Regardless of which generation we belong to, at some point we've all rolled our eyes at our parents when they dish out unsolicited advice or state their dated views. We've even questioned their competence given their confusion with technology. For me personally, it's when they ask me things like "What's an app?" or if they need to enter the "http://" at the beginning of a web address. I often worry what they'll do once my sister and I no longer live a hop, skip, and a jump away. Facetime every time the DVD player is malfunctioning?
Whenever they sense my frustration with them, they just laugh and say, "Just wait till you have children. We too used to think our parents were clueless." It's true. Every generation thinks they are so much smarter and more competent than the one before.
But with each passing year as my "adult" responsibilities grow, from insurance costs, to managing my own finances, I wonder how they did it all. Sure, we as millennials, or Gen Y-ers, or whatever you'd like to call us 20-somethings, love to blame our problems and the perpetual 10-second delay on our lives as grownups on the economy and the terrible job market, but plenty of it is due to our own bad habits and spoiled ways.
I've started to think that maybe parents really do know best. Here are 5 ways I wish my generation was more like our parents' generation:
1. They aren't slaves to technology.
Yesterday, as I was nearly finished writing my original draft of this very post, I hit save for apparently the first time. (I still swear I had hit save at least once before.) As luck would have it, our entire office experienced a momentary internet outage. As soon as I got the grey message of death: "unable to connect to the internet," I knew my sanity was busted for the afternoon. Gone were the two-plus hours of carefully crafted, pitchy sentences. Maybe it was some sort of karmic justice for calling out my parents lack of tech savvy. (They're actually not so bad!)
In reality, it lasted all of five minutes. But in our skewed perceptions, it was an eternity. My young coworkers and I all paced around the office in a panic, hitting our refresh button as if a successful click was the difference between life and death. We literally did not know what to do with ourselves. Technology is our constant companion and without it we are helpless. Imagine if the outage had lasted an hour, or God forbid, longer.
I laugh at my mom's handwritten contact list that's been hanging on our refrigerator for years. It would be so much faster if she only put them into her smartphone, I tell her. But know this, if her phone gets lost, stolen, or damaged, she won't be having a meltdown of epic proportions at the prospect of losing all her contacts, her calendar of appointments, or not knowing how to get directions.
That's because she can actually recall important phone numbers, remember her next doctor's appointment, and read a map. If my father lost his internet connection at work, he has his typewriter, filing cabinets, paper invoices, and yes, even a printing calculator which he uses to this day. Life would go on.
Seriously. I'd be surprised if somewhere some researcher isn't already doing some longitudinal study on what our reliance on technology is doing to our brain power.
2. They know the value of a dollar.
This might just be an Asian parent thing, but my parents will not waste a cent. My dad can always tell you where to get the best gas prices in town. He still shakes his head when we order soft drinks at a restaurant (because for the same price, you could buy your own two-liter), reads the weekly sales to find the best produce deals, will always ask for a doggy bag, and can haggle a salesman to the verge of tears. It took me a while to realize there's a difference between being cheap and being smart with your money.
Meanwhile, my generation is drowning in so many forms of debt, money has almost lost its value. I was having dinner with a friend recently, and we were talking about how pricey parking can be in the city. She shrugged and said, yeah, but at the end of the day, I'm in so much debt, what's another $40 in the grand scheme of things.
I make a point not to go anywhere near my credit card's spend analyzer function. No, I don't want to know how much every lunch I didn't pack, every water bottle I mindlessly purchased without checking the price, or what the occasional Starbucks latte (a cardinal sin in my father's book) ends up costing me over the course of a month.
While many young people like myself throw money at our problems to make life's inconveniences go away, our parents are going out of their way to save a buck.
3. Their standards of beauty aren't skewed.
Throughout most of history, a woman with curves has always been most desirable. Walk through any art museum and you'll see paintings and sculptures of women with wide hips, soft tummies, and curvy thighs. Think Rose from "Titanic." Then, for my mother's generation, Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren came along with their enviable hourglass figures and everyone rushed out to buy girdles to cinch their waists. But then suddenly it seems in the past decade, the standard of beauty has gone from healthy and athletic, like the original 90s supermodels, to "Victoria's Secret Angel." You know -- legs for days, 23-inch waists, and not an inch to pinch, except of course, where it matters.
Society has always put more pressure on women to look a certain way, rather than men. But poor body image seems to have hit my generation worse than any other as far as I can tell. We have "thinspo" on the web, supermodels glorifying the extreme lengths they go to to look perfect, and Spanx that's literally squeezing the life out of us. I can't remember the last time I heard a woman say she wanted to go to the gym. It's always "I have to go to the gym." Even if you happen to enjoy it, to some degree, I think we're all doing it because we know that thin is in.
Every time my sister and I tell my mom we're on some new diet to achieve the Kate Middleton look, she shakes her head. Women should look healthy she says, not sickly.
4. They don't job hop nearly as much.
Remember the good old days when you finished school, went to work for a company, and spent your day working your way up, waiting for your turn in the corner office? You'd get to know the company and your coworkers so well, they'd practically be family. It was all about steady, stable progress. There's something so quaint about the lost art of loyalty.
It's a thing of beauty, and one we don't see much of anymore between employers and employees -- and it's a two-way street. Seniority has become more of a liability than an asset, with older employees having to worry about being replaced by bright-eyed young graduates that cost a lot less and come with value-added tech skills.
Younger workers meanwhile get thrown into the deep end on day one, maybe never really grasping the company's values or structure. With younger employees job hopping so frequently, we're losing a sense of continuity which ultimately is bad for companies.
5. They are patient.
My parents immigrated to the west in the 1970s. Their foreign-awarded college degrees didn't mean bupkis once they crossed the Atlantic. Imagine how frustrating it would be to have to rebuild your life and prove your worth all over again in a new land. They never complained about how unfair this new playing field was to them. They never felt entitled to promotion or disappointed by their slow progress.
Meanwhile, my generation lives for instant gratification. Our culture is one of overnight successes, of winning a game show, or becoming an overnight reality-TV sensation. We also have been taught that there's always a quick fix. After all, we're the first generation to experience the joys of the "undo" button, of recalling emails, and of autocorrect.
We all just want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg.