It’s summer — or as I like to call it, wedding season!
With weddings happening left and right, it’s hard not to have love on the mind. While I wasn’t personally invited to a wedding this summer, one of my friends has already gone to three in the last few weekends. And I can’t go a day without finding out another person from my high school class is engaged or married with a second kid on the way.
I recently celebrated my 20th birthday. The biggest thing on my mind was whether to have a tea party or a dinner celebration. Meanwhile, it seems all of the other women my age are either picking out their wedding dresses or visiting their obstetrician. More and more wedding shows on television are featuring 20-year-old brides trying to find the perfect gown. Conversations with my girlfriends consist of comments like “I can’t wait to be married” and “Do you think he’s the one?” While I am so excited to be entering my 20s, all of this wedding talk is making me want to go back to my awkward preteen years.
Why are women so obsessed with finding love so early? Casual dating is simply just a thing of the past. If he’s not the one, then he’s not worth our time. We are constantly bombarded with questions about who we are dating, when we are planning on getting married, where we are going to live, etc. We stress ourselves out about another relationship that didn’t work out. Most girls my age already have their first three children’s names picked out and every detail of their wedding pinned on Pinterest. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to get married and have kids… one day, but why now?
Before I go on, I should point out that there are in fact women who have followed this path and I view them as strong and incredible women. SmartFem columnist Elizabeth Leon has great insight into being a single mother in her twenties and still making time for herself. Child Development Specialist Linda Levin M.A. recently evaluated the pros and cons of being a working mom versus a stay at home mom. Neither one is better than the other, but both come with their advantages and disadvantages. After all, your twenties are a time to find yourself, and while adding a kid and a husband into the mix can be difficult, it can also be very rewarding for some women.
The pressure to start a family at a young age is almost everywhere we look. In an age where women have made so many strides toward equality and independence I wonder where the disconnect happened for women dropping their career goals for their marriage goals. Why can’t you have both? Whereas men are expected to succeed at work in their twenties, women are expected to have a husband and kids. God forbid a woman approaches her thirties without having a serious boyfriend. It is practically a death sentence to some people. Often women who do choose to start their careers before they start a family feel they are looked down upon. I am one of those women.
Personally, I am at a point in my life where my career is the number one thing on my mind. I’d much rather talk about my career and what job I’d like to aspire to than the theme of my future wedding. Meanwhile, it seems everyone around me is on a quest to find her husband by the time they graduate. I on the other hand am hoping just to have a stable job and a place to live by the time I graduate in two years. I went to college to pursue my love, not find it.
Lately, the idea of marriage and children has become less desirable to me. I don’t know if it’s because I am at an age where it could be possible, which is a scary thought, or if it’s just a personal lifestyle choice. Women who focus on their careers are often seen as selfish or willing to push down anyone to get where they want. Whenever I tell my friends or family that I am unsure if marriage is for me, I am met with shock and disbelief. Most of them tell me I will change my mind, as if having kids and a husband is not even my choice at all. What I wish I had was more support. Call me crazy, but I think it is commendable for a woman to ensure her success and financial stability before or even during starting a family.
Fortunately, more women are going to work and landing major positions. The average age for marrying has actually increased to about 26 years old for women. So the problem isn’t that women don’t want to focus on their careers before getting married, it’s that they are made to feel bad for doing so. As a woman, I want my success to amount to something I did on my own as opposed to just marrying some rich guy.
Women at my age should see it as an opportunity to focus on their career and individual happiness. This is a time where we are still finding out who we are and what we want. More women might be marrying at a later age, but we are often led to believe we should feel ashamed of it or like we are taking the steps of life wrong. I say we should create our own steps and make the choices that feel right for us. Reaching your career goals first might even give you the confidence to go out and find a man who is equally as successful, and who doesn’t shy away from your success either. Men aren’t just the bread-winners anymore. Women are making their stake and should feel welcomed to do so.