Because You Couldn’t Do It is not a Reason I Can’t: Female Repression, GenX Pendulums and the Glass Cage

17 Mar
In a glass cage

In a glass cage (Photo credit: Elisabetta_81)

By Gayla Schaefer

Most members of our Lost Generation X had confusing relationships with our Boomer parents, whose media-driven focus on their own generational “revolutionary” role in history often eclipsed simple parenting techniques.

Although we may adore our own parents, many authors argue that our generation has been most indelibly shaped in reaction to their generation’s collective lifestyle and focus choices which left us as a group as possibly the least nurtured generation of children in American history when removing other variables.  We did, however, learn from (or because of) them how to prioritize, be self reliant, form incredibly strong bonds, and, we all learned the important stabilizing role of mothers in times of crisis.

Just using pop culture as an artistic guide to understanding the times in which we grew up, it is important to realize how many of the movies, cartoons, and television shows, which often took the place of supervision for us, featured single mothers taking care of everything or doing whatever was necessary to keep things together. E.T., Toy Story, Forrest Gump, etc.

We had no lack of strong mother leader archetypes – although few married ones. 

Back in 1998, I learned in my undergrad marketing course at the University of Florida that as Gen Xers (a divisive term that has always struck me as meaning exactly the same as the more descriptive designation of the Lost Generation preceding the Boomers’ parents), our age cohort would likely never have any real power. Sandwiched between two mega-generations during the mass advertising age, our generation would not have the same buying power to influence popular commercialized culture. We would likely not have a very long period of time in top political leadership thrones because the number of presidents and prime ministers from our age cohort would be much fewer than those from the Boomer and Gen Y/Echo Boomer groups crowding in.

Commercial and political messages would focus on the Aging Boomers and the Coming of Age Y’s, with minimal attention to the needs of our group at any given time. Our generation would strangle under the debts and entitlement needs of the Boomers and could look forward to inheriting a world that was much more competitive because of the numbers of Boomers holding senior positions and Millennials fighting for promotions.  There would be much less opportunity for any of our own self-indulgences. The one silver lining, if there was one, was that our small age cohort would be positioned well to take the best leadership roles from retiring Boomers as the next generation began to drive down entry and mid-level salaries because of the sheer supply of workers.

In the 15 years since, I have seen most of that professor’s predictions come true. One almost never hears about the plight of the now middle-aged Gen Xers amid the hubbub about the retirement and healthcare crises for Boomers and the horrific entry-level job market and student loan debts faced by new grads. One could assume from the lack of discussion, that we Gen Xers are having a more easy time of it.

Of course, you would never hear someone our age say that.

What you hear instead is how incredibly tired they have become of hearing about the revolutionary plights of our elders and juniors. And, many are easily offended by claims that our generation is selfish and cynical since for many Latchkey kids, growing up with the first generation of socio-emotionally revolutionized parents and/or middle class divorced working moms was only an empowering experience because of the emotional self-reliance demanded. We were too young or missed the Feminist Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Counter-Culture Movement of the Me Generation and are now too old, generally with families of our own, which we take immense responsibility and perhaps too much pride in as helicopter parents, to participate heavily in any of the newer social movements.

However, because Lost Xers are busy “getting shit done,” as Aaron Hurst so-aptly said, does not mean we do not care. Perhaps it is that we have never had the luxury of thinking ourselves the center of a moveable societal universe in the way the generational layers surrounding us have. And, so, we stand our own little patch of ground, minding our children with such intense devotion to extreme familial perfection modeling that it has to be the resulting pendulum swing from the “friend-parents” of the 70’s and 80’s, and try to hold on to what we have built. We do not let anything, if at all possible, distract us from our collective understanding that our children’s needs must come before our own.

We get married later, if at all, and we stay married longer than the other two current generations. We may over-schedule and push our children Tiger Mom style, but we would never allow them to spend any significant amount of time home alone.  We know more work-from-home and stay-at-home moms than any of us ever saw growing up. The cause and effect contrast are obvious.

