Are We Traditional or Unconventional?

Once upon a time, young women started families in their early 20s. That was considered normal and acceptable -- and not too long ago, either. My mother says she was on the older end of the spectrum at 27, and her mother started having kids in her very early 20s. My husband is the product of two young 20-somethings who got married at 18 years old.

Yet times have changed.

Rapidly. Drastically.

It was really the Gen X-ers who helped redefine and restructure our parenting timeline, pushing up when women started having children closer to their later 20s. And as we all know, it's now generally accepted that women build their careers in their 20s and have babies in their 30s.

Yet a recent article in the New York Post, which discussed the number of Manhattan women choosing to happily put off having kids (or never having kids) for their careers, got me thinking: They look at young motherhood as boring and conventional, yet I look at putting off kids as the expected, typical route. (Of course the New York Post's article is more about the large percentage of Manhattan women who are permanently childless and happy, although their statistics are a bit misleading.)

The article says that society is "banging the drum for motherhood" -- but only at a certain point, right? Not too early, not too late. And according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, the Millenial generation (hi, there) are having children even later than our Gen-X predecessors with 36 percent having children between 18 and 29, down from 41 percent in the previous generation.

So although the idea of getting married and having babies in our 20s is technically a "traditional" way to think, how far do we have to veer until the tradition is redefined? Because when all of your peers are living drastically different lives, it's hard to feel like you're traveling a comfortable, traditional path. Especially since today's young mom is more likely to be finishing up a graduate degree and pursuing career goals -- unlike our grandmother's generation.

Do you look at young motherhood as traditional or unconventional? 

And on a related note: Do you think that the tail end of the Millenials (defined as those born between 1982 and 2000) will continue to prolong motherhood for their careers? For their freedom? Or do you think we're on the cusp of a societal reversal?

Photo: Nicole Hill Gerulat

25 Comments