"Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better" (Sydney J. Harris)
Inbetweeners is the term we are using to describe today’s parents – the generation rearing the Millenials and Generation Zers. This is the generation who are very much straddling the divide between tradition and more modern views and feeling the strain of this dual pull. As we have already highlighted, the rate at which Irish society is changing is ever escalating. They are rearing their kids in a more open and free society, where the Church has significantly lessened its grip and technology has opened up new possibilities. However what hasn’t changed is the importance of family. Our Inbetweeners, like previous generations are driven to do the best for their loved ones. However in a society where belief systems and life paths have become more fluid, there can be anxiety in this new freedom.
We’re a lot more open-minded… in the back of our minds still holding on to a little bit of what was instilled in us
Our Inbetweeners don’t feel as financially stable as their parents. Despite the recession, we have a more hedonistic bent as a generation. In addition, our career paths and earning potential is less set in stone and open to fluctuations.
I think the difference is, from what I’ve heard, whereas we still would have gone out and had a few drinks and enjoyed ourselves, back in the 80s there was none of that, bills had to be paid
The Inbetweeners recognise that for the older generations, it’s harder to adjust to changes in society. However, popular culture now reflects much more diversity of religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations and family structures so in direct contrast they see their children have grown up with diversity as their normality and are accepting of social structures in constant and rapid flux.
The referendum highlighted their position in the middle of these different mind-sets.
We’re kind of the last generation, the up and coming generation are well used to it, dealing with this kind of thing...what my kids think of family might be different
In discussing the referendum they were driven to ‘think like parents’ – if their children were gay what kind of laws would they want in place. Many had grown up aware of gay people who had not felt accepted by society and had not come out and so were voting yes for the freedom for their kids’ generation to live differently.
There is a feeling that they are better than the previous generation at communicating openly with their children, including tackling more awkward subject matters.
No taboo is taboo
However, as their role with their children becomes closer and more like a friendship, their children are more willing to challenge their authority.
In addition to more open communication with their children, they are actively sharing their experiences as parents with their peers. In the past people kept their concerns or failings to themselves but now sharing allows them an outlet to offload. As a culture we have a huge focus now on child psychology and parenting styles. There is a wealth of sometimes conflicting information available on how to be the best parent you can be. Sharing with peers is a way of sharing knowledge but also angst as parents analyse their parenting choices. Also we found that with working parents, especially the mums, there were feelings of guilt of not being a full-time parent that amplified this culture of parental self-flagellation. The earlier generation were seen to have a more simple and naturalistic attitude to their role as parents, with less navel-gazing and anxiety.
The Inbetweeners had a clear nostalgia for the simplicity of their own childhoods. Modern life seems to offer a paradox of freedom. Traditional institutions have lost their stronghold, but conversely this has eroded the bonds of community and the safety that community offers. Knowledge is more readily available but this has led to a more fearful society where potential dangers are more present.
I drive my kids everywhere… where I would have walked
Technology has enabled endless communication and new social communities, but with this comes added tension for their children as peer pressure becomes ever present.
I don’t let Erin take her phone up to bed and I don’t know if I’m being mean doing that? ... if you don’t text back, you’re not involved and I’m trying to say that to her all the time, when you text something it’s there, you don’t know how many people have seen this now
For our Inbetweeners life is very much a balancing act. Family is at the heart of what they do. They appreciate now what their parents went through as they worry over their own performance as a parent. The modern world is a more complex place for their family with much more information and dialogue. But with this comes more choices and more things they need to protect their family from. They are the generation who have witnessed dramatic changes – from a culture where people were afraid to admit they were gay to one where they suggested that any discussion of a possible 'No' vote would be attacked as being anti-gay. They are the generation who have witnesses the Church shift from being unquestioned to defamed and have seen gender roles become redefined.
Change has been rapid in Ireland – as an example the marriage bar in the public service was only lifted in 1973 and same sex sexual activity was only decriminalised in 1993. The Millenials only know this changing fluid society, but the Inbetweeners have conflicted attitudes – embracing the positives of change but nostalgic for the simpler family life of old.
Tara Finnegan is Strategic Planner
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