Tinnie was having a beautiful dinner with her daughter one night until she was hurt by a comment from her daughter, “Mum, you have no idea how tough things are for me right now. It’s not like I am you when you were my age. I’m working and you just stayed at home while we were growing up. Poor dad had to be the sole breadwinner.”
Tinnie’s immediate reaction was to explode in anger at her corporate-ladder-climbing daughter and her response was, “You have no idea what I went through. Back then, I had to wring dry the clothes with my bare hands and we didn’t have all these gadgets to make things easier. Even then I managed to raise all five of you – feed, clean after you and managed our entire household. Staying home was not a vacation for me.”
According to Tinnie, her daughter has always had it easy and sometimes she blames herself.
“When I was 12, I had already started helping mum in the kitchen and taking care of my own laundry. I learned how to cook when I was 14. Now, my 32-year-old daughter complains that her life is hard. What would she know when she’s either just buying things or paying other people to do it?”
This sort of argument isn’t unique. In fact, different generations always clash when it comes to “who has/had it harder”.
But is it okay to school other generations on how good they had it?
Some people think that ‘schooling’ other (particularly younger) generations about their quality of life is terribly fraught, if not entirely egotistical. In a completely ungraceful way, it appears like you’re seeking appreciation.
Trouble is, for every statement about who had it easier, there’s a counterargument. To go back to the Baby Boomer v Millennial example, the former group thinks its 20 per cent interest mortgages and delayed retirement have resulted in tougher lives, the latter believes the global financial crisis, which hit before their careers could even begin, has forced upon it a life of of fighting for financial security, jobs, and entry into the housing market.
According to an article on Stuff, schooling another generation isn’t going to get you anywhere. But that’s not to say you can’t talk about, compare, and contrast your generation’s experiences with others.
What’s the best way to do this? Try keeping all experiences personal and not making sweeping, generalised statements. For example, when you say, “Your generation is so entitled”, you’re only going to be met with hostility.
Instead, if you want to compare inter-generational housing conditions, talk about your own personal struggle to pay your mortgage. If you want to discuss tertiary education, talk about your own degree, how much it cost, and how successful its real-world application has been.
Then ask this person from another generation of their own experience. It’s also a great idea to challenge stereotypes here: Do ask, “There’s a common perception your generation grew up with/without so-and-so – do you think that’s true?” and similar lines of questioning.