The Waiting Generation

24 May

My friend Jody asked me (and my mother silently asks me day after day) why my generation is waiting until later on in life to have get married, have children, start families.

I have a few theories on this.  THEORIES.  So don’t jump down my throat, okay?  This is just from my rattling 26-year-old brain that resides in my childless 26-year-old body on which resides a ringless 26-year-old finger.  Disclaimer:  This is not me complaining, it is just putting my comments into perspective.

I am part of the Waiting Generation–which is ironic.  We’re all so impatient to get things-information, the latest technology, instant contact, instant gratification…  But we put a hold on the moments in life that used to be the moments generations before us looked forward to, worked for, relished in, and any other number of prepositional phrases.

So why are we waiting?

1)  College.  We all were expected to go to college, which creates some problems.  We’re lacking skilled trade workers, and we’re all vying for college-level jobs.  Not to mention, because we went to college, we feel that we are entitled to things.  Better things than our parents had.  Better things than our friends have.  We are motivated in the work place, plus we feel that if we have to pay back the MASSIVE amount of student loans that most of us have hanging over our heads, we better be making damn good money.  Marriage and children cost money; therefore, we avoid them.

2)  Permission.  I’m not blaming our parents for this.  I’m not really blaming anyone.  Well, maybe society.  We still feel like we can live with our parents until we’re 30.  And sometimes, we have to.  No full-time job?  Well, how are we supposed to live on our own?  And with our college degrees in hand, God forbid we pick up a shift at the local Denny’s.  By living at home, we pretty much lose half of our prospective marriage partners because people that we are willing to date/marry look at us and say, “You’re living with your parents…”  It’s not a fair assessment, and it sucks, but it’s true.

3)  Inability to Meet People.  They tell us that our college years are the new golden years.  Fantastic.  And if that’s the case, you don’t want to “tie yourself down.”  So we don’t date anyone seriously.  We tell ourselves that we’re still so young in college, the way our parents told themselves how young they were in high school.  College IS the new high school.  And then we don’t meet anyone in college.  Sometimes we find partners in grad school, but even then, we’re so focused on getting that higher degree to put us above the Bachelor’s degrees out there, that we overlook love.  And when we get out of school…well, if you don’t remember how hard a time I had finding at least FRIENDS around here, I think it’d be doubly hard to find a mate.

4)  The Lure of Youth.  You see it everywhere.  Everyone’s mourning their aging (myself included) and trying to get back to being young.  From miracle salon products to Hollywood, to finally being at an age where we see those around us growing older.  We’re trying to hold on to our youth, and trying to remain independent, so that no one else can force aging upon us.

5)  Geography.  Even in the perfect storm (take me for example), things get in the way of marriage and children.  In the economy, and in this society, we are slaves to our jobs.  They’re few and far between, and we take what we can get, where we can get it.  So even though I met Mike in grad school, we ended up living in different states because we need our jobs…to pay for our student loans, to give us our independence, to keep us out of our parents’ homes.  And we can try as much as we want to move together, but because we both chose fairly specialized majors in college, we’re having a hard time finding a region that contains opportunity for us both

The truth is that we’re all about 5-10 years behind our parents.  High degrees are now required to set us apart from the masses, where once a Bachelors’ degree sufficed.  So we’re spending so much more time in school, chasing our careers to make our student loans seem a little less scary, yet at the same time, feeling entitled to not grow up.  We’re afraid to take responsibility for someone other than ourselves.

There are people out there, though, who did meet someone in college, or in high school even, and followed suit.  I see nothing wrong with the way my parents lived, or that entire generation, as a matter of fact.  They raised us.  And we’re driven, and successful, and smart.  But something happened along the line.  Somewhere, we became afraid of commitment.  The main reason, though?  We’ve forgotten what it is to live for someone else. 


