Your MOM"

If you were wondering, the title of this entry is straight from a facebook post that my boomer aunt wrote on her daughter’s wall. My cousin just turned down an acceptance into NYUs grad program in journalism for a job at Gawker media. That must be saying something about the future of journalism. My cousin, a quintessential Gen Y, is convicted, independent, has just defined a prime time direction for her new career, signed the lease on her first Brooklyn loft (with four other young professional friends), and basically proved to the rents that her future was bright. Instantly, immediately, and publicly she then became their hero. Here you go, now that you’re 22, and making your own 50K you can help lead me back to prosperity, I’ll follow you.

Is the new role of Gen Y to become a living beacon of hope for their boomer parents? A faint notion of a potential safety net, when a drained retirement fund doesn’t hold up to a medical emergency? It seems like a pretty dramatic move for baby boomers to throw the reins over to their children so quickly. The only hero that most Gen Ys have become at this point in their lives are guitar heros, and that only seems to take time, repetition, and Bud Light. Maybe part of the problem is the definition of hero. Merriam Webster talks about illustrious warriors and legendary figures, where as urban dictionary is obsessed with submarine sandwiches and even mentions the idea that a hero might be “mom.”

  • Merriam Webster says…
    1. a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability, an illustrious warrior, a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities, one that shows great courage
    2. the principal male character in a literary or dramatic work, the central figure in an event, period, or movement
    3. plurally used heros: submarine
    4. an object of extreme admiration and devotion : idol
  • Urban Dictionary says…
    1. A hero is someone who gets a lot of OTHER people killed.
    2. Someone who helps without anything expected in return. Their gesture may be big or small, profound or not, it doesn’t make im’ any less of a hero. E.g. Dr. King, Ghandi, Mom
    3. One who lays down his own life so that others can live.
    4. A Submarine Sandwich. The long sandwich featuring layers of meat and cheese on a crusty Italian roll goes by a variety of names. Submarine, sub, and hero are widespread. Localized terms are bomber (upstate New York), wedge (downstate New York), hoagie (Delaware Valley, including Philadelphia and southern New Jersey), grinder (New England), Cuban sandwich (Miami), Italian sandwich (Maine), Italian (southern Midwest), and poor boy (New Orleans, before Katrina) now goes by soggy boy.

The conclusion I walked away with was that Boomers are dramatic. They’re using big words and big ideas to scare away the fact that they may have just been screwed. In the end, I or my cousin won’t be able to help out with a triple by pass (and neither will medicare), but we are becoming accustomed to the idea of buying smaller houses and paying for our own weddings. Gen Y may have been disproportionately hit by the contraction of the job market but in terms of net worth they’ve skirted the devastation, and probably learned some second hand lessons. In reaction to their parents folly, they might also (consciously or not), re-scale the size of a dream house, family car, grocery store, and shoe collection. Their new dreams of a “quaint” 2 bedroom and Nissan-Cube-as-family-hauler excite their parents, “how heroic” of them. Their parents become fascinated with their ability to calibrate and prepare. What was once pegged as “lazy and ungrateful” becomes “stress-free and calm,” a demeanor that requires less maintenance and better weathers long storms.

As Strauss & Howe wrote in 1991 “Boomers are starting to show a fascination for apocalyptic solutions. Unlike their GI fathers, who excelled at overcoming crisis, Boomers are attracted to the possibility of fomenting crisis….The ‘sky will first need to fall’ before the world wakes up to its environmental folly, insisted Boomer columnist Christopher Winner just before Earth Day 1990.” They had a lot to rebel against, beginning with their parents and the upbringing that they provided. In a study Pew Research did on generational disconnects Gen Y and their Boomer parents showed fewer disconnects than previous generations. “Just as people don’t see much generational conflict today in society at large, they don’t see much generational conflict in their own families — at least not as much as there had been a generation ago. Only 10% of parents of older children say they often have major disagreements with a teenage or young adult child. By contrast, nearly twice as many adult respondents (19%) say that when they themselves were in their late teens and early 20s, they often had major disagreements with their parents.”

Guitar heros are what we need. Lazy, calm, unphased, ungrateful, but less dramatic and materialistic children who love the crap out of their parents. Guitar heros who would rather buy a small house and live with four friends so they can play video games all day are heros precisely because… they don’t migrate to San Francisco on a whim of becoming a musician, fall to years of living on the street, and then make self-celebrating, creepy documentaries about parrots. Guitar heros with their small salaries and virtual dreams give their parents hope that bigger is no longer better.

