Hello biological clock. I hear you loud and clear. Every time a family walks by with a little itty bitty one, you can’t help but smile and get that gooey feeling, like you really ought to be popping one of those out yourself any day now.
Lately, I can much picture myself as a mother much easier than I can envision myself a bride. Apparently, among Millennials, I’m not alone in this notion. We value parenthood more than marriage.
Today’s 18- to 29-year-olds value parenthood far more than marriage, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of attitudinal surveys. A 2010 Pew Research survey found that 52% of Millennials say being a good parent is “one of the most important things” in life. Just 30% say the same about having a successful marriage — meaning there is a 22-percentage-point gap in the way Millennials value parenthood over marriage.
What scares me is another report by Pew that finds the average age for U.S. mothers who had their first baby in 20062 was 25, a year older than the average first-time mother in 1990. Among all women who had a baby in 2006, the average age is 27, up from 26 in 1990. The prime child-bearing years remain 20-34 — three-quarters of mothers of newborns are in this age range.
I feel so far behind, even though I wasn’t ready to have kids until now, and really, a lot can be said about how I’m not ready now either. Now doesn’t mean this second anyway — it means in the next few years.
Having kids doesn’t freak me out as much as it used to — though I’m still concerned I’m not fit to be a proper parent. I just know I have a lot of love to give, and life so far has been a waste of selfishness. It still freaks me out when my friends from childhood are popping out babies left and right — and even though I’ve been fairly successful in my career, have a life on my own, etc, I still feel like I did something wrong. I made it to 28 without any kids, and the way things are going I’ll be 30 and childless.
That’s not so bad… there’s nothing wrong with having your first kid after 30, just as long as it’s fairly soon after the 30. Due to having PCOS, I’m supposed to have kids early anyway. The words my gynecologist spoke to me at 15 have haunted me to this day — “don’t worry, as long as you have kids by the time you’re 30, you’ll be fine.” Uh, that seemed like a long way off then. Life goes by so quickly and I don’t want to be an old mom. Maybe being a teen mom isn’t such a bad idea… oh well, it’s too late for that.
And then comes the whole marriage story. In 1960, the median age of first marriage in the U.S. was 23 for men and 20 for women; today it is 28 and 26. Crap, I missed the average there too, unless I happen to be a man and I didn’t notice.
According to the Pew Research Center, a full 44 percent of Millennials and 43 percent of Gen Xers think that marriage is becoming obsolete. And so, in my quest to find information about how normal vs. off the mark I am, I found a slew of articles written by the new feminots, the women who grew up with mothers who preached female independence, only to determine that the lessons their parents have taught them led the women to being single relatively old maids, with a shrinking population of worthy men.
In this (really long — and no I didn’t read the whole thing, but I read most of it) article in The Atlantic titled “All the Single Ladies,” author Katie Bolick tells a significant story of her life, which hits home. At 28, she broke up with her charming, really good enough boyfriend because “something” was missing, and she wasn’t ready to settle down. Fast forward 11 years, and she’s still alone, wondering what went wrong.
The feminot notion is that the rise of women and the fall of men really fucks with the easier status quo of days gone by. Bolick points out in the article an analysis by Michael Greenstone, an economist at MIT, reveals that, after accounting for inflation, male median wages have fallen by 32 percent since their peak in 1973, once you account for the men who have stopped working altogether. The Great Recession accelerated this imbalance. Nearly three-quarters of the 7.5 million jobs lost in the depths of the recession were lost by men, making 2010 the first time in American history that women made up the majority of the workforce.
The argument, I think, is that when women become more powerful and men become more lame, we end up in the Outer Limits episode Lithia where the world is populated by women who can reproduce together and men have become extinct… ok, so not quite that scenario, but there is an argument pouring from the hearts of the conservatism nouveau that the twisted scenerio of women in power throws off just about everything humanity is sociologically built upon.
But unlike the conservatives of the past, Bolick raises some really good points that increasingly reflect our young adult world. She splits men into two categories — the overachievers (ie douchebags) and the lazy bums (sweet as pie but going nowhere). Those are my descriptions of her categories, not hers, but that’s pretty much the point she is making. And the way I see it, that’s true. You have the guys who play the field until their late 30s or 40s (and many of them end up cheating later in life too, ie in the case of quite a few people I know) OR you end up with the lazy bum who maybe is sweet, but gives you zero ounces of security that the little voice inside your brain that wants to be a Disney Princess is consistently kicking you over if you go down that route.
Bolick’s article, as politically incorrect as it may be at times, seems to capture a lot of the problems and/or opportunities with relationships in modern society, highlighting the hookup culture that is prominent across America’s colleges, to the large population of single mothers in low-income communities.
And she presents evidence that couplehood is a relatively new cultural obsession, though “pair bonding” has been around for 3.5 years, according to biological anthropologist Helen Fischer. In the end, it sounds like this author wants to convince herself that the post-feminist world has fucked her over, and that she needs to find happiness as a single woman to make due, unless she happens to find the one before she turns 42 within the next six years.
I’m at the other end of Bolick’s story. Turning 28, I know I’m about to enter a phase of my life otherwise known as motherhood, or, alternately, I could run for the hills and slam the door on my 5.5 year relationship in search of — something different — and like her, in 11 years, sure enough, I’d be joining the old maid club.
So, knowing that I don’t want that to happen, and also finding my boyfriend lovable and falling in the lazy, but at least not a douchebag category, I’m really ready to settle down and get the next phase started. It doesn’t have to be tomorrow, but how long does a girl have to wait before the time is right? How will it ever be more right? Well, my boyfriend, who is turning 30 in 2012, wants to go to grad school before he gets married. He spent his 20s working part time, but not at any specific career. His income is probably $15k to $20k a year. Meanwhile, I’ve increased my annual salary from $30k to $100k in six years of being in the workforce.
Sure, I can spend more time honing my career before what I think of as my “real life” to come, but I think I’ve been freaking out pushing so hard to get to a place where I could feel independent and somewhat stable — and then i wonder what all that fuss was for if ultimately I’m with a guy who won’t be ready to get married for another three years. It’s kind of make or break at this point, I don’t want to end up 30 and single, and I don’t imagine myself with anyone other than him. I just realize the smarter thing to have done was to fall in love with a guy at least 10 years older than me. Oh well, it’s too late for that, too.