Back in the Seventies, when I was juggling a thriving business with early motherhood, there was nothing I cherished more than a cuddle with my sleepy babies in the middle of the night. No matter how long my day, if either of them woke crying I would bring them, freshly changed and fed, into our bed. There, I would drink in their delicious baby scent and we would all drift off together. Bliss!
Yes, running the country’s leading fashion PR agency meant not being home in time to cook my children’s supper, but that didn’t mean I loved them any less fiercely. Nor did I think for one moment that my daily absences necessarily made me a ‘bad parent’.
But it appears I was horribly wrong. For when I opened the Mail last week, I had quite a shock: there was an article by my son, Joshua Howie, now 40, declaring me an ‘absolutely awful’ mother who was ‘too selfish to raise children’.
Perhaps what hurt the most was not knowing it was coming. If my son did it to promote his career as a stand-up comedian, you’d think he’d have asked me — a PR guru — for advice. You might think, considering I’m the supposed inspiration for the character of Edina in the very funny and successful Absolutely Fabulous, I would be used to comedians using aspects of my larger-than-life existence to comedic effect. But this time I felt the joke was on me.
Far be it from me to criticise my son, whom I love dearly, but many baby boomers who read his article didn’t hold back. Understandably, they took offence at the suggestion that our generation made terrible parents, who neglected their children while scaling the dizzy heights of glamorous careers and filling their ‘gold-plated’ pension pots.
I’m not trying to claim that the baby boomers were always models of parental perfection. I certainly wasn’t, and I still harbour huge amounts of guilt about the things I missed out on when my children were young.
The funny thing is the way that her first response to the charge that she was an absolutely awful mother and too selfish to raise children is to talk about how wonderful she felt on days that she didn’t even put them to bed.
Just to be clear, my parents were great, so I know very well that not all Baby Boomer parents were like that. (And it is really not necessary to explain to the author of two books on economics that there is a difference between macro generalities and micro examples.) But it’s still an amusing defense that misses the point, even though the chances are not insignificant that the whole thing was concocted by the mother as a PR stunt.
Nevertheless, the idea that Baby Boomers were, on average, terrible parents is not out of line, especially considering the way that many of them are intentionally not leaving inheritances for their children, in either the USA or Britain.
The children of baby boomers are heading towards a financial shock after it was revealed their parents aim to spend all their cash rather than pass it on. Baby boomers – generally referred to as those born between 1947 and 1964 – are often seen as the ‘selfish generation’ because they have benefited from good wages and rising property values before retiring on gold-plated pensions. But now a study has shown that their children are facing poverty in old age.
They’re not leaving much of a country behind them either. And while the demographic demolition of the United States cannot be blamed on the Baby Boomers, as it happened in 1965, the fact is that they collectively celebrated it rather than corrected it. They were too excited about having ethnic restaurants and whole new ways to virtue-signal their superiority to their parents to consider the long-term implications for their children and grand-children.
UPDATE: The son’s article to which the Baby Boomer mother was responding:
Mum was the epitome of the Eighties career woman; on the phone to the office within 20 minutes of my birth, she didn’t get off again until I was 16. And during that time, when more than 20 nannies raised me, I have not one recollection of Mum ever playing with me or reading me a bedtime story.