Monday, October 24, 2011

Are Twentysomethings Expecting Too Much?

By Hannah Seligson

Illustrations by Jesse Lenz

Illustrations by Jesse Lenz

When my grandmother was 18, she dropped out of college to get married. A career wasn’t a priority for her; matrimony was. This fall I’ll tie the knot at age 29, slightly younger than average for a bride in Washington, where the median age for a woman’s first marriage is 30.

My grandmother, who lived in Connecticut, had her first child when she was 18 and another at 20. With childbearing out of the way and a full-time nanny, she went on to launch a career in politics and at age 28 became a state senator.

As a friend recently mused, “I wish I could have had my kids at 22 when I was nothing in my career. Of course, I wasn’t married or financially secure then.” Now she’s 31 and married, and she recently got a big promotion. “It’s just a really inconvenient time to have kids.”

There are obvious downsides to getting married and having children young—for many women, it short-circuits their careers entirely—and women have made huge gains in the workplace since my grandmother’s time. But the cruel joke of modern womanhood is that my career will probably peak just as it’s time to start a family. This raises more questions: How long should my fiancĂ©, Andrew, and I wait? Should we risk running out my biological clock and needing fertility treatments? If we can afford them, that is.

Speaking of money, how would we afford children if we stay in DC, one of the most expensive cities in the country? Andrew and I have both chosen careers motivated more by our interests than by our paychecks—I’m a journalist, and he works on international climate-change policy at the State Department.

Even without student loans to pay off, we find it hard to save as much as financial planners say people our age should. I’m often reminded of the acronym DINK—dual income, no kids—which should probably be changed to DINA: dual income, need another. Sure, we could move to a less expensive area of Washington or take a job for the salary, but we’re young and not ready to settle. We want to see if we can make life work on our terms.

We’re like lots of others in our generation who—since their parents first turned the television to Sesame Street or sang along to “Free to Be . . . You and Me” in the car—have believed we can achieve anything we set our minds to.

Are we expecting too much?

Read more here.

1 comment:

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