Growing up, I was under the impression that by the time you were thirty, women needed to have found the guy they were going to marry, marry him, and have at least one child. And I guess because I was under this impression, I was putting pressure on myself for years to have done this, and I'm only twenty. But a little while ago, I came to the realisation that I don't need to put this pressure on myself. And here's why...
Let's be honest, so much can change in such a short space of time. Let's take this year for example, on New Year's Eve and the early hours of New Year's Day, we were all celebrating and having a great time, with lots of hope for the new year and new decade. Then, on the 3rd of January, Twitter went into meltdown when we all thought we were on the brink of World War III. And although technically not a World War in the sense of countries physically fighting each other, we encountered a different kind of World War in the form of coronavirus, which became world news on the 4th of January, and is all anyone has been able to talk about ever since.
And due to the events of the year so far, it just goes to show how much really can change in a short period of time. Three months ago I was still going into uni, then a week or two later I was told face-to-face teaching was ending and everything was moving online. Those days were crazy as suddenly what was normal to me, suddenly turned into me staying at home 24/7 and I haven't left the house (at the time of writing) in months. People say to be grateful for being here as one day you might just not wake up, which is a really scary feeling. In a matter of hours, you can go from being pregnant to holding your baby in your arms. In one day you can go from being completely and utterly single to meeting the love of your life. Whether that be on Tinder, in the street, in the club, in a pub, at work, or wherever else, at some point you can meet that person and years, maybe even months, after meeting them, you will look at how much your life has changed. Sure, it's not true for everyone, but it's just another example of how fast life can change, whether you like it or not.
I guess the pressure really comes from those around me. I remember when my cousin got married (I was 18 at the time), as I was leaving, my Uncle said to me that I'd 'be next'. The issue I have with this is that at the time I didn't have a boyfriend (and still don't) and also at that time he had two other daughters that were both in long-term relationships. So, taking all of that into consideration, how was I, an 18 year old singleton, going to be the next to be married when there's two other women, both in their twenties and in long-term relationships, that are much more likely to get married before me. When I was told that I'd 'be next', it made me feel so much pressure to try and find someone to settle down with, eventually marry and have children with. But I was only 18. And even now, I'm only twenty. Why would I want to try and find someone to marry when I'm not even sure myself that I want to get married. I want to have children, of course, but having parents that had such a turbulent marriage, which subsequently ended in divorce, marriage is the last thing on my mind. It's also the pressure of being at uni to, not necessarily find someone to marry, but at the very least find a boyfriend. I remember around a year ago my Gran asking me if I had a boyfriend yet and then saying she was surprised because I'm at uni. But why just because I'm at uni should I be finding myself a boyfriend? For starters, my course only has two boys on it. One's gay and the other lives at the opposite side of the country to me and I'm not about that long-distance relationship life (not that there's anything wrong with long-distance relationships, it's just that I need to be no more than an hour away from any partner of mine so I can see them at least every weekend, and not just over FaceTime). But looking past my course, when I did live in uni accommodation, a lot of the boys there were either already in relationships, weren't my type, or were only interested in sex and having a one-night stand (again, not that there's anything wrong with a one-night stand, cause I've been there, but it's just not something I'm interested in doing on a regular basis). But despite all this, after three or four years of crazy boy drama from around year 10 to year 13, I decided that I'm not particularly looking for a boyfriend just yet. My education is really important to me and I would much rather put all of my focus and attention on that than on some boy. Because at the end of the day, I graduate (hopefully) when I'm 21, so I have so many years to find someone to settle down and start a family with.
My mum had my younger brother when she was forty. Sure, I'd rather not wait that long to have my first child, and cannot imagine myself being pregnant at that age, but it happens. Women don't need to have had children by the time they're thirty anymore. It may have been a need for them a hundred years ago because the life expectancy was much shorter then. In 1920, the life expectancy for women in the UK was 59 years, and in 2020 it's 81 years. We are living so much longer nowadays that the rush to have a family at an early age is less needed. Besides, back then it was expected of women to be married off and have children and that was their sole purpose. But so much has changed since then. Now, it is possible for women to live a life of their own and not have to rely on a man. For example, you don't necessarily need a man to have a child. It is possible for women to get a sperm donor in order to have a child. I guess if you say you want children, people will immediately tell you that you need to find a man to settle down with in that case. But you don't need to. There are sperm donors. You can adopt. People seem to think you need a man for these things, but people forget there are many cases where women have had a child in the 'conventional' sense, and for one reason or another the man is no longer in their lives. It is possible for single women (as well as single men) to bring up children by themselves.
So that's why I've stopped putting pressure on myself to get married and have had at least one child by the time I'm thirty. Because I don't need to. Because I can have a child with the man I love and not be married to him. Because I can have a child without having a man in my life at all. Because I can have a child when I'm in my forties. Because I'm young and should be having fun focusing on the present and not focusing on where I may or may not be in ten or twenty years time. Because so much can change in such a short period of time, that it's pointless trying to control when something happens because it will just happen naturally. And if I don't find someone, that's okay. I'll be okay. We'll all be okay.
Love Beth xx