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This study of three generations, although cherry-picked, subjective, and anecdotal, does tell us something.
- Although easier and more luxurious, my life is more complicated than my grandmother’s.
- In daily living and career options, the ordinary American citizen has prospered in ways that stagger the imagination.
- Families in the ’40s and ’50s labored to provide housing, food, and clothes, while my increasingly pampered generation fights to keep perspective on what is real and important.
|Childhood||School, helping on an Arkansas farm, and ?||Lots of New York farm chores, school, some time to read and roam.||School, lots of time to read and roam; adventures in living abroad, a few chores|
|Teens||School, helping on a farm, dreams of a career in clothing design, which Dad refuses to sponsor.||School and electives, ironing, canning; musicals on the radio; books, piano lessons, rich family life. Dream of being first in family to go to college.||San Diego, TV shows, a few chores, studying, sports. Family and meals around the table. Decision that I will go to college and be a teacher and a missionary. Babysitting.|
|18-22||Marriage; twins at close of WWII, on base in Texas. Feature in newspaper because relative mistakenly received two baby gift sets instead of one, in boy and girl colors that just happened to fit the surprise arrival of two newborns. Failing farm. House that burned down.||College with her first love: music.
Fiance not returning from Vietnam.
|Senior year with parents out of country. Engagement. College. Tiresome annual FAFSA form. Marriage. Two cats. Student teaching; job options. Telling of funny cat stories. Town entertainments and immediate family. Fixer-upper purchase on city half-acre with industrious spouse, 125,000 dollars. Florida trip with Mom to grandparents.|
|22-25||Additions to the family, cloth diaper washing, laundry, cooking, farm work.||Elementary music teaching job; marriage; missionary training. First child on the way.||Exhausting (unsustainable?) but fulfilling teaching job at small school. $418 a week!
Dinners out, movies, purchases. Dismaying extra pounds. Star Trek, ER on dark winter evenings after work; Diana’s demise on TV. Messy back rooms of house. Shopping trips with my mom. A working dog puppy with energy to match husband’s.
Finally, expecting first kid. Three generous baby showers. Theme for baby’s room. Sonograms. Emergency C-section at Christmas; 100-dollar hospital stay; major post-partum anxiety. Maternity pay. Florida trip.
|25-32||More small blessings make six! Cloth diapers, laundry tubs. Husband at Smith-Corona. Early Sundays at the church where husband is pastoring new typewriter factory converts; turning out full family breakfast on site while supervising the kids.
Sewing. Cooking. Family road trips and outings. Farm work. Keeping family fed and clothed.
|Thailand; language learning; the Northeast; village home on stilts with DIY lighting, plumbing, and refrigeration; a sharp, funny, local language informant; an American dear friend and colleague; prayer letters with carbon paper; a move to a large modern house in town.
Four kids under eight; dawn rising and daily naps; decade of daily cloth diaper washing; maternal high blood pressure; duckie-adorned diaper pins and plastic pants. Leisure book orders for kids. Packages from the US.
Daily schedule with Bible study, homeschooling young children, language-lesson writing, sewing of family clothes, cooking dinner, and relaxing evening reading.
Biking to the market. Bird-like petiteness of her and her missionary cohort, despite rice as main staple.
Thai school and boarding school education options for growing kids.
Travel to Bangkok, days out at markets and department stores, hired help for household chores. One-year visit to US with small children, yearly trips to Pattaya Beach conference, hand-sewn Barbie doll clothes and other creative Christmas gifts for daughters. Husband’s first computer and printer.
|Second and last child, more sonograms, high blood pressure, stay-at-home-parenting.
Two in disposable cartoon-themed diapers; gifted diaper genie too complicated to use. Daily chore of emptying nursery trash can.
Weekly schedule: morning chores and child enrichment; afternoons of writing and Internet for me; Tuesday and Thursday as “outing days.”
Guilt about car seats, vaccinating, not vaccinating, disciplining, not disciplining. Evening meal prep. Fast food and quick meal options. Sam’s Club.
Husband home improvement projects and noble large lab revived from Parvo to gently harass the blue heeler. Bamboo, succulents, and retaining walls. Dog toys and clever dog stories. Cat access doors to outside cage networks.
Zoo and Sea World memberships; parks and picnics; trips to beaches and bays; Wild Animal Park; fast food play places; sunny days; stacks of illustrated children’s books to read aloud. Themed birthday parties with rented jumpees.
Family room add-on. Extra money and new furniture purchases from IKEA. Real-estate boom. Refinances and loan consolidations.
Immediate family for eating out, special outings, Christmas, birthdays, and indulging of toddlers. Joining of obnoxious ‘90’s SAHM trend of saying my kids are smart. Family photography sessions with sister.
Daily walks and protracted political conversations with dedicated neighbor friend; monthly neighborhood lunches and newsletter. Getting in marvelous shape with with 10% junk food plan and pushing double stroller up hills; newborn slouching on her side of stroller.
