Friday, February 20, 2015

"Boomer Grannies??"

Were you tired, during the last few U.S. elections, of hearing about the political clout of "Soccer Moms?"  Well, move over, Soccer Moms: according to The Atlantic, the next election is going to be all about "Boomer Grannies" (who are actually aging Soccer Moms) -- particularly since one of the likely candidates is the Boomer-Granny-in-Chief, Hillary Clinton.

"Clinton, at 67, is far older than most first-time grandmothers in the United States, whose average age hovers around 50,"  the article notes.
Part of this cohort’s grandmotherly concern for posterity may have to do with its shared experience of parenthood itself, says Laurel Elder, a professor of political science at Hartwick College who, along with Steven Greene at North Carolina State University, has published the only study of how being a mom affects choices at the ballot box.  
“We’ve found very consistent motherhood effects,” she told me. “Even when you’re controlling for other variables, motherhood predicts more liberal attitudes. Being a mom makes you more supportive on government spending on education and daycare and on a whole range of social-welfare issues: spending on the elderly, spending on the poor, overall government services.”

(Interesting. Not that I've done any academic studies, but in my own experience, many of the non-moms I know tend to hold more liberal values, while the moms are more conservative/traditional. As non-mothers, whether by choice or otherwise, we are certainly not following a traditional life pattern.) 

Anyway -- as a late boomer/early Gen Xer, this article rubbed a few sore spots with me. First, the reminder (as if I needed another one) that not only did I never get to be a mom (let alone a soccer mom) -- that "shared experience of parenthood" is not something I can claim as mine -- I won't ever get to be a grandmother, either. (Not that I needed a reminder:  a growing number of my friends & cousins have become grandmothers in recent years, filling my Facebook feed with adorable photos and gushing posts about how great it is to be a grandparent.)(Infertility: the gift that just keeps on giving... :p )

(To rub salt in the wounds -- I'll be attending a baby shower this weekend :p -- the one I went shopping for awhile back. The mom-to-be is the daughter of one of dh's cousins. Her older sister already has three children under the age of 5.  The grandparents are younger than dh & me. Oy.) 

Two, as neither a Soccer Mom nor a Boomer Granny, I clearly don't have the political clout that my mommy/grandma friends have had, and continue to have. When politicians babble on about "family values" and "helping hard-working families," I know they are not referring to me & dh. 

And yet, childless women alone are a large & growing segment of the population (& voter pool), with needs and interests that are not always the same as those of parents. But you would never know it when it comes to policymaking. Several of us were commiserating with Bent Not Broken recently about the lack of tax breaks available to non-parents. (There are a number of deductions that Canadian parents can claim -- including (believe it or not) for enrolling children in sports or arts-related activities.)   And I've been horrified to read that, historically, childless adults have not been eligible for coverage under Medicaid in the United States. (Another reason I am glad to be Canadian...!) 

Jody Day of Gateway Women is part of a new group in the United Kingdom that is working to bring attention to the growing number of childless -- and aging -- adults, and (hopefully) affect social policy changes there. Governments in the UK (& I daresay North America too) seem to assume that seniors will have children and other family members to fill the gaps in community care -- which is not necessarily true, even for parents, whose children may be dead, estranged, living far away, or frantically juggling children, career and other things, on top of eldercare duties. 

I don't know what the answer is -- but if someone has taken the trouble to do a study on how being a mom affects ballot box choices, I would love to see something similar done to bring attention to non-moms (and non-dads) as voters. (Melanie Notkin of Savvy Auntie has done some research on "The Power of the PANK (Professional Aunt, No Kids)", identifying non-moms as a sizeable group that has yet to be recognized or tapped by marketers.)    


  1. I began groaning when I read "Boomer Grannies."

    As much a people like to believe that having children makes one more liberal minded, I've also seen a different tread. The NIMBY attitude tends to be higher among those with children. I understand where this mindset comes from and yet the opposite is always pushed in popular culture.

    I also agree with your observations about PANK (and PUNKs) and how they are ignored as a voting block. Maybe it's time that this voting block unites?

  2. I hadn't really previously considered that my peers will eventually become grandparents....ugh! Infertility is definitely the gift that keeps giving!

    My experience mirrors yours in that those without kids tend to be more liberal and those with kids are more conservative. It would be nice to live in a political climate that values all voices equally, but sadly I think we are a far bit away from that. Maybe some day we'll be able to drop just talk about "values" and "hard-working people" and leave families out of it.

    The state of healthcare coverage in the US defies logic. Maybe I'm biased, but I think that we have one of best healthcare systems in the world, but what good is it if it can't be accessed by a good portion of the population? In my early 20s, after I'd already graduated from college and been dropped by my parent's insurance, I had some gallbladder issues and had to be admitted to the hospital for several days for a bunch of tests. I didn't have insurance at the time because my job didn't offer it, I couldn't afford it (at the time my salary barely left enough to eat after rent and bills were paid) or qualify for Medicaid because my household income was too high. Even after the charity department at the hospital "forgave" a good portion of my bill, I still spent most of the rest of my 20s paying off the rest. Sadly it hasn't improved much in 10 years. But I'll step off of my soapbox. And not get on my soapbox about taxes.

    I would love to see a well designed study about ballot choices of those without children, too!

  3. 100% agree with Cristy's point about NIMBY attitudes. I've definitely seen that.

    Yes, here we don't get the Soccer Mom comments - but they do talk about "Mom-and-Pop investors" - a term I find strange in that New Zealanders don't use the words "Mom" or "Pop." In elections here they do go on and on about "families" though, and you just know they mean families with children.

    I hate the "Boomer Grannies" tag of course.

    (And I have to make an aside to your aside - I am incredibly impressed (shocked? horrified? sympathetic?) that you are going to a baby shower for an in-law cousin's child. That's going above and beyond the call of duty, I'd say!)

  4. @Mali: LOL -- you're obviously not part of an Italian family. ;) Everyone is kin (degree of cousinship does not matter) & you are expected to show up (and, of course, shell out) -- for engagement parties, showers (bridal & baby), weddings, stags (the guys anyway, lol) -- and possibly (depending on how close you are & how big the guest list is) baptisms, first birthday parties, first communions, confirmations, etc.

    I could probably beg off one baby shower (suddenly come down with the flu or something) but I could not do it all the time or consistently without causing problems. :p One of dh's cousins wives rarely attended family gatherings with her husband for a long time -- she wasn't feeling well, or she had a previous commitment, etc. -- and I heard the comments: "What's the matter with her? I guess she doesn't like us." Like us, they had been married a long time, they were pushing 40 and they didn't have any kids. It seemed pretty obvious to me why she wouldn't want to show up to a baby's first birthday party. (She did eventually have two kids in her 40s. I'm guessing IVF, but of course, nobody will say.)

    I figure if I could survive attending a baby shower on my 40th birthday weekend while in the middle of infertility treatments, I can certainly attend one now, 14 years later when I'm in a much better place, emotionally. It's not my favourite way to spend an afternoon, but I'll survive. ;) And, if need be, I will bitch here later, lol.

  5. And yet clout or no clout according to that article, you have a vote. You have a vote just as valid and just as powerful as a boomer granny (which has to be the oddest word I've read this morning). It's their lack of sight that will keep them from reaching you; their lack of understanding of how to reach those who are outside the targets they've designated. And yeah, a study SHOULD be done.