The more I experience life as a wife, mother, sister, friend, and professional, the more I realize I’m clueless. Really clueless. As in, everything I thought I knew – and I thought I knew a lot – is challenged on a daily basis and I rediscover, for the umpteenth time, that when it comes to life experience, I’m a noob.
Growing up, I was the kid that wanted to sit with the adults and talk while my cousins rolled down hillsides and played with bubbles outside. I’ve long preferred the company of older, wiser adults to the company of peers. Even as an adult, I gravitate towards reading blogs and following social media streams of wives and moms who are older than me and further along their paths of marriage and family. I love to see their challenges and learn how they have grown from them, emotionally and spiritually. To see how they have navigated life crises and struggles, and hopefully learn from them as I encounter similiar waters in the not-so-distant future.
And maybe that’s fed my (rather pompous) conviction that I know better than my peers. That everyone my age is naïve. To be fair, I grew up faster than most kids my age. As the eldest of six in a big homeschooling family, I contributed a lot to the schooling and welfare of my younger siblings. In that sense, I really knew a lot about caregiving before I had my first child at the ripe old age of 21. All of these things are what they are, and they’ve made me who I am: a fairly-seasoned millennial mom with five kids. But I don’t know everything – not even close. I find myself routinely reaching out to older moms to ask them hard questions about parenting preteens, something that is definitely not one of my “wheelhouse skills.”
But then I’m reminded that it’s not just in the arena of motherhood where I see the disparity between myself and many of those in my generation. Throughout my 11 years in the workplace, I have often witnessed Millennials dismiss and willfully alienate Boomer coworkers. These are people who are masters in their fields, who have witnessed cataclysmic changes in their industries – and our culture. These advances relentlessly speed forward at breakneck pace, and the Boomers have been along for the ride since Day One. In some cases, they helped create and usher in those innovations. They have knowledge, expertise, and wisdom to share, and so often they are relegated out to pasture because of an unwillingness to hear them out. Or because they aren’t relevant enough. Or because the millennial-boss-in-charge knows best. Often they let the wiser, seasoned folks walk out the door – taking all of that experience and knowledge with them – to save a buck or to rid the workplace of “conflicting management styles” (which is often code for an unwillingness to learn from each other.)
These are just my personal observations. I don’t have any science or studies to back me up. And? I’m just as tired as you are of pieces that bash Millennials, and really that’s not my goal here. Instead, I’d love to see more collaboration, more heads-together thinking across generations. It’s so tempting to gravitate towards moms, wives, friends, and coworkers our own age, but I challenge you to think about those around you who have more to offer than what meets the eye. Millennials, talk to those Boomers. Ask them about their struggles, their challenges, their life journeys. Ask them the 1000 ways they’ve failed, and have them share with you the 1001st method they tried that led them to success. AND THEN LISTEN. Listen to their words, their stories, their contributions. Don’t create a vacuum where all of your collaborative efforts stagnate in an ageist echo chamber. And Boomers? Refrain from tearing down Millennials at every turn. Can you learn from them? Sure, but they have a lot more to learn from you. Teach them, patiently. Share your knowledge without condescension and crankiness.
Humility, y’all. Let’s get some. All of us, before it’s too late.