Gen X dads value family over all
Vail CO, Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY”The man at the grocery store wearing a cartoon T-shirt from the early 1990s, a pair of worn jeans and singing along to his iPod may look like he has no business pushing a cart with a child in it.
When he goes out with his daughter, Rick Guerro said he gets “looks of disapproval,” and he suspects it is from the way he dresses and how he talks freely with his daughter, he said.
“I like my shirt, and my daughter likes it too,” Guerro, 34, said as he pointed to his Scooby Doo T-shirt. “I’ve had this thing for years and years. Why should I have to quit wearing clothes I like just because I have a child? For that matter, why should I talk down to her just because she’s 5?”
There are more than 17,000 Generation Xers living in Eagle County, according to the Census Bureau, and 51 percent of the children in the valley are being raised by a parent born between 1966 and 1980.
These Generation X parents, once seen as “slackers,” now own their own companies and are trying to balance family life and work, said Joel Heath, president of Untraditional Marketing in Edwards.
“We’ve found a lot of the Gen Xers have moved up the corporate ladder or own their own business, but they are also very family oriented,” Heath said “They want the things in their life, like technology, to meet their need of having both a successful career and home life.”
“First there was the space age and now it’s the screen age, and parents who are on the go want access to information at any time,” Heath said. “It also helps that the latest technology comes in a variety of styles to meet everyone’s taste.”
Generation Xers are getting to the point in their career where they are earning higher wages, and they are spending those dollars on technology, Heath said.
In Guerro’s case, spending the money to be connected to work through his Blackberry cell phone allows him to spend more time with his daughter, he said.
“At first I thought it was sort of corny to have it, but since I’ve seen what it can do for me and my family I wouldn’t know what to do without it,” Guerro said.
Technology that lets dads stay on top of work while at play also can help them connect with their kids at home, said Robert Murphy, a father of four.
“I like computers, and my son has one of his own,” Murphy said. “He can do all kinds of things on it that you wouldn’t expect, and I think it’s cool.”
Like many other children he went to school with, Murphy’s parents divorced when he was young. His father left home and he was raised by a divorced baby boomer mom, he said. Murphy said he wants more for his kids, and having a strong family is part of that.
“My mom was really strict, more than I would ever want to be,” Murphy said. “My mom did a good job with what she could, but I want to do more than my dad ever did. We do a lot of things together as a family, and my wife and I will let them be who they are.”
Research suggests that Generation X dads take their parenting responsibilities seriously, but don’t think they have to sacrifice their personal lives to do it, Heath said.
“Family is everything to this generation, and parents want to come together with their kids,” Heath said. “In theory and according to our research, they join in on what their kids are doing instead of just watching, and more often than not they are the ones encouraging their kids to try something they enjoyed when they were a kid.”
High divorce rates among baby boomers has also influenced the way Generation Xers view marriage and raising children, Heath said.
“You see more men staying at home with the kids than you would have ever before,” Heath said. “If they can figure out a way to tele-commute for a job, they will. If they can’t, and they have to work, they will take more of a role in the duties of parenting like cooking and getting up early with the child.”
Spending more time having fun with his family, and less time at work, is Murphy’s goal, he said.
“Just like anyone else I know, I would like to get to a point early where I don’t have to work,” Murphy said. “We have four kids, the oldest is six, and I don’t want to have to work until after they are out of college. Life is for living, not wasting it working all the time.”
Staff writer Alison Miller can be reached at 748-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.