When baby boomers were newlyweds, 80% knew how to make a roast for Sunday dinner and hem a pair of pants. Today, less than half of newlyweds know how to do this. Life skills that we once took for granted are rapidly becoming specialized abilities. No one is teaching the kids how to sew on a button or sharpen a knife. Instead, we now hire people to check the oil in our car, clean our house, cut our children’s hair and make the family birthday cakes. While many 20-somethings can stream a movie on their computer and play Scrabble on their phone, they have no idea how to write in cursive or drive a car with a stick shift. Writing on matadornetwork.com, author Anne Merritt has identified eight life skills where mom and dad have ’em beat.
1. Driving a stick shift
Since more than 90% of all cars sold in the United States today have an automatic transmission — compared to just half in 1950 — most young adults have no clue how to shift gears manually. What’s a clutch?
2. Cooking from scratch
While moms in the ’70s made homemade brownies, today’s moms are more likely to grab a box of brownie mix or buy them at the bakery. Young adults may enjoy cooking shows on TV and even sign up for cooking classes, but they actually cook far less than their parents did. And when they do cook, they use ready-made ingredients, such as chicken stock, tomato paste and pie crusts.
3. Making soap
All it takes is lye, water, animal fat and oil, but making soap at home is almost obsolete today–except as a middle school science project.
4. Simple carpentry
When did schools stop offering shop classes? We no longer make a bookcase, end table or kitchen table in the basement utility room. Mass produced furniture is cheap and easy to replace if you’re moving or redecorating. And assembling your own Ikea furniture doesn’t count as making it yourself.
5. Sharpening knives
When a knife becomes dull, do you sharpen it yourself or pay a professional to do it–or just buy a new one? It’s a simple skill to be able to sharpen a knife, but one that is definitely declining, thanks in part to no-dull guarantees on some knives and free knife-sharpening events at many big box stores.
6. Home maintenance
Can you replace a broken bathroom exhaust fan? Ever changed the refrigerator light bulb? What do you do when a door hinge becomes so loose the door is in danger of falling off? Young adults are more likely to call a handyman to the rescue. In the 1970s, more than 70% of men learned basic home repair skills from their dads; today, that number is just 40%.
Whether it’s a missing button, a hem or a split seam, most baby boomer women could fix it in a minute–either by hand with a needle and thread or using their sewing machine. When schools stopped teaching home economics, buttons stopped being sewn on and split seams just got bigger–unless you knew a tailor. Clothing is so cheap now, it’s actually less expensive to buy it than sew it at home so kids have little incentive to learn how to sew.
8. Cursive writing
While boomers learned penmanship in the third grade, practicing each letter over and over, young adults never had those lessons. They learned to print and type instead, and if they did learn cursive, many have forgotten it from lack of use. After all, who writes anything by hand anymore?