Unfortunately, many women – well educated, independent women like myself — still feel pressure to conform to the rather aggressive timeline society seems to have devised for our lives. Apparently we should marry in our mid-twenties, pop out a kid a few years later, maybe take a break from work until the little dears are in school, and 20ish years later bask in the glow of being a grandma. Definitely great for some, but as two recent trends confirm, not for all.
According to the CDC, more women are putting off pregnancy until after the age of thirty. Granted, this trend could increase pregnancy-related health complications, but in general, it seems to bring more benefits than harm. Early pregnancy, especially teen pregnancy, can have detrimental effects not only on young mothers themselves, but also on the national economy.
Lately it seems women and men alike need an array of degrees in order to earn a decent salary. Young mothers, whether they’re in their teens or early twenties, are faced with the extreme difficulty of completing their education while raising an infant, which may complicate their ability to secure quality employment capable of supporting both themselves and their families. In many cases, it’s not even an option for women to stay home while their spouse or significant other — if he or she exists — brings home the bacon. The economy has made it a necessity for everyone to work regardless of gender or marital status.
It’s no surprise then that young women in their twenties seem to be completing their education, taking time to establish some sort of economic stability, and only then deciding to become mothers. The result? More children being born to mothers with greater emotional maturity and sound financial footing. Not half bad in my book.
Some women are deciding to delay pregnancy, others are deciding to delay marriage or other substantial relationships — indefinitely. WYNC’s The Brian Lehrer Show recently did a segment on the large number of single women living in New York City’s five boroughs. Apparently, 1.5 million women 15 or older — 42% of women in NYC — have never been married. This puts the number of unmarried women in New York higher than in any other city or state in the U.S. Despite the prevalence of being single in NYC, women still face a stigma regarding their relationship status, as WNYC’s Ailsa Chang explains below:
We keep a lot of judgments about religion, skin color, sexual orientation mostly to ourselves, but single women constantly hear that happiness and meaning are only possible through pairing with someone — that you’re better off in a couple than being alone.
Do women really need a man (or another woman) to be happy? At least some female New Yorkers don’t think so. Here’s a reaction from a Brian Lehrer Show listener on the idea of re-claiming the traditionally negative word “spinster”:
I’m thrilled as punch to be single and…have no interest in getting married — ever. I’m 55 years old. Uh, love the word spinster — could care less. I agree with…Ailsa…It says more about the person who’s saying it than…the person who they’re saying it to. I’m a happy, single babe. I’ve traveled the world, I love my work, and life is exciting.
Well said, Bernadette from Manhattan. Women’s life choices are just that: choices. What works for some — marriage, kids before 25 — in no way should be imposed upon us all, regardless of popularity or what the general consensus deems appropriate.
What do you think?
Photo Credit: LCSTRAVELBUGGIN via Flickr