“Baby Boomers” was the first name given to my generation. We were born somewhere between the years of 1946 and 1964, a unique segment of the American population with several defining characteristics. Our parents were generally depression-era kids, later eloquently described by Tom Brokaw as “The Greatest Generation”.
Generally speaking, before they became our parents, the men served our country with pride in World War II, and the women helped the war effort by temporarily working in factories. When the war was over and the boys came home, love, marriage, and babies were the order of the day from sea to shining sea. Thus the nickname, "Baby Boomers."
Truly, an unprecedented number of children were born in the United States in the ensuing years. Schools, hospitals, highways and homes sprang up everywhere to accommodate the unique population bubble. Our parents worked hard and realized the American dream. It was "normal" to find an adequate job, be thankful for it, and keep it for 35-40 years. They saved up for everything they bought, paid off their homes and continued to live in them as long as they could. They took care of their cars and other possessions so they could afford to send us to college—a privilege many of them never had. They wanted the best for us and sacrificed to give it to us.
Now we are all grown up, with children of our own. Thanks to the relative prosperity we grew up with, our lives were very different from our parents', and we in turn indulged our kids. We reaped where we did not sow, and as a result, our realities and expectations are barely recognizable to the Greatest Generation, and our kids know even less of want than we did.
The families we created were much smaller than those of our parents, and two incomes were normal. The mothers of my generation were called “supermoms” as we bought into the idea that we could do it all and have it all. Many of our generation opted for advanced degrees, even in the midst of family rearing. It was common for dads and sometimes moms to travel frequently for business, both nationally and globally. We lived in what became known as “transitory neighborhoods” which were new and a bit upscale, but which saw frequent ownership turnover due to job relocations. Families scattered across the country, and it was common to have friends and neighbors who had no relatives living anywhere nearby.
Our kids grew up with daycare, soccer, and extra-curricular lessons of every kind. When they became teenagers, it was not uncommon for us to be buying insurance for the four cars parked in our driveways. College for our kids was an expectation, not a privilege.
Today we find ourselves as a people group in an unexpected and unprepared for situation as we provide sustenance in one form or another to both our aging parents and our not yet completely independent children, or in some cases, grandchildren. However, it seems like the only time the term “baby boomer” is used on us anymore is when someone refers to the Social Security dilemma. We’ve paid into it to help support our parents in their retirement, but have no assurance it will be there for us now that it’s getting to be our turn to collect. And for many, financial pressures mount.
For various social reasons, including the women of my generation permanently entering the workplace in droves, the common use of birth control, and the legalization of abortion in 1973, we became the first generation in American history to deliberately control the size of our families with tremendous success, and the birth rate has dropped drastically in one generation.
Add to that the fact that our generation didn’t scrimp and save the way our parents did. We spent everything we made and then some. Living on credit became a normal way of life, and as advertised, “Life needs VISA”. Our Company pension plans went away and government regulated 401(k) retirement savings plans were designed to help secure our financial future. But we aren’t disciplined concerning money the way our depression-era parents were. We never stood in a bread line, or as an older lady friend of mine used to say, “squeezed a nickel till the buffalo pooped”. (Have our kids ever seen a “buffalo nickel”?)
So by definition, the "Sandwich Generation" is trying to launch one generation into adulthood while at the same time often feeling both scared and helpless as we watch the older generation decline physically and mentally before our eyes. We feel responsible and overwhelmed at both ends of the life cycle. Many of us are draining our emotional, physical, and financial resources as we ask ourselves, “What has become of my life?” We want to do the right thing for the generation that came before us and gave us so much, as well as for the one we brought into the world, but we are barely prepared for these challenges.
So once called the Baby Boomers, the "Sandwich Generation" is where we are now. The purpose of this blog is to document my life as I navigate this stage of it...the good, the bad, the ugly, and by God's grace, the redeemed.
ⓒ Jacquelyn S Stager 2011