When I read Marshall’s recent blog post, Shout Out to the 30-Something Street Fightin Man, I thought a lot of you might be in the compression zone too. According to Marshall, here’s what that phase of life involves:
Kid #3 just arrived. Kid #2 is still in diapers and kid #1 is barely out of diapers. The day starts when one of ‘em starts screaming at 3:45am and the sweet honey-dew of sleep is OVER. Momma either stays at home, which means money is impossibly scarce, or momma goes to work and puts the kids in daycare, which means money is… impossibly scarce. Everybody’s emotional tank is on “E” for Empty.
Dad works 1 1/2 jobs and he’s the “Go-To-Guy” in both of them. His ‘superiors’ regard him as a promising young lad who has a lot of potential and a lot of heart, if only his daring adventures would pay off. One morning he calls in late because a spat about loading the dishwasher all wrong turned into World War 3, and if we don’t sit down and talk this out right now, Momma’s probably gonna move in with her parents.
Deep in his heart he craves, yearns for, thirsts for… Respect. From… somebody. Anybody. “I wish SOMEBODY would listen to me. I wish ONE of these projects would come through as promised. I wish ONE of these resumes I’m sending out would get an answer from a real manager instead of a form letter.”
When he was in the midst of the compression zone, a friend of Marshall’s told him: “If you get through this and keep pressing forward, you’re gonna get to a next stage that’s a whole lot better. It’s the harvest season of your life. It’s when things really do start paying off.”
Right now, the pressure’s on
In 2012, the thirty and forty-somethings in the compression zone are Gen X-ers, and we tend to be overlooked by the media and society in general. Everyone is talking about the problems of the retiring Baby Boomers and the rising Millennials. Except the Boomers have social security (we won’t), and the Millennials have freedom (we don’t).
Being in the working parent stage of life has never been more challenging. The recession and job market slump hit middle managers harder than anyone. Technology allows us to be on call 24/7. Although Corporate America is on the work/life balance bandwagon, our kids don’t understand what that means. They are young and egocentric, and their parents are their whole world. And our aging parents won’t let us forget about them. They need emotional, physical, and financial support, and the well is just about dry.
The light at the end of the tunnel
What I love about Marshall’s post, though, is that while validating the current Gen X struggle, it also offers hope for the future. Forthcoming demographic changes mean that the “harvest season” he speaks of is likely to come to pass, as knowledge and expertise become scarcer and the small number of experienced Gen X-ers start to get flooded with job offers and new opportunities.
Sooner rather than later, we will regain control. We’ll get to be creative and entrepreneurial, our kids will be self-sufficient, and life will be fun again. We just have to hang on.