I’m 35 years old. I have been married for three years and have two small children. According to societal standards, as a woman, I made it just in time. If I had not made it, I would have been doomed to a life of spinster behavior and a house filled with cats.
By “it,” I mean I’ve hit the unspoken deadline of getting married and having kids. It’s not as if we are still living in the past where being a single woman by the age of 20 was frowned upon, but there are still unfair expectations for women when it comes to getting married and family planning in our society.
Data collected by the American Psychological Association found that 90 percent of people in Western societies get married before the age of 50. The research also stated that in Western societies, “people between the ages of 25 and 35 are heavily pressured to marry and have kids.”
Although these statistics are credible, I tend to believe that it’s not “people” who are pressured to get married and have kids, but women specifically. A long time ago, a woman was thought to be a spinster if she wasn’t married by a certain age. Presently, the idea of getting married by one’s early 20s isn’t as common (some of the pressure has been quelled), but there’s something about the 30s. I can recall a married male friend simply stating (as in no evidence to back this up, just his honest, not humble opinion) that if a woman isn’t married or has never been married by her mid-30s, then something must be wrong with her.
Unfortunately, men aren’t the only ones who think this way. A hairstylist at a salon I frequent told me a story about being scolded for seemingly dragging her feet. She was in the middle of having a conversation with her client when the woman asked her if she had any children after asking her age. The hairstylist, in her 20s, said, “No.” Her client quickly responded with “Well what are you waiting on?”
Society says that a woman can’t pursue a career AND successfully grow her family at the same time (if at all), so many women are left feeling as though they have to choose between their passion or having kids. In most cases, it could take years before a woman feels that she is truly successful in her career; therefore, pushing her family planning back a few more years. We’re frowned upon if we try to focus on achieving career success or left with shoulda, coulda, wouldas if we focus solely on trying to marry and start a family. It often feels as though we can’t win for trying.
But what people don’t talk often enough about is the reality that marriage and motherhood don’t automatically ensure a happily ever after. According to the American Psychological Association, 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. There are so many reasons people choose to end their marriage, but I can’t help but wonder if many of us settling in order to meet societal standards plays a part.
The pressures put on us to beat our biological clocks as women are crazy. And the fact that it comes from both men and fellow women makes it all the more ridiculous. To that I simply say, don’t let other people’s timelines mess with your life or your plans. True happiness doesn’t come in one specific way for every person, so don’t be afraid to do you — at your own pace.
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