My mother, who actually wrote a newspaper column in Texas for 5 years called “Super-Mom,” modeled more the Gen X work-from-home hybrid mother than the over-worked, often bitter or dating parents of many of my peers. After yet another story about one of my pre-teenage friends whose parents were more interested in finding their newest soul mates than making sure the kids from the previous marriage were getting enough supervision or homework help, my mother worried what kind of strict, traditional parents we would grow into in response to our “revolutionary” upbringings.

Well, take one look at the suburban playground moms or the plethora of children’s structured activities starting in preschool to prepare them for college, or the amount of “re-post this pic if you would rather stay home with your kids and spend every dime on them instead of yourself” posts by Gen Xer moms, and you see she was spot on in her assessment about the pendulum. I think the reaction of my generation has in fact had a much greater impact on society than we realize, however – shaping everything from the exponential growth of the evangelical movements to the outcry about Marissa Mayer and Yahoo’s move to cut out working from home.

Unfortunately, many of the mothers of my generation fell back into patterns from the 1950’s but with loads of added stressors and unrealistic expectations about “having it all.” Not only was it not ok to put needs for fulfillment – whether personal or financial – ahead of our children and families, it was also not acceptable not to work (for money) and stay at home full-time. After all, we were all raised on sound bites about the dreaded and elusive Welfare Queen who sat around with her children all day living off of other people. It is hard not to internalize the message underlying that image, especially for highly educated women with the ability to have a profitable career, in such a way that it seems ok to make the privileged choice to stay at home with your children and not also find a way to bring in some kind of income.

Thus the work-from-home Hybrid GenX Mom was born.

Now we really can have it all if we choose, we told ourselves – satisfying work, financial independence, and a beautiful family which would benefit from our less divided attention. Working from home allows for reductions in the need for the evil daycare or latchkeys we all either experienced or imbibed negative opinions about from the extensive media coverage in the 70’s and 80’s. However, in reality, juggling everything in one physical space is not a panacea and can create a lot more stress.

And, since we are Gen Xers, its ok for there not to be much time for us to think about ourselves. We went from taking care of our parents’ emotional needs to our children’s.  Boomer parents never would have gone for the lack of me-time to be sure. But Gen X mothers seem to have accepted, unfortunately in my opinion and “Perfect Madness” to others, that we should not think much about our own needs because that could lead us to think less about those of our children, whom we all agree must come first.

It could have ended badly for Gen X mothers, trying in a somewhat vain retaliation to become the selfless parents we craved while neglecting our own financial and personal needs on a chosen path sometimes eerily similar to the generation of women freed from feeling success only through their children’s endeavors by The Feminine Mystique.

The difference, and why our generation of mothers holds exciting possibilities for great leadership, is that while we have chosen to put our families first, we were also raised to be empowered, successful women. We went to school during the period of time that girls started to outshine boys academically and college was definitely no longer a place just to meet a good husband. We were raised to think of ourselves as equal to the boys and often, to think of ourselves as better than the men. We gave each other advice like, “you can have it all, just not at the same time,” instead of deriding one another’s life choices about college, marriage, family, and career.  Our generation in general has become known for our entrepreneurial acumen (quite useful to the stay-at-home/working mothers looking for more control over their own schedules) , our contentment with focus on work-life balance, and our ability to rebuild the corporate ladder paradigm to accommodate our different life phases.

As the mother of boys now, I have had to come to terms with this unpleasant truth, however: I was not raised in a society that taught me to understand men. I learned to either fear and disdain them as authoritarian dictators, deadbeat dads, rapists, pedophiles, oppressors, or perhaps the hardest to admit, as simple creatures who’s spiritual, emotional, and critical thinking skills were of a lower level. Women were more civilized. Traditionally female-child behavior was rewarded in school as good conduct while traditionally male-child behavior was shunned. Women were less selfish and were skilled at building “villages” to raise our children or whatever else needed doing without much help from the probably sex crazed, violent and/or superficial men just one step away from becoming pathetic middle-aged family destroyers who run off with young secretaries.

As a wife and mother of two boys now, I can attest to the fact that these are not inherent qualities of all boys and the impact of the stereotypes about men on my boys’ developing psyches worries me a great deal. That broken model of man only thrives where it is allowed or expected. Hannah Rosin’s, The End of Men, opened my eyes a great deal to how quickly much of this has happened and what some of the major consequences may be for our boys.

As some genius said, if you treat them like criminals, they will behave as such.

Conversely, if generations of young men are raised to view themselves equal with women and feel the expectation of being co-parents, co-providers, and good role models, we hopefully end up with a different breed of man. I believe many men raised by strong single mothers who learned to value their mothers as the head of household, although maybe not ideal, may have started to drastically change the way we all understand family power dynamics. I certainly did not grow up with the notion that fathers had any more inherent family leadership abilities than mothers and saw few examples to prove otherwise. Most in my generation saw pitifully few examples of successful father-knows-best leadership – more often seeing mothers rebuilding after the traditional heads of household ran amok. We did, however, begin to see examples of equal parenting, sometimes created only by court order, and we all knew the sacrifice and determination of at least a few amazing single moms.

Believing these things about the importance of financial independence and the false security of marriage, to whatever subconscious degree, and trying to fit as a modern woman back into any version of the traditional mother role, working or otherwise, has been awkward if not painful for most of the women I know. It has been for me at times to be certain. One overheard conversation about the lazy moocher, the salary of a daycare worker, or the sideways glance about the stay-at-home dad who should really be doing something better with his life, and we must confront again the notion that taking care of children and family is still not a very respected or REAL American value yet. And, unlike other emotional challenges, there is an unwritten rule that a woman who complains in any way about the privilege of “getting to stay home” or who has chosen to work when “she didn’t really have to,” is a selfish monster. And Gen Xers hate nothing so much as a self-absorbed – and therefore negligent and bad – parent.

And yet, I believe something wonderful and revolutionary for leadership is occurring.

Instead of collectively working to keep one another down and accepting of our respective roles as either workers or mothers, women empowered by the movements of our mothers and grandmothers, and assumptions about our own self-worth because of them, have formed network after network of support for one another in a breakdown of the so-stupidly-called “Mommy Wars.”

Yes, working moms and stay at home moms still have social conflicts in ways that drive some of us absolutely up the wall trying to evade the junior high school clique re-forming in the preschool parking lot. But, those divisions are breaking down. Like most Xers, our gang of friends has always been more like a family – and that family for me, like so many my age, includes childhood friends turned mothers from different socio-economic backgrounds, religions, race and ethnic backgrounds, ideologies, career fields, etc. Also, through forming social connections online with other moms through “Mommy Blogs” and the like that lead to real life meet-ups, partnerships, collectives, co-ops, and friendships, American women are supporting their sisters’ and daughters’ right to choose the lifestyle that works for them and their children in ways I believe are unprecedented.

At least in America, ours was the first generation of women who always assumed we would have careers. We were the first generation of kids in fully integrated schools with friends from different races from our formative years. We were the first generation of girls to grow up questioning fairy tale endings, but more importantly fairy tale ideals. We were also the short attention span MTV generation, who witnessed the birth of the Internet and the dissolution of reliable and professional journalism as the primary source of news for opinion forming. And, as American Girl dollmakers have so sadly made commentary with Julie the Divorce Doll, we were the divorce generation. We are now the generation who is just as or more likely to rely on our family of friends for parenting advice than to call on our own folks who represent, whether they deserve it or not, the generation of parenting leadership style we most want to avoid.

