As a young unmarried woman in society today, I get a lot of questions about when I am going to settle down with a husband and have children. What I have noticed is that most of the time these questions have come from other women, women who have already settled down with a husband and had children. Meanwhile, the prospect of having a traditional family of my own makes me want to go running for the hills. Does this make me an oddity among my female peers? Shouldn’t I too, be in pursuit of the American dream, the white picket fence, the loving husband, and the 2.5 children?
I started to analyze, not only my own thoughts and reactions to marriage, children, and commitment in general, but those of my female friends as well. What did I find? That a good amount of woman in her mid to late 20’s are no longer focused on “landing a husband”. We have found that we have many other things to focus our energies on and that when our boyfriends start interfering with our focus we are much more likely to cut them lose. As a matter of fact, it has become the men in our lives, more often than not, that bring up the dreaded “m” word in the first place. Now don’t get me wrong, I have several female friends that are married with children and very happy for it, but the majority of us are more focused on our careers and/or education to even entertain the thought of a family at this point.
Some of us, myself included, have watched our own mothers struggle to maintain a balance between family, self, and career. With both their sense of self and their careers being placed on the back burner time and again to make room for the obligations they had to their family. The reality of it is that this was expected of our mothers. Their generation was still expected to find a husband and have children before their mid 20’s. Now, in their late 40’s to early 50’s, with their children grown and out of the house, many of our mother’s are searching for themselves and their own path. Many of them are divorced and either back in school or starting new careers, and finding it difficult at times to compete with the generally more experienced men of the same age group.
With the struggles of our mothers fresh in our minds is it any wonder that we, the 20 something women of today, have opted to focus on ourselves first. We are changing the role of and expectations on young women today. We are enrolling in colleges, we are joining the armed forces, we are starting our own businesses, and we are doing it all without a feeling the pressure to get married or start a family that our mother’s did. Many of us have not even dedicated enough focus to our relationships to maintain steady boyfriends. In this respect, it would seem anyway, that the 20 something woman has become the new man, a commitment phobic, career driven, freedom loving, independent individual.
The evidence of these changes can be seen everywhere from your local college campus, where there are many more female students than in the past, or even at your local night spot, were many of the women are out simply to have a good time with friends and have very little interest in finding a date. That is not all, primetime TV and even big budget movies have begun taking notice of this new attitude in young women as well. We are starting to see more and more female characters that are single and happy about it. They have fulfilling lives as career women and don’t spend the entire show or movie in search of their true love or trying to find a husband.
It is my belief that even the recent emergence of the “Metro-Sexual Male” is in direct connection to the commitment phobia developed by women. Men today are finding that if they want to find a woman who is independent, smart, and driven, then they had better do something to set themselves apart and they had better be able to take care of themselves. The desire for a family of our own has taken a back seat to our desire for our own lives; we will no longer over look a man’s shortcomings in order to land a husband. The days of a wife being totally responsible for the maintenance of the household and the sole care giver to the children are over. Today’s women will accept nothing less than a 50/50 relationship. We no longer want or need a man to support us; rather we want a partner to share our successes with.
The more we as women demand of ourselves the more we will see a change in the world around us. Who knows, maybe the next generation of young women will not have to answer the same questions about marriage and children that we face today. Maybe it will be common place to not get married, or to wait until you are in your mid to late 30’s for children. Maybe they will look to us as the generation that started it all, or maybe they will simply follow their grandmother’s footsteps and marry their high school sweetheart, and give up their career’s and education’s to be fulfilled as full time mothers and housewives. It is impossible to know whether or not this trend will continue, or what the long term implications will be. I can only hope that as more educated and experienced women we will be better equipped to make wiser decisions regarding the roles we play as wife and mother, and we are able to pass that knowledge on to the next generation of young women.