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Locked In The Bathroom: A Brief Latchkey Memoir

horsey on a fence

Horse on Fence | Photo by Jennifer

It’s estimated that more than 40 percent of Generation Xers (those born between 1961 and 1981, according to Neil Howe and William Strauss, the esteemed authors of Generations), were latchkey kids.

I came across the blog of a Baby Boomer the other day, Finding Pam. The woman is 58, but her mother worked, and like many Gen-Xers she was a latchkey kids. This was pretty unusual for Boomer kids. Here’s an excerpt:

“I spent the better part of three years locked in the bathroom at home after school because I was afraid that someone was breaking in our house. I was a latchkey kid and I never felt safe. Everything spooked me because of some previous experiences of creeps trying to get me. If there was a creek or a bump off to the bathroom I went to stay till momma got home from work…”

I’d completely forgotten the times I locked myself in the bathroom as a kid and teenager because I was home alone and scared. Weird times. I think I thought I was the only person who ever did this.

The latchkey experience went far in shaping Generation X. It certainly shaped me. I suspect it shaped the men even more than the women. What do you think? Were you a latchkey kid? Was the experience, negative, positive, neutral? Did anything bad and preventable happen to you between the hours of 3-6 p.m.?

I hope workplace flexibility continues to grow in the United States and that working parents can be available to their children during the most dangerous hours in America.


Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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  1. Wyldcherry

    I was a latch key kid starting age 9. Luckily my mom (single parent) worked at across the street. I lived in an apartment, so I did not feel too alone. She had to work overtime sometimes (money was tight) and did not come home until midnight. Those were the times I wish she was there… it was scary…to ease my mom’s fears she made me carry mace and a pocket knife…yup normal things kids should have.

    Yeah I could see how gen x’ers can become helicopter parents. I would like my kids to have someone to come home to and feel safe.

    Then again, as an adult I’m pretty independent and can be by myself. I started managing the house chores at a young age because my mom was the main bread earner (by the time she got home was too tired to do it). So there are some perks to being a latch key kid.

  2. jenX

    @SHELLY – Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your comment. Seeing my mom worked definitely influenced me and how I thought of my abilities and possibilities, too.

  3. Finding Pam

    Wow, I was really shocked to find that you had left a message on my comments back in Oct. Sorry I did bc I am not sure if you are making fun of me.

    I made sure my sons had cookies and company before I owned my own business where I worked 60 hours a week.

    Fom what I have read on your blog, I think you are sincere. It will make me think twice about my writing such personal stuff about my life. I never thought I would see my words on someone eleses blog. Believe me this was a real threat for me.

  4. Rick

    A Baby Boomer here – at the tail end – just about. Mom was always home. For that I thank God – and my parents who provided for 6 children somehow, with Mom going to work.

  5. Le @ Third on the Right

    Hello Jen

    When mum had to go back to work it was horrid to come home to an empty house.

    To make it worse I was the eldest of four so had to keep the law and order till mum came home. … thankfully she was always home within the hour of us coming in.

    After I went to uni I had regualr calls from my little sister locked in her room because the boys were fighting with each other … brothers eh !!

    Let’s not do this to our babes if at all possible. le xoxo

  6. Stefunkc

    I was a latch key kid for years! After my parents divorced I had to be. I don’t remember being afraid to be home (such a good neighborhood) but I was always terrified if my mom was even 1 minute late. Let alone 5! Oh how I love living in a world of cell phones now!

  7. JenX67

    Refrigerator and A/C noises are responsible for scaring many a latchkey kid. The more I reflect on my latchkey experience, the more I have to say about a lot of things. What’s most interesting is that the years that were hardest for me were 9th and 10th grade – and our federal government allows no tax breaks for formal care of these children – and they are children – and the girls do get pregnant between 3 and 6 p.m. I can’t believe the federal government isn’t giving tax breaks to private companies offering flex time to working parents or work-from home WHATEVER – more has got to be done. I’m convinced. More peer pressure has got to be put on organizations to respond to the needs of working parents – MOMS and DADS b/c both are equally sharing the load these days.

  8. junkdrawer67

    I was not a latchkey kid. My mom was almost always home when I got there, like poetikat’s and lorrie’s with a snack and questions about my day.

    But there were a few times when she was not there and, despite having an older brother and sister, I was home alone, at least for a little while. It was kind of scarey. One time in particular, when I was sure I heard someone trying to get into the house. It sounded to me like a screw turning but turned out to be the compressor to the refrigerator motor.

    I’m glad that I didn’t have to go through that every day.

    Do you suppose that kind of experience is behind the movie Home Alone? I’ve never examined it closely, mostly because I can’t stand that movie, but it seems like it’s possible.

    Also, I’d read/heard that from 3 to 6pm is the time in which most teenage girls become pregenant. I’m the father of a 7 1/2 year old so that really concerns me. If there’s nothing else for her to do after school, my daughter will be coming with me to work at the library. I mean, provided I still have that job 5-6 years from now.

  9. Daddy Forever

    It made me more independent. I rarely saw my parents after school. The both worked and I don’t think they even knew where I was most of the time.

  10. Lorrie Veasey

    Me too. I have a greater appreciation for that now than I did then: back in the day I often wished she WASN”T home so i could watch tv instead of do homework.

  11. Poetikat

    I was very fortunate that my mother was always at home when I came from school. She was there with a snack and a drink and lots of questions about how my day went. I guess I took that for granted.



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