There's been a lot of writing lately regarding the new generation that's crept into their Twenties and are now seeking their own slice of the American Pie. Words like 'narcissistic' and 'most self centered' are used fairly liberally towards this new crop of kids. What I also keep hearing is that this generation was brought up with 'trophies' and 'adulation' and the inability to be told 'no' to. I've heard from teachers that it was difficult dealing with their parents, who treat their children like little Messiahs - and when there's a problem at school, it must be the teacher's fault. Sounds pretty terrible, huh?
Well, let me share the upside of all of this: This new generation of kids are inevitably going to affect more family work balance than ever before? Why? Simply put, because in the next few years, when they start settling down and having kids and wanting to spend more time with them, they are going to DEMAND to have more work/family balance; and there are so many of them that companies are going to cede to these demands, change their policies, in order to maintain a better worker pool.
I think USA Today spelled it out fairly accurately in an article they published a little while back:
"They're young, smart, brash. They may wear flip-flops to the office or listen to iPods at their desk. They want to work, but they don't want work to be their life."
Keep reading that last part of the quote. It goes straight to the heart of things.
I used to think that my Generation (X) was going to be the one to shape things up (and doesn't that fall in line with most generations and the marketing campaigns that push it along:) But now, of course, I have a clearer perspective. There might be company policies about paternity leave, more flexible schedules, etc, but it's fairly irrelevant because for most of us Gen-X dads (and some moms, too) it doesn't even occur to us to ask - or if it does, making such a request is so looked so down upon by the powers that be that few dare to make them.
My prediction: not so with Generation 'Me'. They are going to ask big time because it's in their lexicon of desire for self-fulfillment and because for many of them, they remember all too well growing up under the auspices of daycare and full time nannies since their parents were too busy (warranted or not) to be around too much. Remember the cultural creation of 'quality time?' My theory is that it was created sometime in '80's to make working parents feel better because they weren't able to give their kids what they really need: quantity time.
So, keep an eye on this new Generation that everyone older seems to be up in arms about. They're going to change family/work balance in ways previously inconceivable - and then just wait until they are in their forties and now hold the reigns of management. Take a guess at what kind of work/family precedent they will then be beholden to when the toddlers of today march out of college? The Evolution of Dad will be something else altogether and I can't wait, as a granddaddy, to see it.
Evo Dad out.