Meeting Each Other in the Gaps
Updated: Apr 29, 2022
Is it just me, or is everyone really eager to put a label on themselves these days?
Everyone wants to put themselves in a category. If you like it, then you gotta put a label on it, I guess! Some labels help us understand a little bit more about people and their personalities: "I'm an introvert" "I'm a vegan." "I'm a millennial." Others are used to label people who want to feel like they belong to a certain group of people, maybe out of a sense of safety, or identity: "I'm a democrat/republican." "I'm from up north/down south." "I'm a member of _____." "I support____."The dangerous part about these labels is when we start using them as masks to hide behind.
Societal labels are the norm, whether it be about your preferences, your education, your career, how much money you make, how much you exercise and the list goes on! Labels can be positive or negative. They can be unifying or divisive. It's up to us to change how we use the categories in today's society.
We've been focusing on Generation Labels (Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials and Gen Zers.) The labels we've made for each other based on when we were born can certainly reveal our differences, but if we look closely, there are similarities there, too. It is up to us to see those generation gaps and to learn from them. Let's meet each other in the gaps. Being able to talk about our unfilled spaces, generation-to-generation, is key to understanding ourselves and one another. This is a space to be heard. Let's look past all the labels and see each other for who we really are.
Each generation experiences different struggles. As women, a lot can be gained from listening to women from other generations and hearing their struggles, worries and fears. Sharing our unfilled spaces helps us begin to bridge the gap between all generations and any other societal labels that can get in the way.
We all have unfilled spaces, so in the words of Mama Odie, let's "dig a little deeper..."
Baby Boomers (1946 - 1964)
Known as the generation that created their own entertainment and fun, Baby Boomers are usually hard-working, independent and self-assured. They didn't have technology growing up, which means they didn't rely on technology to get what they wanted super fast, to devour as much knowledge as possible or to communicate instantly. Self-reliance and competitiveness are common characteristics for Baby Boomers. Most people of this generation are either at or nearing retirement age. This is a big transition for women who grew up at a time where more and more women began working than ever before. According to equitablegrowth.org, "From the 1930s to the 1950s...married women entered the workforce in significant numbers, the rate rising from 10% to 25%." Unfilled Spaces for Baby Boomer women may be apparent in personal aspects of their lives. Being the parents of late Gen Xers and Millennials, Baby Boomers were quite invested in their kids' lives - much more than their parents, The Silent Generation. A typical Baby Boomer parent always knew best, was a little demanding and preached self confidence to their kids 24/7. This very involved parenting formula gave us what we now call Millennials and the "Trophy Generation."
Gen Xers (1965 - 1980)
The ones who would sit and wait around for...well, just about anything really! Patiently waiting by the phone for the call of a lifetime and listening out for that song dedicated to a special someone on the radio were everyday Gen X past times. Patience is a Gen X virtue! Gen Xers are often extremely direct, value honesty and choose to confront issues head-on. Unfilled Spaces for Gen X women may appear in their work lives, or in the task of parenting young adults (Gen Zers.) Maybe they see things differently than the rest of the generations because they are sometimes called, "The Middle Child Generation," and they really are stuck in the middle. Gen X was not born directly after WWII, like Baby Boomers, nor were they brought up in a completely modern technological world, like Millennials after them. Gen Xers have seen quite a lot of fast moving change in their lives. Whether it was economic crashes, Cold War fears, or the launch/flop of "New Coke," Gen Xers were subject to a swirling world of change all around them, much like their Gen Z children. According to airesone.com, "Given their (Gen Xers) inherent risk aversion, they’ve continued to instill the same level of pessimism among their kids. While this might sound awful, Gen Xers’ emphasis on self-reliance has meant that their Gen Z kids are able to “figure things out” by themselves." Gen Xers' parenting style is usually described as "helicopter parenting," probably because they had all the freedom in the world as kids and decided that for their kids, maybe too much freedom is a little too risky. How ironic that the children of "The Least Parented Generation" became the most active parents we've seen yet.
Millennials (1981 - 1994)
Ah, Millennials...the so-called, "Laziest Generation." These were the kids of the new millennium. The ones born into the technological society we still have today. 39% of millennials went to college and got a bachelor's degree or higher. More millennial women worked, just like the Gen Xers before them. Growing up during the 90s and the early 2000s is every young Gen Zers' dream these days, and millennials got to really live it up during these times! Trends always find a way of coming back to us, and 90s and 2000s trends have done just that. Technology was at the forefront of millennials lives through AOL instant messenger, myspace and portable laptops. Millennials have been there and done that with their own "hover moms," so as parents, millennials have taken an all new approach: "drone parenting." According to airesone.com, "These parents hover but don’t direct, and they take on a more responsive approach when interacting with their kids. Amidst parenthood, they also try to maintain some semblance of their own lives." This style of parenting is usually more lackadaisical and focused on teaching their kids to be much more open-minded than previous generations. Parenting the millennial way is giving a crying kid a phone to entertain or pacify them instead of spanking them. Standards are changing for everyone, and millennials are definitely used to rapid change. Their reliance on technology has its drawbacks, but no one ever shamed tech-savviness when they were in a technology bind. Harry Potter started out as a millennial thing. Ask any millennial and they will tell you all you need to know about their Hogwarts house and patronus. Being a fan of fantastical worlds is something that still resonates with younger generations. Unfilled spaces for millennials may come from social media and the constant expectations and comparisons that come with it.
Gen Zers (1995 - 2010)
Gen Zers are the generation that other generations don't fully understand yet. These are the kids of the future, but they are also, shaped by every other generation's past. Gen Zers are probably the most open-minded, adaptable generation, but that has been a slow change throughout generations before them. Starting with Gen X, adaptability and constant change became a part of life - something younger generations share. Stubbornness and refusal to change is looked down upon by most people. Living as a part of the "Loneliest Generation," is no joke. Gen Zers don't check in with old friends like other generations. They don't tend to reach out or lend help to those in need. Speaking as a Gen Zer myself, it's concerning that we have all of this technology and capability to communicate, yet we actively choose to be alone. Gen Z is a generation full of independent, entrepreneurial-minded, pragmatic and competitive people. Unfilled spaces for Gen Zers are fear of the future, instability, communication and pressure to accept every new way of thinking. Outside pressures are felt by every generation, and Gen Z is no stranger to pressure. This may be why a lot of Gen Zers have turned off their ability to care about others or cultivating important relationships outside of their own bubble. According to aecf.org, "Technology plays a role, too. Growing up in a hyper-connected world can evoke intense feelings of isolation and loneliness in some youth. It can also fuel a steady drumbeat of negative news stories, a fear of missing out, and shame in falling short of a social media-worthy standard." Depression in Gen Zers is more common than other generations, but they are 37% more likely to seek help from therapy.