fatherhood: is it generational?

By Shannon Vaughn

Founder, Pursoma

07.03.21

MAJOR GENERATIONS OF THE WESTERN WORLD:

1883-1900 Lost Generation

1901-1927 Greatest Generation

1928-1945 Silent Generation (my father born 1940)

1946-1964 Baby Boomers (my daughter’s father born 1962)

1965-1980 Generation X (me born 1977)

1981-1996 Millennials

1997-2012 Generation Z

2012+ Generation Alpha (my daughter born)

My father was born in 1940 into what is called the Silent Generation. They are known for their heads-down, hard-working nature due to being born during the WWII era. Their parents experienced the Great Depression and vast economic hardship, (if not death during the war), earning them the title of the Silent Generation as they grew up hearing about their parents and grandparents that suffered a life-threatening war and widespread poverty. It wasn’t until the middle of the next generation that followed (Baby Boomers) that the economy soared and they were part of a society experiencing economic growth. They were too old to be full blown hippies, yet are known for starting the civil rights movement and the onset of sex, drugs and rock and roll. My father was silent in his own way as an artist. He never wanted to comment on politics, but was always seemingly concerned for what was right and looking out for anyone who had less than him.

My father’s generation chose to be late to parenting versus having kids early, and they gave birth to Generation Xers instead of Baby Boomers, thus creating a vast gap in generational thinking. In theory, I could have been born from a Boomer, but having a father come from the Silent Generation, I often heard stories about his mother teaching school to feed her kids, or about him never having a new pair of shoes until he bought them himself at 8 years old with money from his first job as a paper delivery boy. He had four jobs in order to put himself through two years of private school when he was just 14 years old. These were not stories of pity, that was just how it was… if you wanted to do anything - you had to do it yourself.

My daughter’s father (my life partner) was also born at the end of his generation. He is technically a Boomer in age range but also on the cusp of Generation X, and born from a father who was on the early side of the Silent Generation and served in the Korean War. He also, not unlike my father, heard stories of hardship from his Irish immigrant grandparents and conservative and frugal parents who did not experience a booming economy until he was older. When we had our daughter, he was over 50 years old. My father had me when he was 45. I see a lot of similarities in their parenting, and although very different people in every way, they both saw having children as older parents as a thoughtful choice versus a stage in their life where it was expected. My father, not so dissimilar to my daughter’s father, had the gift of time. Although both working parents, they were able to see and feel the joy of fatherhood perhaps knowing that this would not occur again and it was an opportunity to indulge in the joys of raising children. Both parents to little girls, both lovers of dogs and avid participants of all things athletic. 

I sit in the middle, at the tail end of Generation X, often struggling to keep up with the technology-driven world of the Millennials and the technological oversaturation of Generation Z, yet enjoying the benefit of growing up where we had to make an effort to learn about something (no Google and no cell phones!). My daughter has the benefit of an “old school” parent as I have innately picked up many characteristics of the Silent Generation from my father’s desire to change the world with art. This has trickled through into our daily lives in a positive way.

My daughter's father and his tireless dedication to working hard and being good at almost everything he tries perhaps will give her a sense of security and knowingness that the world can change around her and seem unstable but she can return to stories of her grandfathers and father and always have hope.

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