I watched a movie yesterday evening and in it, someone suddenly said: “They call us the selfish generation “
I paused it for a moment and asked myself: Who is “us”, who are “they” and “why is a generation selfish? “. Since then I have been thinking about these questions.
“Us” probably refers to me and maybe even to you. The generations that are born in the end of the 20th century and are thus now in their 20s and 30s. We are the people who have to decide in these years what we want to do with our lives, where we want to go and who we want to be. But how are we making a selfish choice? When we are looking at it from the perspective of many who had to make the exact same choices we see that we are today confronted with different opportunities and probably with more.
The chances that we will stay in the city in which we were born to go to university are quite low and that we live there by the time we retire, that is even less likely. Our generation, statistics shows, will work in seven different industries before we retire. And these are industries, not jobs. Some of these industries do not even exist yet and are yet to be invented.
Let us now try to understand how this makes us selfish. Looking at past generations and looking at ours we see that people reexamine their priorities. You might want to wait having a family before you know where you settle down. Your high school girlfriend might want to go abroad, see the world, while you are more grounded and can’t imagine leaving your region, definitely not your country. So you split up now and hope to meet again at a different time. More and more people focus on their careers.
The same goes for having and raising children. More and more families put their children into a kindergarten and some people decide to go back to work after staying at home one year or even less, instead of spending three years together at home. Here we see particularly more and more women using these offers of childcare.
But is this selfish? After having spent 12 or 13 years in school and another 5 years in university to get a degree with which I can do my job, why would I throw this away to have a family? Why can’t I have both?
Many people who choose to go back to work and put their children in a kindergarten before they are one year old for the early afternoon feel bad about it, but if they would stay at home they might feel worse and, growing up, the children would feel bad because it will see his or her parents unhappy with their jobs. Postponing to have a family of your own in order to focus on your job follows the same logic. Living in a more and more connected world, flows of human capital not only become easier, they become a requirement. In order to work in some fields, we have to be flexible in terms of location.
And industries are responding to this. If you worked in the foreign office of many countries only a few years ago, they would send you where they needed you at the time and you had little or nothing to say about this. Today they ask you where you want to go and assist you in finding a possibility to bring your family along, finding a job for your partner, a school or a kindergarten for your kids and so on.
But as always it takes some time to get used to the new realities. However, I would not call it a selfish decision, it is just honest one.