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.