Posted by on May 24, 2011 in Domesticity


Tags: , , , , ,

8 responses to “The Waiting Generation

  1. Erin Seabolt Bond

    May 24, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Oh man, I hear you! Everyone tells me there’s no perfect time to have kids (which usually has the very clear subtext: so get cracking!), but I have to add that there are times when having them just doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

    My mom was a stay-at-home mom. My dad worked full-time. We weren’t rich by any stretch of the imagination, but we had more than we needed. When I think of having kids, that’s how I’d like to do it. But, that would require at least one of us to make enough money for us to live on, without supplementation. Unfortunately, I teach and Jesse works at a nonprofit (a church, specifically). So, there goes that. We also don’t really make enough for day care, so even if we both worked, I’m not sure what we would do with the child during the day (we don’t live close to family either). We’re in that strange in-between world where we’re making enough money for our current lifestyle, but we haven’t figured out how to introduce a baby to that equation.

    And while I do agree that there’s no perfect time to have kids, and perhaps I’m waiting for something that will never exist (and I’m sure I’ll get to a certain age and say–whatever, let’s just have kids and let the chips fall where they may), I just don’t want to do this impulsively without having some idea of how we’d provide for said-child.

    Now that I’ve written a book, allow me to just say that I think we should add to the list the difficulty of finding a job that pays a “family wage.”

    • erica42285

      May 24, 2011 at 7:42 pm

      Hi Erin!

      I honestly think that being a stay-at-home mom is the best way to raise children, but it’s just not possible in this economy anymore. And I love working, and I think that I would miss it if I ever didn’t have it. I love my job, love my place in life.

      I was raised very much the same that you were. And I liked that, a lot. I think you’d make a great mom, and I look forward to the day that maybe I get to meet Baby Bond. 🙂

      It’s tough to get it all together. But it’s good to know that people around me know how I feel!

      • Erin Seabolt Bond

        May 25, 2011 at 12:05 pm

        Sometime, I’d love to hear more about your job (maybe we can trade a few emails?). Thanks for the vote of confidence!

        Won’t it be weird one day when we’re both blogging about babies and diapers and no sleep and teething and all that mess? I’m sure it will happen eventually…

  2. Tim

    May 24, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Well put Erica…I see it as you state it. I was fortunate enough to find a spouse and a blue collar job in Fremont when I returned from the Marine Corps, but when the blue collar job wasn’t enough I had to go elsewhere…Detroit. Again I was fortunate to go from blue to white collar and end back up in Fremont working for a local company…just not fortunate enough to keep the career and family both through it all. But hey…if not for all of that, I’d never met you 🙂

    • erica42285

      May 24, 2011 at 7:43 pm

      Ha ha aw Tim. I’m glad you love Fremont so much. I love it, too. I’m really glad that so many people have been piping up about how they feel about it.

  3. Joline

    May 24, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    This is a hugely popular topic right now…in fact, I have my first years write an essay about it! If you’re interested, check out Anya Kamentz’s webpage, she writes about this a lot. It’s true that our generation is waiting until later in our twenties (or later!) to get married, start families. (Well, at least those of us who are educated, statistically) It’s true that college is a big part of that…you’re not really an “adult” until you finish college, unlike 20-30 years ago when you were an adult when you finished high school. The economy doesn’t help…when you’re living with your parents until you’re thirty, it kind of puts a damper on the whole romance thing. Plus, it’s hard to find jobs, hard to save money, let alone get started on paying back those student loans! On top of all of that, TV shows like Sex in the City and Friends and lots of others are making it cool to stay single well into your thirties (or forties). Then there’s the whole we’re living a decade or so longer than our grandparents (and maybe parents too!) so we feel like we have more time to explore. With medical procedures making it easier (if not much safer) for women to have kids later, and our favorite celebrities (Brad Pitt?) not having kids until well into their forties, no wonder we aren’t settling down in our early 20’s!!
    And thank god for that, too, because I know I didn’t know a thing about myself or what I wanted when I was 20!! Any marriage probably just would’ve ended in divorce anyway…so yay for waiting!!

    • erica42285

      May 24, 2011 at 7:39 pm

      Hey Joline,

      The only problem I have with having children too late in life is that sometimes you’re not young enough to keep up with them. You ought to be able to romp around in the yard with your children. You have to be able to keep up with them. In our 20s is when we’re the most vivacious, and able to put up with late nights and still make it to work the next morning. It gets hard after that…

      I think 24-26 is the perfect age to get married. Then I think two years of wedded bliss before children is perfect. I want to be done having children by 32.

      I better get crackin’. 🙂


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