A ‘Selfish, Shallow Baby Boomer’ Speaks Out About Care Giving

Peggy Noonan,  columnist for the Wall Street Journal and former assistant to President Reagan, just made an eye-opening point about our generation.

“Here’s what I’m seeing the past 10 years. The baby boomers have been supporting their grown children and their aged parents. They are stressed, stretched and largely uncomplaining, because they know that as boomers—shallow, selfish—they’re the only generation not allowed to complain. And just as well, as complaints are the only area of national life where we have a surplus. But they are spiritually and financially holding the country together, and they’re coming to terms with the fact that it’s going to be that way for a good long time.”

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time- before she so elegantly put it into words.  That’s because this is the way many of us live.  Where are our dreams of retirement?  What happened to  all the things we were going to do?  It wasn’t supposed to be like this- or was it?

Yes, we’re caregivers.  Some of us are taking care of more than one generation. A few years ago, I knew one lady caring for four generations.  As they all arrived for church one Sunday morning and  they were all piling out of the van, she whispered to me she must be out of her mind.  After all, there were her great-grand children in car seats sitting next to  her 99 year- old mother.

I think something more profound is happening here.  What went through my mind was I had never met my great-grandparents, much less the great-great grandparents.  I can barely name any of them- except for the one that was Governor of Tennessee- 114 years ago.

We’re living longer.  There are consequences to that.  It means  our seniors will be sicker longer.  They will need us longer.  Was it only a few years ago, people really didn’t live past their 80th birthdays?  My dad got a call from a lady who is 102 just last night.  She was calling to cheer him up.  ( We just  got the new wheelchair yesterday morning.)

Here’s something else profound, Ms. Noonan mentions.    “…because they know that as boomers—shallow, selfish—they’re the only generation not allowed to complain.”

We’re in the painful process of proving ourselves.  We’re setting the examples.  We’re doing the work.  It’s our moment.  Complaining isn’t going to change a thing, and we’re old enough and wise enough to know that.

Winston Churchill visiting the ruins of Covent...
Winston Churchill visiting the ruins of Coventry Cathedral following its destruction in the Coventry Blitz of 14/15th November 1940. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This reminds me of my visit to the War Rooms in London a few years ago.  You can see where Winston Churchill lived  and worked during the Blitz, deeply hidden underneath a department store.  You can see the closet where he had the special secret phone line directly to the White House.  He had lots of company down there.  There were many dedicated staff members who did what they had to do to win the war.

One of my friends made a stunning statement as we finished the tour and emerged back out into the summer sunshine of peacetime.

“They literally put their lives on hold for a few years…”

Some of them put their lives on hold for six years or more.  Some didn’t live to enjoy their children much less their great grandchildren.   But they were part of something that was larger than they were.  And in the end they won.

We need to remind ourselves daily why we are care giving and the rewards awaiting us for a job well done.




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