The generation gap often takes me by surprise. The gap between my twenty-something step-children and me often confounds me, but it’s nothing compared to that between those of my mother-in-law’s generation and me. We have entirely different world views.
She was born in the 1930’s during the heart of the Great Depression. Things were always done a certain way. In her mind, each gender has a specific role. The man works while the woman stays home and cares for the house and family. The man takes care of all the mundane things such as pumping gas, paying bills, painting, mowing, choosing a vacation destination, and so on.
Fast forward to the early 1970’s when I was born amid great political scandals. Remember Watergate? My world view is vastly different. I grew up believing I could do anything. I always knew that I would work outside my home. My career is a large part of how I see myself. I never even contemplated being a housewife. For those unfamiliar with this term, a housewife is defined in the Oxford dictionary as, “A married woman whose main occupation is caring for her family, managing household affairs, and doing housework.” I have no problem with those women who choose to fulfill that role, but it’s not for me. One of my good friends thrives as a housewife, and I have the deepest respect for her.
I know several people of my mother-in-law’s generation who see things that way. One of my clients is 93 years old. I love visiting with him. He has fascinating stories about the Korean War in which he served, his mother’s ideas about his future when he was a child, and the many occupations he worked during his life. I could listen to his stories for hours.
He came in to my office a few days ago. While he was waiting to see one of my coworkers, I visited with him about his kids. He has several children. One daughter, in particular, checks up on him frequently. She calls him every day and sees him often.
He shared how he loves to go out to eat with her during her lunch break from work. I told him that I often go and have lunch with my mother, too. He looked perplexed for a moment and then asked me about who pays. I explained that Mom and I take turns paying. My client always pays when he and his daughter go out because she’s a lady. He told me that he has never let a lady pay for a meal. In his youth, that’s just the way things were done.
I find many of the ideas from the early part of the twentieth century to be sweet, but many others simply don’t mesh well with today’s society. Every generation seems to have certain tendencies. My client doesn’t use the lights in his house unless it’s absolutely necessary because he’s trying to keep his bills low. My step-kids have trouble remembering to turn the lights off at all. Right now, I’m in the middle. I use them when I need them, but turn them off when I leave the room. In time, it will be my ideas and values that seem antiquated and sweet.