Blog-writing, investment in rejected article proposals, sale of one article, and reading of favorite blogs. Paper grading to finance enrichment preschool for kids two mornings a week; getting slowly back into education workforce just because, with visible stress to kids. Husband in hot tub dreaming of moving out of city. Montana trips.
|32-42||Teenagers and their love of music, books, drama class, and conversations around the table. A dry wit to amuse the family. Skilled and fast cook of traditional spreads: roasted poultry, vegetables, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy. A clean, neat, and ironed household. Long days at typewriter factory. Direction of household chores, like picking berries. Canning projects after work. Church.||A few more years in Thailand, and then a long stay in the States. New York, Pennsylvania. Uncertainty about next steps, missing Thailand. San Diego for short time with Lao church, and then teaching first grade followed by high school English.
Four growing kids with culture shock and social adjustment issues, along with usual teenage identity struggles. Clothes shopping with daughters earning their own money. Skilled cook of visually appealing dinners, manager of tidy and clean house. Evenings with family meals and TV together.
|Big move to Montana, on twenty acres purchased with equity from house. Big factory-built home with basement and specs, on big construction loan. Big disappointments for spouse with contractor, unsuited sales job, and other realities of Montana life.
My continued part-time online work with San Diego school. Pleasant or necessary distractions meaning I’m never completing my work hours each week, yet I’m present and available for two elementary-aged girls.
Photos make Christmas presents for out-of-state family. A daily slice of time cooking and cleaning. Expansion of my cooking skills. Dishwasher, fast food, microwave.
Big ongoing stressor with San Diego house rental, value crash, short sale, and tax hit.
Girls’ love of reading. K-8 school struggles and hearing from teachers.
Long winters. Attempts to identify effective indoor exercise. Long car conversations with captive audience of daughters, full of life wisdom. Time with girls around meals. Church potlucks. Back rooms of house cluttered and dusty. Science fairs. Long, healing walks in beautiful weather.
Visits from grandparents. Trampoline for more cheap children’s therapy after school. Library excursions. San Diego trips for work. Church life.
Substitute teaching on the side, for variety and ostensibly more money, causing logistical pressures on family and more exhaustion for me.
Discovery of a politically right-of-center writing community where I spend a portion of days, evenings, and weekends. A lot of leisure time carved out of productive hours.
A gift of a Kindle. A nighttime reading routine and digital book deals. Flip phones for growing girls and monitoring of their Internet use.
|42-50+||Three daughters to college for music teaching, one son in military, all six adult children hard-working and prospering. Sewing. Typewriter factory work, thinking of sewing. Loss of son in drowning accident. Weddings.||A short but mostly good stint back in Thailand. Kids’ graduations and a wedding. Oldest child’s serious accident and its reverberations. Various jobs culminating in career as college instructor.||Girls preparing to graduate and getting all responsible and stuff.
Smartphones and TV on demand. Facebook. Internet ordering and free shipping. Subscriptions, apps, and other tech bells and whistles. Managing time online with job and fun hobbies. Continued struggle to prioritize time, “running away from lazy.” Housework as exercise.
Exhaustion causing costly and regrettable foray into sleep studies. Surprise need for surgeries helping us meet deductibles.
Marriage disruption causing expensive but priceless long-term counseling to put our lives back together, the church quietly coming alongside. Covid closures a medium of restoration.
A second afternoon job for me in place of substitute teaching working with kids with special needs.
Counselor advising me I need at least two hours a day of activities that “fill my tank.” Empty nest with girls together at college. Breakfasts out with husband. Collection of a decade of writing. Time to concentrate on jobs. Ways to get deeper, longer sleep. Desire to get more accomplished in a day.
A lower-carb diet for health. Retired spouse. A dear friend who may be dying. Staying in touch with scattered friends.
|50+||Purchase of a two-bedroom bungalow in Florida as second home. Vacations in Florida with dear friends next door for playing cards and get-togethers.
Husband’s cancer, chronic heart disease, and bypass surgeries. Wrap-up of nearly three decades of factory work.
Twenty years of retirement life in Florida house; visits to idyllic beaches, rivers, and parks while hosting family; church life; home-cooked food and immaculate house; strict low-fat diet for husband’s heart condition; RV and train trips all over the continent; twelve grandchildren; a few great-grandchildren.
|Another wedding and a third grandchild. Long daily walks. Strong work portfolio and professional pain. Retirement. Close friendships. A lovely little two-bedroom house to retire in. A no-carb diet. Choir. Trips. Meals out with immediate family. Fulfilled dream of teaching in-depth Bible study and discipling women one-on-one.||The future, Lord willing:
Encouragement to daughters; two weddings; grandmotherhood; continued marital growth and harmony. The motivation to put years of online writing into printed collections for family and friends.
Cleaning and organization of my house. Realization of strong time management and self-discipline with the mixed blessing of online access. Church life. Friends. Gratefulness.