Generation X’er Child vs. Boomer Parent

The conflict between Baby Boomer Alice Walker and her Generation X daughter, Rebecca, paints a clear picture of the strained relationships between these generations

This article about Alice Walker (early Boomer), written by her daughter Rebecca (Gen X’er) is a poignant example of the challenge faced by many Gen X’er with their Silent (born 1924-1942) and Boomer (born 1943-1960) parents. As Rebecca describes in the article, her mother was focused on adult issues (women’s rights) and ignored her daughter in the process. The story is told from Rebecca’s point of view, so we are not hearing all sides, but it is a picture that applies to an entire generation of kids born in the 60’s and 70’s: Parents focused on ideology of the adult world and kids fending for themselves.

Some excerpts:

“My mother is very ideologically based, and her ideology is much more important in many ways than her personal relationships,” says Rebecca.

“I keep telling people feminism is an experiment. And just like in science, you have to assess the outcome of the experiment and adjust according to your results, but my mother and her friends, they see it as truth; they don’t see it as an experiment.

People don’t really understand how strong ideology can be,” she says. “I think sometimes of that group and that feminism as being close to a cult. I feel I had to de-programme myself in order to have independent thought. It’s been an ongoing struggle. When you have a cult, you have a cult leader who demands a certain conformity . . . And when you have a celebrity who has cultural-icon status, economic power beyond what you can imagine, you can’t resist that person — if you want to stay in their realm. Because once you start challenging them, they kick you out.”

5 thoughts on “Generation X’er Child vs. Boomer Parent”

  1. Rebecca’s mother sounds far worse than an ideological Boomer who ignored her daughter and concentrated on her own success – she sounds like a malignant narcissist. I am “resigning from being your mother?” What a terrible thing to say to anyone!

    Alice Walker sounds like a terrible person to be related to.

    1. @Christina I agree that Alice Walker is an extreme of that Boomer ideological bent. She is the “shadow side” of the independent, free-thinking Boomer generation, the individual who turn into what you rightly describe as a “malignant narcissist”. And Rebecca, with how she has publicly turned on her famous mother show some of the shadow side of Generation X: cynical, alienated and unconcerned with appearances. This story is a microcosm of the negative relationship between these two generations. Changing those relationships takes growth on both sides.

  2. I’ve read a few Alice Walker novels and in retrospect, I don’t remember any of her
    book characters being particularly concerned with motherhood. They all pretty much centered
    around a theme of womens rights. Hmm.

    My mom is the same way. She creates a bubble of delusion around herself in which reality is warped. I had to grow up and stay away a long time to become disentangled from her
    warped reality. I tried to make friends with her but if I don’t allow her to rewrite history and blame my innocent sibs and me for her mistakes and neglect, I get shut out and abandoned
    by her for years while she spreads dirt about me to the rest of the family. Its extremely toxic
    and I have decided that its not that important to have her in my life.

    I know it hurts Rebecca very much but sometimes its better to not let people in your life
    who attempt to control and manipulate you no matter who they are. Mothers are not always
    well meaning although they do love their children always. Sometimes they have emotional Munchausen by Proxy in which they gain pity by neglecting and emotionally abusing their children and then feeding off the pity they get from everyone else because they have a “bad child” who is “so mean”.

    Very deep subject. Thanks for posting.

    1. @Jett, thanks for your thoughtful comment. X’er (born 1961-1981) adult relationships with their Boomer (born 1943-1960) and Silent (born 1961-1981) parents can be a minefield. My Mother and Father (both Silents) struggled to give us a sound upbringing amid the social chaos of the 60’s and 70’s and made many poor choices during that time. But as adults they have both let much of that go and have decided to be good parents and grandparents in their own ways. I think they both realize you can’t go back and change history but that you can change the present moment. And rather than trying to push aside the enormous guilt that they could feel for how they raised my siblings and me, they have chosen to change that picture for us, and our children, in the present moment.

  3. @ Jett, thank you for your comment!!! I am going through the same thing with my mother and have begun to realize that the relationship with my mother will never change it will always be an argument of me vs. her. I am expected to listen to endless stories of how she was abused as a child but can never bring up what she did to me ,which is just as bad as anything she ever received.

    To let go of the past requires more than just saying “I am sorry”, it means not repeating the behavior or trying to make a reasonable effort to curb the behavior. There are those of us that have put up with attitudes that are narcissistic and can no longer wait for these people to change their lives, our own lives have become toxic in dealing with these self indulged, hateful people and if we want to survive we must break free from their spell.

    Years of fighting with my mother have taken me to places so low I don’t even want to go there; all I can say is that friends, family, jobs and homes have been lost and everyday is a day that I spend worrying about her stability and health vs. looking after my own. My life is now to the point that my health and well being are threatened and it’s time to start looking after myself, my mother has resources that I do not.

    It’s time for many GenX’rs to quit being guilted about being born/ruining our parents lives and time for us as children to demand that our parents grow up and start taking responsibility for their actions and begin to start acting like adults, not just financially but emotionally as well.

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