The world is more segmented than ever before – but also closer together. Technological advances and economic collapses have created a free-for-all for individuals to re-shape their views on almost everything. The hyper-partisanship in America that has led to the kind of brick wall debates Washington politicians have perfected to keep us in a seemingly perpetual standstill, which also produced the War on Women political climate in 2011-12 that led me and Dawn to create the Leadership Voices project, has also created the push back. From attacks on Sandra Fluke for speaking up for women like me whose medical condition is treated with what are commonly called birth control pills to government sponsored forcible rape (otherwise known as consent-free transvaginal ultrasound), women and mothers of my generation and others across the political spectrum, woke up in the past two years and realized that we need to pay more attention.

Whether self-proclaimed “feminists” or not, women realized that there are indeed still a great many powerful people in the world who do not see us as completely equal citizens deserving of the same rights. Learning more about Malala and the treatment of women in horrifically sexist societies thanks to technological advances in media, has also helped American women of the comfortable middle class variety to identify these same restrictions existing in America despite our best efforts to pretend them away.

While in Florida with my best friend for her father’s funeral recently, the two of us found ourselves helping her 19-year-old daughter with a college English essay. The assignment was to craft an argument related to the following topic: Female Repression and Its Consequences on Society. I have now spent more than a month reviewing parts of that conversation in my mind and building on the insights the three of us stumbled upon as we discussed it.

My best friend, Alexia, a Speech Language Pathologist who became the first in her immigrant family to graduate from college a few years ago after becoming a wife and mother in her teens, is now a graduate student and a full-time language pathologist for young children. She is one example that despite even the hardships associated with teen marriage and parenthood, Gen Xers are devoted to their marriages and children. Married for almost 20 years to her high school sweetheart, she coached cheerleading to support her daughter’s primary extra-curricular activity, put herself through college while working as a realtor, and is now the proud parent of an incredibly bright college sophomore and an equally amazing middle-school aged boy who told me he would have voted for Jill Stein if he had been old enough in 2012.

As I was explaining the contrasts between the words “repression” and “oppression,” Alexia sat quietly.  When I finished my primer on how oppression is exemplified by outside forces working against a group whereas psychological repression can be explained as hiding the truth from ourselves in ways that pop out in other areas of our lives, such as unexplainable anger, depression, or inability to trust or “lean-in”, Alexia spoke up finally with a perspective that opened my eyes.

She shared a simple story about monkeys, bananas and a ladder. To her recollection, researchers conducted an experiment whereby they placed several monkeys in an area with a ladder in the middle, directly under a bunch of bananas. True to their nature, the monkeys set off up the ladder to get the fruit. When they did, the researchers would spray them with cold water from a fire hose. Eventually all the monkeys in the area stopped trying to climb the ladder and ignored the fruit.

Next, the researchers put in a new monkey. When the newcomer went for the ladder, the other monkeys did whatever they could to keep him/her from going up even though the researchers no longer would spray them. The monkeys repeated this with each new addition to the population even as researchers slowly removed the original monkeys one by one over the course of the experiment. In the end, researchers discovered that even once all the monkeys who had the negative experience with the ladder were removed, leaving none with first-hand experience of what would happen if they climbed the ladder, all the remaining monkeys continued to beat down any newcomer who dared near the ladder.

I recall hearing a similarly disturbing story about elephants only needing to run into an electrified fence once and they would never again try to leave the previously confined space. Not even when the fences came down.

Since returning home, I looked up the monkey experiment to read more about it. Generally it shows up online under organizational culture and mob mentality topics although the specifics were refuted. I think my friend had the most unique epiphany from the story, however.

The story can explain how women have held themselves and each other back for so long in a very plain and simple way: we don’t even know why we are doing it anymore. Luckily for us, our leadership storytelling mechanisms are infinitely more advanced than our fellow primates and our generation of mother leaders are helping one another figure out how to get to -and share- the bananas, so to speak.

As the news cycle focused recently on Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In, examining this exact topic of female repression in the context of its consequences on individuals more than society at large, I came back to this example of the monkeys and the ladder in my mind again and again.

I have a steady group of women I gather with for friendship and support – in both Tennessee and Florida. As has always been my role, I provide the pep talks and moral support for my more serious and logical friends since I have always sought out close confidantes  who complement my romantic idealistic tendencies.

This past week, however, one of my friends shared the Time magazine article on Sandberg’s “Lean In.” Then she called me out for doing this to myself when it comes to my own abilities despite my cherished role as promoter and defender of my girlfriends’ awesomeness. It was a psychological slap to hear my worst fears about myself identified by a woman who has reached a level of success far greater than any I have dreamed of – at least since I got married and had children.

Watching Meet the Press as the guests debated Sandberg’s book, I found myself nodding along with Marsha Blackburn (whom I normally can’t stand) and shaking my head to one of the more liberal guests. It only happened a few times, but it made the point I needed for this topic:

All women in leadership roles, regardless of ideological differences, need to lend their voices to the collective consciousness-raising on this one. Our generation of mothers in particular.

Gen X mothers have the skills, intellect, empathy and ability to lead but many of us do hold ourselves back because we have repressed those desires and abilities for so long. Yet, leaders who can put themselves second to the needs of the country our children will inherit and build strong coalitions across existing boundaries to find new ways to once again see and reach for the bananas hanging above us is exactly the kind of leadership needed in 21st Century America, if not the world.

Gen Xers get shit done. I would go a step further to say that Gen X mothers not only get it done, we build the bridges and ladders needed to help our compatriots along the way get theirs done too. It is time we see that these particular strengths can no longer be ignored or repressed in ourselves not only so that we can become CEOs but to call us to service as public leaders if we truly want to impact that which we claim to be our most cherished value: our children’s future.

We aren’t facing so much a glass ceiling of oppression anymore, although we have certainly identified those who started this experiment in the first place and would still like to pull the strings on our lives. Now, what we must confront and shatter is the glass cage of our own making in addition to any imposed upon us. Or, as Maria Shriver reframed Sheryl Sandberg’s points, we must “lean in and push back.”

If you have been in the cage all of your life, you don’t even see the bars. Once you see the cage, however, it is  impossible and soul crushing to ignore it ever again.

We have been propped up on the shoulders of our mothers and grandmothers, and our friends and family who have taught us how to work together as a village. Even if we are still unsure about that ladder, we climb it together. And, even when we recently discovered what had scared us away from it to start with, many of us have recognized that there is always more than one way to get at those bananas – and we have become quite skilled at doing whatever needs to be done.

Our great grandmothers noticed the cage, climbed the ladder and were knocked down. Our mothers and grandmothers overcame their fear and began to break through the ceiling above the ladder separating them from the fruits of their labor.

After the recent rude awakening to the closet feminists in us all, we are now tasked with showing our sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, the bars we have discovered separating and enclosing us that are still to be shattered.  Breaking free of our repression of this acknowledgement that there is a cage in our thinking, we can then work together to dismantle the enclosure, end the experiment and emerge free to head in any direction we may choose to tackle.

Gen X may in fact be the perfect model of leadership for our troubled age.

We were not coddled, allowed to see ourselves as the center of any universe, or ignorant of the plight of those around us. We are acutely interested in the future for our children and learned early on how to form alliances within our village to make up for the pieces missing within our own families. We convinced ourselves for decades that we could control our own family’s fate but have lived long enough now to understand that there are some forces and events for which no amount of planning can prepare us unless we have built a strong support system safety net. We bridge the gap between the digital native Millennials and the digital alien Boomers just as we once bridged gaps between our torn and re-formed families. We understand that change is a necessary part of life but also understand the value of holding on to the things that matter most.  We understand the concept behind “whatever does not kill you makes you stronger” and know how to create new lives based on what we learn as we go through Hell.

We are the strong Mother Archetype leaders our country needs and, just like the strong women who raised us, we will rise to the tasks at hand to find our way through the maze. We will ride the pendulum together with our sisters, brothers, mothers, daughters, husbands and sons to smash through the glass.

