People of my generation are in a unique situation: Many of us are products of 20-something parents (my mom was considered “old” at 27), yet were raised on “girl power” slogans in a “you-don’t-need-a-man-to-be-happy” culture. Divorces were more common than ever, as were powerful female role models and women CEOs.
As a feminist (or, rather, just a decent human being), I think it was an incredible time to grow up — with women being afforded freedoms and opportunities that even a decade ago weren’t as common. Our mothers told us to never rely on a man — financially or emotionally. To make ourselves happy. To follow our dreams and be whoever we want to be.
But on the flip side, we’re also young enough to see the Gen X teenagers grow up, rebel against the “soccer mom” cliché, follow the aforementioned advice and focus on themselves — their careers, the coveted corner office, the freedom of finding oneself. And we’re now seeing that generation of women who chose career over family struggle with infertility, miscarriages, the pressure of having children before it’s biologically too late.
I would never suggest that we go back to the days when women were “expected” to be mothers by 23 years old. I fully understand when 35-year-old women say that they simply had no idea who they were 10 years ago and needed more time to figure themselves out. But this article (The Aniston Syndrome: What Happens to Women Who Wait Too Long) is written by a woman who is reflecting on her generation’s choices, and she brings up an interesting perspective:
I think it’s important to think about the long run and your fertility in your twenties more than I and many of my peers did. My version of feminism taught me that I had to be in perfect control and have all my ducks in a row – the perfect relationship, the perfect career, enough financial power – before I was ready to become a mother, and I now see that control and perfectionism hurt me and wasted a lot of my procreative power. If I could go back ten years, I might tell my younger self that there is never a perfect time to have a baby in terms of your life circumstances and not everything has to be perfect. And rather than just living for the moment, I would tell her to deeply consider her future family and how she might want it to look— keeping in mind that it does get harder and harder to get pregnant as you get older. This is different than settling for the less than perfect guy, but I do think that by better balancing your priorities, younger women may choose different kinds of relationships with men.
And isn’t that true? The 20-something years are now defined as the “finding yourself” years, where it’s normal to jump from one relationship to the next, never wanting to “settle down” before you need to. And if a 20-something woman decides to start a family, become a mother, it’s generally viewed as naive, unplanned, irresponsible. How could any young woman allow herself to get pregnant in this day and age?
What I’m wondering is this: How many people are choosing (or wanting to choose) early motherhood because their priorities are different than the Gen X standard? Because they’ve seen older women deal with fertility issues, regret, stress at a certain age? Because they want to be a young mom?
In a broader sense: Do you think they’ll be a trend of younger moms as the decade goes on? I can’t tell you how many smart, educated, ambitious young women have confided that they wish they could just be mothers right now. That they’re envious of my situation, while so many older women look at me with pity.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue — no matter what your opinion. I’m writing an article on the subject and could use the feedback.