Monday, June 04, 2007

More Old vs. New

Here's an interesting essay by Penelope Trunk entitled "Generation Y: Our American Dream." Trunk indulges in a little ahistorical generational warfare (something I'm not keen on, for what it's worth) in order to make a case I agree with:

The best of Generation X and Y are slow to move into the work force and quick to leave it. According to the department of labor, people in their 20s change jobs, on average, every two years. And Generation X is shifting in and out of the workplace in order to spend more time with kids. It's costing companies a lot of money, and they're paying millions of dollars a year in consulting fees to figure out how to decrease turnover.

There are many reasons for high turnover, but the most fundamental one is that baby boomers have set up a work place that uses financial bribes to get people to give up their time: Work 60 hours a week and we'll pay you six figures. Generation Y will not have this. To hold out money as a carrot is insulting to a generation raised to think personal development is the holy grail of time spent well.

Baby boomers are also baffled by women who grow large careers in their 20s and then dump them in order to spend time with kids. Newsflash: Generation X values their family more than their money. Our American Dream is not about buying a big house, our dream is about keeping a family together. You can tell a lot about values by the terms that are coined. When baby boomers were raising kids they invented the term latchkey kid and yuppie; we invented the terms shared care and stay-at-home-dad. The divorce rate for baby boomers was higher than any other generation. We can afford to have less money because most of us don't need to fund two separate households.

I don't like the way Trunk sets up Boomers as the enemy; it's self-righteous, and not an accurate reflection of reality. Generations are complex and contradictory, and I can point to lots of people my age who don't fit Trunk's vision of Generations X and Y. Moreover, struggles and trends initiated by previous generations made our choices possible. It's spoiled to think otherwise.

But, she's put her finger on something important and widespread, and perhaps she's not wrong to feel a certain degree of generational pride, or at least amplify the parts we should feel proud of.

Here's another link of interest: a new bill in California will make it easier for men to change their last names after marriage.


Anonymous said...

My husband is at the end of genX by most definitions. He was a stay at home dad 20 years ago. He was not the only or even first in a backwater red state area. It is NOT something invented by NY and San Fran Gen Yers. You do seem to be getting more support and acknowledgement though, which is all to the good.

I just read this woman's myths column at Yahoo and have to say she sounds totally disconnected from reality. Gaps in employment to find yourself are a good idea? Not without good reasons and something to show for it they aren't. Refuse promotions if they aren't perfect for you and try to negotiate for flextime instead? Okay, hope that works for her but I can't say it has for anyone I know. They comments are running very negatively for her.

Anonymous said...

She seems to have reworked it slightly for her piece printed in the Boston Globe, but still not really connected with reality for those trying to advance in any sort of corporate setting.