Date: Mar 16 2018
My siblings and I agree that we are fortunate to come from a family like ours. When I say, ‘like ours,’ I mean very close, sort of ‘in each other’s business,’ and with a sense of responsibility for preserving our family dynamic and the opportunities that we have been afforded. I know that, while we are not common, there are other families like ours out there. It would be extremely beneficial for me to know how those families organize themselves. I am especially interested in how families approach integrating new members into the family.
When asked to clarify what generation I belong to in my family, the answer is really complicated. And my family actually discusses this topic with some regularity. My siblings and I could consider ourselves G4: The engineering company, still owned and operated within our family, was founded by my great-grandfather. In other ways, though, we consider ourselves G3 because both of our grandfathers are entrepreneurs and great examples of achieving independent financial success through hard work and persistence. Sometimes, I think it’s fair to think of ourselves as G2 because we lived through years of our father working long hours and traveling constantly as he built various companies in diverse sectors. Oftentimes, we consider ourselves G1 because we were raised to forge our own paths and work to preserve what we have for future generations. All of us are expected to circumvent the three-generation shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves cycle.
While some of my siblings are natural entrepreneurs, that descriptor is a stretch for me. I’m a bigger-picture person. And I’m actually comfortable and more effective at being in a support role for my larger family. For example, I enjoy working on our education portal, which is used mostly for onboarding new family members. It’s something I wish had existed when my husband and I got married.
Logan and I have been married for over six years. We were introduced by a friend just after I finished graduate school, and he was the first spouse to join our family in my generation. Though he is a fantastic fit, there was no real plan to integrate him into our large, loud, and sometimes-overwhelming family at the time. Now, Logan has taken a position in my grandfather’s engineering company, and he has made a real effort to catch up on the intricacies that makes our family what it is.
At this stage, a number of members of my generation are getting married. We will have two more weddings in 2018. So, I’m working on overcoming the challenge of integrating spouses into our family with an online portal education program. My hope is that the program will help new members feel welcome, involved, and comfortable to be themselves within the context of the family. My sense from the spouses and spouses-to-be has been that our family history, and the characters involved, figure prominently in the family experience—so, it’s something they want to learn about. One of the things being incorporated into the online portal is a family history section that includes photos, videos, and audio recordings of my grandparents talking about their lives. We also have videos of other family members talking about how the family history impacts them. My hope is that these will give new family members a foundational understanding of the main themes in our family history.
I would like to continue to help develop ways—even beyond technological—that spouses can feel welcome. And as my husband and I are starting to consider having children of our own, it is top-of-mind for me to preserve our family history and dynamics. So, that’s what I’m hoping to bring up with a community of peers at the upcoming FOX Rising Gen event. My goal is to generate some new ideas for helping new members to our family feel that they are truly part of our dynamic and able to enjoy all the privileges and responsibilities that being part of a ‘family like ours’ brings.
Hillary Elmore Cage of Elmore Companies is a member of the FOX Rising Gen Advisory Board.