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  • Gapping Generations

    Posted on October 19th, 2012 Patricia No comments

    I’ve never been a big believer in the philosophy of the so-called “generation gap.” Although it would explain a few insignificant differences in trivial matters such as music (I’m not crazy about the lyrics in many of the songs today) and decorating preferences (photos of my Mother’s old orange curtains make me gag), generally similarities prevail, and the things that I consider important are the same as those of generations of women before me. And thus, I have scoffed at this “generation gap” ideology in the past, wondering who on earth had the time to separate people into such silly little slots. That is, until the other day…

    I love my aunt Hannah. My mother’s sister, she is warm, kind and understanding, and I have always felt lucky that we remain so close. So when she called to come for a visit, I was enormously pleased. I did, however, remember to give her my standard company speech and warn her over the telephone that while of course she was welcome, she should be prepared for the disastrous state of my home.

    With a demanding full-time career and a mischievous toddler, my priorities do not include straightening the stack of newspapers that still sits unread upon my kitchen table, nor do I think twice about the blocks of Legos that span one end of the house to the other. “No matter,” she brushed off my warnings, “I know that you’re really busy.” I didn’t think about it again. Apparently, I should have.

    Enlarged, horrified pupils could hardly be disguised as Auntie Hanna stepped over toys and entered my kitchen. I could almost feel the wave of surprise when she looked at the empty package of frozen fish sticks that I hadn’t yet deposited into the garbage, and the morning’s coffee still sitting, cold, in the pot. “Oh,” I tried to explain, “I haven’t had time to clean up.” I tried to assuage her with a detailed explanation. “Samuel and I have been playing ‘Ring Around the Rosy’ for the past half hour.” But she wouldn’t be appeased. I then became mortified when she refused to move the pile of children’s books from the couch to sit down, and instead clucked her tongue loudly and started to clean my kitchen.

    The whole evening was truly enlightening. Not because I absorbed any of the “time management” tips that she strongly suggested, but because I finally began to think that perhaps there is indeed such a thing as this “Generation Gap” beast.

    In my aunt’s day, it was generally accepted that the woman would stay home and take care of the house and the children, which is a position that I envy. Pondering those picturesque days, reminiscent of the occasional ’50s reruns and Norman Rockwell paintings, I can’t say that I wouldn’t have enjoyed it. But, for many women, things these days are a bit different. And, although I could only describe my life as a busy, wonderful, spinning vortex, I barely keep afloat with my many roles. Certainly, after a day away from my son, falling on the floor in a fit of giggles takes precedence over dusting my picture frames.

    And yet, somehow, the women from my mother’s generation truly believe that “it all” should be done. But it can’t. Perhaps by their bedsides, copies of magazines from the ’80s are piled up, the ones that have fortified a cruel belief in the “superwoman syndrome.” It is a myth. And trust me when I say I have tried.

    When I went back to work after my maternity leave, I attempted, wholeheartedly, to create wholesome, well-balanced dinners made from scratch. The result: less time with my family. I tried, courageously, to clean the house from top to bottom after my son went to sleep. The result: absolute, utter exhaustion. And so, believing there was something fundamentally wrong with my scheduling skills, I invested a fortune in time-management books. The result: infinite lists that further cluttered my environment.

    With a bit of experience now, and a clearer picture of the kind of woman I need to be (much more complex than “the woman with the clean house and the fresh bread”), I have thrown away my expectations for a spotless, Martha Stewart house, and each week, ahead of the mayhem.

    I carefully choose well-balanced, healthy and convenient food for my family to eat. Sometimes it’s even pizza. And it’s finally OK with me.

    But I suppose my Aunt Hannah will never quite understand. And that’s OK too. For now I can smile and nod and utter those few, telltale words, “It’s just a generation gap thing…”

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