When I was 18, I had a plan. I’d go to college with my boyfriend, then get my Master’s degree, we’d get married after that, and I’d have kids by the time I was thirty.
By 19, my plan changed to: get past this rough patch with my boyfriend, get my Master’s, married after, and still have time to have kids by 30.
At 20, I added “maybe” to my plan: maybe get past the rough patch, WILL get my Master’s, maybe marriage, maybe we’ll have kids.
At 21, my plan turned into questions: will we get past the rough patch? Why am I still here? Will we actually get married? Would I want kids with this guy one day?
At 22, I was, like, fuck this shit.
I had no plan at 22 and it was liberating. My only plan was to complete my Master’s and get out in the world and explore. I didn’t even want to date. I just wanted to be a writer and have fun. And that’s what I did. But as the years have passed, I wonder why I had a plan at all and why it involved the age of 30. Was it because my mom was married and had kids by 30? Or was it because I’ve heard other women (constantly) speak about their plans, all of which seemed to involve the age of 30?
“I want to be married, have a kid, own a home, have a new car, and the best job ever by 30,” I hear women say. I hear at least a few of these “what-I-want-before-I’m-30” statements each month.
Women, I’ve noticed, also like to talk about what they won’t be doing at 30. “I won’t have this debt,” “I won’t go out to the club at 30,” “I won’t be single at 30,” “I won’t wear tight or sexy clothing at 30,” and my favorite, “Ugh, when I’m 30 I’m not going to be doing those things – it’s just sad.”
Somewhere along the way, someone, somewhere told us that 30 was the “prime” age for a woman. That if we didn’t get everything done by 30, we were a failure. And yes, many of us think that. I can see the obvious panic and fear on the faces of women when they talk about how they’re 26 and don’t have a boyfriend yet. Someone, somewhere made us believe that the age of 30 is a time of change, a time in which we should not want to be sexy, having fun, or making mistakes any more.
I also listen to women that are in their 20s who speak about women who are 30+ and don’t have “the husband, kid, home, and job” or who may still be partying and going out on Thursday night, and I hear them speak about these 30+ ladies with derision and pity in their voices. They look down upon these women of 30. And that’s not right.
So I want to break down this myth of “having it all” by 30. By limiting our goals in life we are putting too much pressure on ourselves for some things that we cannot completely control – such as love, jobs, kids, basically everything. We are also limiting ourselves from other possibilities in life and most of all, in having fun!
The average age for women in the U.S. to get married is 27. That’s the average which means that there has to be a significant number of women on both sides of that number for it to average out. So there are women who marry after their 30 and here’s why that’s okay:
There’s actually benefits to women who marry after their 30. College-educated and high school-educated women who get married after the age of 30 will actually make more money in their careers. Your chances of a healthy, long-lasting marriage actually doubles, the closer you are to the age of 30 when you get married too.
Similarly, when you turn 30 or even after, you probably know what you want, your career is set, your financially more stable, and you can probably put more effort into dating than you might have wanted to when you were 22.
Furthermore, if you’re extremely set on getting married before you’re 30 you could be bringing more problems than solutions into your life such as unneeded stress or depression. At worst, you might convince yourself to hop into a marriage that might not be the best one for you just to satisfy your goal of being married before the age of 30 and that’s not great either.
This one can be complicated. There’s that whole “biological clock is a-ticking” for women argument. Biologically speaking, it is best to have a child in your late teens or early twenties, because it tends to involve less health issues and miscarriages.
Yet, the numbers showed in 2014 that the average age for women to have their first kid was 26. This is because the best age, biologically speaking, doesn’t always work well for women in comparison to the needs of society. More women are having kids around 26 because they’re finally out of school, educated, or are more financially stable with a job.
What’s even cooler – at least I think – is that there have been multiple studies that define the “best age” to have a baby at different and later ages. Check it out:
- Best age in terms of the health of an infant (versus the health of a pregnancy): 26
- Best age in terms of rates of overall infant mortality rather than birth defects: 32
- Best age for the mother’s long-term health (fewer aches and pains or chronic disease later in life): 29-34
- Best age for the mother to have longer health and a later mortality: 34 (The researcher who did this study told a reporter: “A woman who had her first child at 34 is likely to be, in health terms, 14 years younger than a woman who gave birth at 18.”)
See, having a kid after 30 isn’t the end of the world. Actually, it can be better in some senses!
Let’s put the “biological clock” argument aside. There are so many options to have babies after you are 30 that didn’t even exist twenty years ago. There’s adoption, IVF, surrogacy, embryo donation, and so much more which allows women to have kids at older ages making the “biological argument” quite moot.
- Home, Career, and Debt
It would be nice to buy your own home before you’re 30 or be out of debt or even have the perfect position in a career you love, but these things can’t be always controlled. Yes, I do think these are goals to have, but they shouldn’t be stressed over and you shouldn’t feel like a failure if you don’t complete them by the time you are 30.
The average age to buy a first home is 33, but that doesn’t mean you have to buy a house. Some people live in cities where that wouldn’t be economical. And for you, it might be better to save more money by living in an apartment when you are 30 than it would be to buy a home, and that’s okay.
Though you might be able to pay off your student loans by the time you are 30, don’t expect to be completely free from debt after that. Mortgages and car loans will probably arise and there might be a need for a credit card. Granted, work toward having your finances more stable by the time you are 30, but if you don’t have it all figured out, you’re not alone.
And as for your career, with the economy changing, it’s okay if you don’t have it all by the time you’re 30. I would love to be a published author and full-time blogger before I’m 30 but that’s just a goal. If it doesn’t happen, will I stop working toward that dream? Never.
If you have all of these things before you’re 30, fantastic, great. I’m not telling you that it’s bad if that’s just how your life worked out. However, just because you’ve gotten these things in your life, doesn’t mean that you have to behave a certain way – stop going out, stop having a drink with friends, stop dressing sexy, or stop making mistakes. Because that’s the other half of this blog: how women think that just because they turned 30 they have to “stop” doing anything they’ve done before and that’s just not true.
- Continue to have fun and make mistakes
Just because you turn 30 doesn’t mean you have to stop going out to the club, the bar, or drinking. We associate “partying” with being single and marriage with a settled, quiet home life. This isn’t Pleasantville.
My mom went out at 30 and I know my grandmother did too. And I’m sure I will also at 30. Why? Better question, why not? It’s good to go out, let your hair down, and have fun. You need those moments in life to let off steam, gab with the girls, and have an adventure.
So, let’s stop looking down on 30-year-old (or up) women who go out. You don’t know what you will want to do when you’re 30 so don’t judge others who have chosen to enjoy themselves.
Remember, it’s okay if you don’t “have it all” by the time you are 30 and it’s okay to go out and have fun and make mistakes. Let’s stop thinking of 30 as a finish line or an expiration date because when you do that to yourself, you’re pressuring other women (and younger girls) to do the same.
Thirty is just an age – it’s not a finish line, it’s not a pearly gate; it’s just another step on your path of life.