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The Parenting Guilt of Generation X

"Go outside and play."


"No 'but.' Go."

I looked at my mother through the dirty screen door. She wore bright yellow elbow-length rubber gloves on her hands and a look of determination on her face — "You are NOT coming back in this house." I turned around and walked into the yard, defeated.

A few hours later, however, when my mother was again talking to me through the screen, the conversation was quite different.

"I said come in here now! It's time to eat"

"No! I want to stay outside."

"David, I am not kidding..."

Such were my childhood summers. I spent a lot of time outside, while my mother was able to get things done in the house, unburdened by a whining, needy kid.

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Today, I've got kids of my own, yet the story is different. There's a sense of guilt I feel if I don't spend every waking moment of my kids' day on the floor, actively engaging them and exploiting every educational opportunity that presents itself. I recently read an article that described this phenomenon as a generational thing, more prevalent among parents in their thirties than previous generations.

Call it The Parenting Guilt of Generation X.

What's going on, Gen X'ers? Is it the parenting shows on TV? The magazines? The repeated viewings of Reality Bites?

I don't know when it happened, but at one point someone impressed upon me the notion that my kids' development and education is all-important, and something that I should ensure at any cost — even my own happiness. "Parenting is about sacrifice," is the mantra I've somehow gotten in my head. But how much?

My mother had no problem letting the kids play on their own, so why can't I?

Anyway, 30-somethings, tell me I'm not alone. Do you struggle with this as well? Life was so much easier when we were wearing Dr. Martins and black T-shirts, listening to The Smiths, and sulking. Ah, the good old days.


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