Just because they could not all reach the bananas, is not a reason why we can’t.

Just because most of the current American public leaders present a myriad of failed leadership archetypes to follow is not a reason that we can’t make a difference. Taking care of our country – making it a place where the universal Pre-Kindergarten values of fairness, opportunity for education and personal growth, safety and kindness prevail – is part of looking out for our children’s best interest. And, whether we are Free Range parents or Helicopters, liberals or conservatives, cynical hipsters or evangelical moms, all Gen Xers agree that everything we do is for naught if our actions – or inaction – hurt our children in the long run.


Related Articles:

Rebranding Generation X

Why Women Must Lean In and Push Back

How Women Succeed: Who Does Sheryl Sandberg Think She Is?

Can Modern Women Have It All?

Sheryl Sandberg on Why It’s OK to Cry at Work

Guys Who Get It: The Men of the Feminist Movement

The End of Men

Gen X Members are “Active, Balanced, and Happy.” Seriously

8 Responses to “Because You Couldn’t Do It is not a Reason I Can’t: Female Repression, GenX Pendulums and the Glass Cage”

  1. lynnolsen March 17, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

    This article is brilliant. Congratulations, Gayla!! Please write your own book — you have so much to contribute.

    • Pam Weisbrod March 17, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

      My exact thoughts L! This is a masterful piece which women and men of all generations should read. Gayla, thanks for articulating so well what many have been thinking. This is the start of a very successful book!

  2. Jenny Blackburn March 18, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    Fantastic! I agree with your mums… You should definitely write your own book. Personal experiences make this point come across so clearly. I can imagine that a lot of people in our generation don’t even realize the things that you pointed out in the post. I’ve had my own frustrations, discussions and ideas about the effects of being sandwiched between the two generations that surround us. I guess I always imagined that my parents’ generation would just turn into the helpful, responsible and family-centered generation that their parents were. Taking on baby sitting (I was absolutely raised partially by my grandparents!), moving close to us for family support (nope! Vacation homes in other areas are way more attractive) and hovering over recipes and pots of Sunday Gravy with me and my daughter (nah… my mom was too busy with herself and too pampered with pre-made food products to take the time to learn Grandma’s Sunday Gravy recipe. She’d rather leave that up to me to figure out). Instead there’s been MANY comments about how they “already raised their kids”. And that it was now “their time.” Ha! Well, honestly, I don’t see anything that is too far from what they’ve always done. I’m just beginning to learn about the generation coming up behind us. Like you pointed out in your article… I’ve been too busy running the everyday business of saving the entire world around me to even give those little ankle biters a second thought! I often wonder if I do too much for my kids. I hear the phrase “I never had this while growing up!” come out of Ryan’s mouth all the time. The old saying about “….Teach a man to fish and he’ll be fed for life” pops in my head all the time. I think the Helicopter Moms in our generation feel like the ‘DOING for’ part of parenting strongly correlates with love. I know that I do. I’ve slept with every one of my kids in my bed up until they were 3. Yes, that means that one still remains! Ha! And this one has been breast fed through three surgeries, the NICU, a c-section and 2 moves. All while trying to contribute to the household bottom line with my measly Zumba income. Of course the exercise career stems from my need to keep myself happier, healthier and more energized to be able to contribute more balance and life to this family… All while My husband is usually out of town. There I go again with trying to save the world by hitting a park full of birds with one stone!

