Are you as tired as I am of the talk about the entitled boomerang generation of lazy kids who are living in our homes, eating our food and wasting away their young lives? We are told that we have coddled and babied and supported them unconditionally, creating these great big blobs of uselessness who are unable to do much more than play video games and make sandwiches. One industrious website has even gone so far as to draw up a contract for boomerang kids and their parents to sign, which can be yours for the low price of only $14.95. I mean, come on!
The term "helicopter parent" is inextricably tied to the perceived downfall of this generation of seemingly pampered and unmotivated young adults. Nightmare stories abound of parents calling potential employers to find out why their little boy or girl didn't get the job, or even going along to interviews -- as was reported by smartmoney.com:
And yes, some parents even show up at their kid's job interview. Stuart Friedman, president of Chicago consulting firm Progressive Management Associates, will never forget the time he helped a financial-software client interview candidates for an entry-level position. In walked not one but three well-dressed hopefuls -- a fresh-faced college grad and his proud parents. Mom and Dad were on hand, the grad explained, to make sure he got "a fair opportunity to get this job." Friedman says he tried hard to stifle his befuddlement: "You can't sweat. You can't show any reaction."
This is not the norm, of course. It's an extreme example of the helicopter parent coming in for a landing at a most inappropriate time.
I was a helicopter parent at times -- as were most of the parents I know. We all want to help our kids succeed, and some need a little more help than others. But I would like to propose a different title that I think is a bit more descriptive of how I -- and many others -- approached the obstacles and challenges of raising our children: the Propeller Parents. These parents didn't necessarily hover and intervene at every bump in the road or glitch that came their way. What the Propeller Parents did was give their kids the impetus to succeed through strong (and admittedly sometimes overbearing) encouragement to do their best academically and at their extracurricular activities. They saw the ridiculously low admission rates at top schools and the impossibly high number of students applying to colleges and they got a little nervous. Can you blame them? No parent wants to feel as if they've missed the chance to encourage their children to reach their fullest potential -- hence the Propeller Parents.
Now these over-achieving and super-charged kids are graduating from college with a degree and few job prospects -- though from what I can see around me, many of them are doing just fine. The bad job market is making it difficult for many, but not for everyone.
Some of these young adults may not be making enough money to be fully independent -- especially in large cities like Los Angeles and New York -- but they are working hard at the jobs they have and dreaming big about their future. Financially, many are in a bind, as reported by ABCnews.go.com:
Today's young adults graduated into one of the worst recessions since the depression and carry a crippling college debt burden. Above the national average of 9%, unemployment rates spike to 14.2% among 20- to 24-year-olds and 10.2% in the 25 to 29 bracket. Meanwhile, the average four-year college student borrowed $24,000 in 2009-double the $12,000 she borrowed in 1993.
And this means many must live at home in order to save up enough to start their lives as more or less independent people.
Let's not put all the blame for out-of-work young people on the parents for creating a generation of entitled monsters who don't want to work hard -- it simply isn't true. There will always be lazy people -- and certainly some of them are our adult children. But consider this: how many baby-boomers spent years of their early adulthood on a path to enlightenment that was paved with sex, drugs and rock and roll?
Unfortunately at this point in time it couldn't be more difficult for our twenty-somethings to find work that both pays well and is interesting and challenging, forcing many to find jobs that don't allow them to be fully independent and self-sufficient -- not to mention that many of them are underemployed. We did what we thought was best for our kids -- and I believe the majority of our kids are trying to do the best they can for themselves as well.