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1 Comment September 30, 2009

Darn It, I Accidentally Learned Something From Pesky GenY

Sigh.

I hate having to admit something like this, but I accidentally learned something useful and important from my GenY friends.  Something even, gulp, practical.

I learned to (temporarily) set aside my scorn for the importance of pursuing your “passion.”  As we all struggle with the turmoil of the current economic situation, I have come to realize that the GenY folks around me have a fire in them that pushes them to create and believe in new solutions.  Even though the system did bite the dust, as every GenXer knew it would, they are coming up swinging.

Watching them swing has taught me to see the value of passion as a fuel to create new ways of surviving, rather than just a way to compensate for the drudgery that real life demands.

Next step: Together let’s create a society where we can all fuel innovation with our passion.  Use the passion to build the practical!  Healthcare, anyone?

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Leave a Comment August 7, 2009

John Hughes, filmmaker of Gen X?

If there’s a movie that speaks for Gen X, it is probably The Breakfast Club.  Or maybe Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  Or Pretty in Pink.  Or Sixteen Candles.  Or Some Kind of Wonderful.  It’s really kind of hard to pick.

John Hughes was born in 1950, putting him pretty squarely in the middle of the Baby Boomers.  So how was he able to put the experience of Gen X adolescence so perfectly into his films?  I don’t have a simple answer to this, but this question comes up frequently with my investigations of Gen X pop culture.

I think a large part of the answer is that Gen X selected John Hughes as its chronicler.  He demonstrated an ability to do so with Sixteen Candles, and its success allowed him to continue on that path.  His film choices once he had established himself diverted from the Gen X experience quite a bit (e.g., Home Alone, Planes, Trains, & Automobiles), so I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine that he was somewhat uncomfortable being the voice of Gen X.

From another angle:  there were lots of filmmakers trying to cash in on Gen X teenage moviegoers, but none of them resonated with Gen X the way that John Hughes did.  So the studios had him make a number of films along the same lines, which luckily ended up being just as insightful and iconic as Pretty in Pink.

The movie ends with a reading of  a letter written from “The Breakfast Club” to their detention supervisor:

“Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong, but we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us. In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.

Gen Xers felt misunderstood by our parents and teachers, and John Hughes gave us some of our first times that someone much older than us seemed to get that we felt misunderstood and simultaneously show that some people did understand us.

Thanks, John Hughes.  I’ll be watching some of your movies this weekend.

P.S.  After finishing this post, I discovered a really amazing blog post that indicates that John Hughes was really interested in the Gen Xers he was writing about, especially one that he became pen pals with.  Enjoy!

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1 Comment August 7, 2009

Rickrolling an Entire Generation

GenX often gets the short end of the stick. In their youth, these latchkey kids had to learn to fend for themselves. Ask most Xers what is was like to be a child and they will often tell you stores of self reliance, perseverance, or growing up in an environment that skimped nurturing parental relationships. In the working world, GenX spent much of their career being overshadowed by their Baby Boomer superiors. Just when it became time for GenX to start running the show, GenY entered the workforce, overshadowing many X’ers in the process. The smallest generation, few products were developed specifically for GenX because there was more potential volume in targeting more numerous generations such as the Boomers or GenY. The list of examples goes on, and on…

The one thing GenX has laid claim to (and rightfully so) is 90′s alternative music. Bands such as Rage Against the Machine stoked GenX’s anti system emotions while Pearl Jam and the Seattle Grunge movement embodied X’er apathy. Arguably the definitive band of the era, Nirvana and front man Kurt Cobain strongly resonated with X’ers angst. The song Smells Like Teen Spirit is often considered the preeminent GenX anthem.

For all their exiguities, at least GenX had music. Unfortunately, this sacred foundation has been desecrated. The following video manages to rickroll an entire generation (be sure to watch at least 30 seconds in).

Nirvana vs Rick Astley – Never Gonna Give Your Teen Spirit Up

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Leave a Comment July 22, 2009

Morgan Stanley Believes in Teens

Yesterday Morgan Stanley released a report profiling a 15-year-old intern’s view of media in the European market. Obviously American generational rules do not apply to this character. Nonetheless, this report affirms the importance of leveraging generations for insights. While not all of the implications transfer to the US market, they are similar enough to be strikingly relevant. A few of the best snippets include:

- “Almost all teenagers like to have a ‘hard copy’ of the song (a file of the song that they can keep on their computer and use at will) so that they can transfer it to portable music players and share it with friends.”

- “[Teenagers] realize that no one is viewing their profile, so their ‘tweets’ are pointless.”

- “As consoles are now able to connect to the internet, voice chat is possible between users, which has had an impact on phone usage; one can speak for free over the console and so a teenager would be unwilling to pay to use a phone.”

- “[Bluetooth] is used to send songs and videos (even though it is illegal) and is another way teenagers gain songs for free.”

- “Mobile email is not used as teenagers have no need; they do not need to be connected to their inbox all the time as they don’t receive important emails.”

- “Teenagers are also watching less television because of services such as BBC iPlayer, which allows them to watch shows when they want.”

It is imperative to remember that the things we find captivating may not be of much interest to alternate generations. In a recent blog post, Sarah Lacy explores this idea by comparing Twitter to SendMe. In a nutshell, Twitter has gained huge interest and popularity amongst an adult crowd (obviously), but has yet to captivate the teenage market, or become profitable. Conversely, SendMe, a service tailored to the specific ways by which teens use mobile technologies, is immensely popular amongst this demographic and quite profitable.

Generational curiosity forces us to focus on areas we might otherwise neglect. The focus and recognition of differing behaviors often has distinct product development implications. SendMe clearly demonstrates this point.

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Leave a Comment July 15, 2009

Gen Y in Spite of Myself

As the current economic downturn begins to show early signs of a potential recovery, the opportunity window to prove true a long held prediction is running out. If Generation Y is to discover how cold, lonely, and awful the world is, they had better do it soon (lest we wait another business cycle for the next recession). Even before the current recession was underway, many pundits and prognosticators predicted rough times for Gen Y. Sooner or later the proverbial other shoe will have to drop, right? Contrary to fashionable sentiment, the short answer is: no.

It would be difficult to understate the difficulties all Americans face during this current recession. Specific to Gen Y, they face disproportionate unemployment levels, an awful labor market, rising post college debt levels, etc. It is easy to assume that such factors would provide the oft predicted Gen Y reality check. Quite the contrary, it is Gen Y that continues to recalibrate the expectations of the very generations calling for a reality check.

This blog has already explored the crafty solutions recent college grads are using to find jobs. These tactics are driven, in part, by Gen Y’s eternal optimism. A recent study published by Experience Inc. suggests that Gen Y is overwhelmingly optimistic in the face of current adversities. Fully “50% of college students and recent grads feel the job outlook is still positive and a nearly quarter (24%) believe the job market is stronger than depicted by national media.” Most striking, 75% believe the value of their education will remain the same or increase in this down market. So much for that reality check.

I’m routinely shocked by the predictions calling for the failure of Gen Y. I can only guess that they are primarily driven by negative associations. It is a dangerous thing to stereotype any generation, especially Gen Y. Generation Y is often regarded as the most spoiled, selfish, and fickle generation yet. Stories of coddled Gen Y’ers abound (raise your hand if you don’t know at least one Gen Y’er that got a BMW for their 16th birthday, has a great relationship with their parents, or has been financially and emotionally empowered to pursue every personal whim). These anecdotes may be true, but in actuality, narcissistic labels such as “Generation Me” are proving less eponymous than one may hope. Such archetypes are most perceptible; nevertheless, they are not the root cause of this generation’s behavior.

How can I say this with such certainty? It starts with an objective look at the stereotypes. Clearly most 16 year olds are not getting brand new cars for their birthday, especially not new luxury models (for those still in disbelief, Fructify collaborators within the auto industry confirm this statement). Moreover, finances are as finite as the other Gen Y empowering resource, time. Even if the funds of Boomer parents were unlimited, there are still only 24 hours within a day. Gen Y was forced to make tradeoffs. These tradeoffs may be different than the ones Gen X or Boomers faced. Nonetheless, this difference does not negate relevance.

So whats the big deal? Why am I bringing this all up? My point is deceivingly simple actually. Gen Y behavior is not driven by stereotypes. Like all preceding generations, the Gen Y mindset is value driven. As much as I believe my generation is a hyper powered band of iconoclasts, I don’t believe that we have the ability (at least not yet) to change this aspect of human behavior.

How can I be so sure? Simply put, despite my non-stereotypical upbringing, I too share the Gen Y mindset. So when we talk about generations, please understand that the discussion is not rooted in shallow analysis. Significant differences exist; both positive and negative. Our role is to observe and analyze, not judge.

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Leave a Comment July 10, 2009

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