Today we’re talking about the value of relationships among women of different ages and generations.
No matter how different our lives and experiences are, there is great value in connecting with other generations of women
This episode was inspired by a social media post I saw this week. The woman who posted it appears to be younger than me--maybe in her 40s or 50s? I found her when I ran across some short humorous Facebook reels she posted about “rules” for the family Thanksgiving get-together. She apparently also posts homemaking tips and so on, and has received feedback recently from younger women saying she shouldn’t be “telling them how to run their homes” because as an older woman she doesn’t understand the stress and mental health issues younger women today have to deal with. The younger women seemed to interpret this woman’s posts as judgmental, and the gist of these comments was that the older women should just sit down and be quiet.
I was saddened and disturbed by this response. I’ve seen it before--younger women dismissing older women as irrelevant and out of touch. The “okay, boomer” mentality. It’s hurtful, especially in light of how many women feel that when they reach a certain age they become invisible, like they no longer count. This attitude, I feel, deprives all of us women, regardless of our age, of something truly valuable, maybe even essential: the opportunity to learn from each other, to expand our lives. I truly believe we as women need each other, and we suffer if we cut ourselves off from any group of other women.
As I thought about this woman’s post and the things I’ve read and heard before, I thought I’d share just a few thoughts about this.
Every generation’s experience of the world is in many ways different from those who came before. When I was a young woman first making my way in the world, I knew the women of my mother’s generation had lived in a world very different from mine in terms of societal expectations of women, career opportunities, technology, and more. In some ways their world was smaller than mine, just as in some ways mine was smaller than the younger women of today. But still, when I was a young woman, we valued the insight of older women, the knowledge and wisdom that can come from experience. Older women came into my life at different times from whom I learned about being a wife, how to mother my children, how to put meals on the table, how to sew, and later, how to be a lawyer.
Even now, in my early 60s, as a woman who married very young, raised 5 kids, went back to college and then to law school in my 30s, and who’s been a professional woman for 20 years, I still value the insight of the women who are older than me, who’ve navigated the post-kids empty nest period, retirement, aging--the things I haven’t done before but they have.
Of course, you have no obligation to listen to any particular person--especially a random stranger on the internet, someone with whom you have no relationship, who hasn’t earned the right to speak into your life. But that’s a different thing from feeling it’s okay to tell that person to sit down and stop speaking.
And it seems to me there’s a certain level of arrogance in simply dismissing the experience of those who’ve been where you are, whether personally or professionally, as a woman, wife, mom, professional woman. To think that your generation’s experience is so unique that the women who came before you have nothing to offer you is at best a misconception. We need each other. Even without adopting wholesale the advice, example, and beliefs of those who came before us, we still can acknowledge that they do have something to offer.
On the other hand, older women need younger women,