Monday, September 20, 2004

Passages, choices, and consequences

On Saturday, I went to a reaffirmation of wedding vows and subsequent celebration for a friend from college. She was married for the first time last summer (2003), but at that time they weren't ready to do the whole big ceremony and reception thing. Saturday's event was in their back yard under a big white tent, and there was a nice luncheon following the very sweet ceremony. I had not seen LuAnn for many years, so it was great just to see her (although I did get an e-mail from her when she got her Ph.D. about five years ago.) This sort of thing happening among old friends and acquaintances is what makes this a somewhat "nebulous age", per the title of my blog. I have friends my age who in the past few years have attempted to conceive their first child, while mine is in college. Also, because my husband is older than me and I have grown step-children, I'm a step-grandma of eight and recently found out I will be a step-great-grandma next spring (or is it great-step-grandma?) My friends who started the personal stuff (marriage, kids) later in life tend to have advanced degrees. I had a lot of family stuff settled early on but I don't have an advanced degree. It's something I've been thinking about a lot for many years, but the time, money, and opportunity have not all fallen in line together. These seem to be the kinds of choices many women have to make, and the waiting often seems to leave at least one of the options compromised. For example, it is harder to conceive children later in life. On the other hand, there is some awkwardness and opporunity cost getting the degree later. One has to consider whether the money (which is now a family, not just an individual issue) and the time is going to result in a satisfactory return on investment. Now, I am noticing some young women getting married at earlier ages. When I got married (at 21, almost 22) I was one of the only ones among my friends to get married that young. (I did have one friend who was married at 19). Since I am a happily married woman (23 years) I know I did the right thing. However, I wonder how it's going to play out now for the women who marry so young. My friend's wedding reception came just two weeks after her niece's, who married at age 22. This is a highly educated, accomplished family, and I'm seeing more and more of this. The trend of postponing marriage seems to be turning around. I think when businesses hire people they have to consider that life does not follow our preconceived timelines, and when they bemoan the "graying" of this or that profession which is experiencing shortages, they need to consider that there are a lot of "graying" people out there just ready to get started. They have the time, the experience and the motivation (for example, if we are even silly enough to count on having Social Security payments, we will have to work increasingly longer to collect our full benefits.) We need to rethink our traditional notions of who does what at what age.


Dana Watson said...

My parents got married when my mom was 21 and my dad was 23, but then they waited 9 years to have kids, so I guess it evened out. (It did lead my grandmother to joke that most parents only had to wait 9 months to become grandparents, but she had to wait 9 *years*.) I know several people my age now who, having gotten married, are actually researching when is the best time, professionally, to have kids. I forget exactly what the conclusions were, but I think they were that you should have a kid in grad school if you were going into academia, because if you got pregnant after getting a teaching position, it hurt your chances of getting tenure. Sometimes, it is depressing to be a geek. You end up knowing too much.

Mary said...

Ah, but knowledge is power. Depending on when one is in grad school, it's probably the best time biologically as well. However, the idea of combining pregnancy, grad school, and subsequently caring for a baby sounds...insane? Masochistic? I guess people do it, though. Those must be people who don't really enjoy sleep, order, or regular meals.