X'ers Being Successful Children or Successful Parents?

Of course there’s no absolute either/or here, but there’s a shift underway that matters to business. Boomers’ focus was (and remains) on insuring that their children succeed. X’ers want their children to be successful, but for many, being a “successful parent” is also an important goal.

For many X’ers, living up to some internal standard of what constitutes a “good parent” is important. For most, this involves the amount of time spent with children. For many, it implies providing a structure that they feel was lacking in permissive Boomer parenting styles or during their own latch key kid childhoods.

From a business perspective, you get between X’ers and their children at your peril. Even in these difficult times, companies are finding X’ers unwilling to compromise their standards of parenting. Pushed too far or too hard, many will opt out – or turn off.

Where Boomers were willing to work extra hours to get ahead, X’ers often are not. For Boomers, the extra hours translated into increased earnings potential and greater opportunity to provide their families with the benefits that would pave a path to success. For X’ers, extra hours mean time away from the family and missed priorities.

President and Mrs. Obama and stars, from Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt on, symbolize the X’er devotion to parenting. Husband-and-wife rock stars Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel are so committed to active parenting that they take their two children with them on tour. Formed in 1997, their American indie rock group, Mates of State, has produced five universally praised albums. Their tour contract contains a rider requiring the dressing room be stocked with baby food for newborn June and a surprise for 4-year-old Magnolia. Kori breasts feeds the baby and Jason takes Magnolia swimming in the hotel pool each morning.

But the determination to be a “good” parent is by no means limited to stars. Most of the X’er parents I’ve interviewed over the past several years have spoken of decisions made based on achieving their vision of what a good parent should do – working reduced hours, choosing jobs that involve less travel, saying no to extra assignments or promotions.

These choices can be hard for Boomers to understand. For most Boomers, anything that brought greater career success would ultimately translate into a bigger head start for their children. The game plan for helping their children succeed was different.

For companies and managers, the priority that X’ers place on active parenting requires consideration in your approaches toward retaining and engaging this key cohort.

If you’re in Generation X, do you agree? Is parenting an important priority? Have you made career tradeoffs as a result? How have companies helped you balance competing demands?

Boomers, have you noticed the shift? How have you responded?

Y’s, I know most of you don’t yet have children, but how are you thinking of parenting priorities?

Source: Tamara J. Erickson @ Harvard Business