  3. Single working mother March 18, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

    As a single working mother of two children under the age of 10 and having had to support my parents for a long time, I can very much relate to the sandwich generation aspect of the article. However, i would like to add that we take it upon ourselves to take care of others, i.e our family members, our children’s school projects, work related assignments and even making it to our weekly girls’ get together because we WANT to and not because we have to. Inherently, I think our generation wants to be the best at whatever we take on. This comes from being moms, daughters, wives, girlfriends, and everything else in between I may have forgotten, and trying to strike a balance in our lives. I know of several women who take the ‘woe is me’ outlook and never live a fully engaged life, always blaming others for their own shortfalls. This, I believe is their loss because they do not live their life to it’s fullest potential. The fact that we try to do it all is not a shortcoming of ours, but rather a very optimistic view of ourselves that we have what it takes to be successful. As with everything, balance is the key and some time out for ourselves is the secret. I think we as women just have to believe in ourselves and our powers in order to set positive role models for both our sons and daughters.

  4. Arianne March 19, 2013 at 12:35 am #

    Great combo of affirmations of things I had felt but never been able to verbalize mixed with some food for thought. I was struck by many things…particularly “Unfortunately, many of the mothers of my generation fell back into patterns from the 1950’s but with loads of added stressors and unrealistic expectations about “having it all.” Wow!! Me in a nutshell. You’ve also justified (not sure if thats the word i want) some behaviors in myself I’ve never understood and/or wanted to acknowledge..and made me feel better about it!! Good read!!

  5. Gayla Schaefer March 19, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    Thanks for the feedback! I apologize for the length of the post. I have received a few critical comments privately from some amazing Baby Boomer moms that I wanted to respond to here for anyone reading.

    The intent of this post was not to bash Boomers or to stereotype them all into the selfish-negligent parent category. My purpose was to tell a general story about GenX mothers using the stereotyping and backlash to illuminate 1) how our generation collectively understands parenting and women’s leadership; 2) how we can translate our focus on family and our empowered upbringing to encourage more women to see how public service leadership is an extension of our core values; and 3) how we can identify the important leadership roles of mothers across generations, including our own, to step up to the plate as the public leaders of tomorrow who have the benefit of being able to see the viewpoints of those similar and dissimilar across boundaries of age, gender, race and class to break down the barriers holding us back and holding us apart from one another.

    I meant no disrespect to our elders’ revolutionary plights but was attempting to indicate that while we are aware and empathetic of them, we, as a group, are often less interested in rehashing the revolutions of the 60’s and more focused on getting things done now without much regard for the larger historical context. We know the sacrifices of our mothers and grandmothers, but collectively tune out the stories too often in similar fashion to how older relatives may have rolled their eyes hearing about Depression era “walking uphill to school in the snow.”

    This generational reaction to the previous one can cause us to miss the important role we now have to carry on the torch of leadership with the added strength of our own generational collective focus on creating a better world for both our daughters and our sons. By not including context for why the Boomers lives were as they were, I was not marginalizing their story, but shedding light on our own. I was not holding us up as individually better – but speaking to GenX collective experiences and how to channel them into our own leadership. Whether or not our parents divorced, the dynamic family changes during our formative years still impacted us all – as did and does the commercial media focus on the generations surrounding us. My message was a call to action for my fellow GenXers that we also have a voice worthy of hearing and our own unique defining characteristics and values that make us capable of being a different type of leader – a type of leader focused specifically on our children’s collective futures. And, I believe this is a type of leadership our country would benefit from.

    So, while I understand that you can’t please all of the people all of the time, I am hopeful this clarification will help explain to future readers what my goal was here. I believe we must all work together to use and share our unique Leadership Voices. I welcome those voices which disagree with my own because I know that every mother loves her children and has a voice to advocate for their futures, and together we can find the common ground from there to work collectively to make our communities and country stronger for them.

    Thanks again for reading and commenting. I really appreciate the feedback.

  6. marilynbk March 19, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

    Amazing post, Gayla. An article to be published for the masses! You raise excellent points with organized clarity and realism. A great deal of your post resonated with me personally and I applaud your super efforts to share the feelings and expectations of our generation for us!

  7. dvoc2013 April 2, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

    Wow, Gayla! You really hit the nail on the head and shed light on many issues regarding feminine leadership.Great work. I look forward to reading more!

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