December 8, 2011 | life

Having it All Before You’re 30

I’m not sure when it becomes such a benchmark, but it does and it seems to for all women: ‘By 30, I’ll have done X, Y and Z.’ The big 3-0 carries a lot of weight with womankind. It’s not like it’s explicitly said, but we’re expected to have ourselves ‘together’ by thirty. We should be married with kids and a good career. It’s around the mid-20s that the panic starts to set in if you’re not on track to achieve such perfection. Can we give ourselves a break? Exactly what are we in such a rush for?

Oh sure, I get it – our ‘biological clock’ is ticking like a time bomb in our uterus’ (what is the plural of uterus? Uteri?). But women are having kids older now. Believe it or not, your reproductive organs don’t shrivel up and die when you hit 30. And equally, you don’t actually have to be a mother at all. It’s OK to not want that. We have far more options open to us now as women where our identity doesn’t solely revolve around motherhood.

So why else is 30 such a big deal? Oh of course, our attractiveness, or lack thereof. Read anything about ‘pick up artists’ and you’ll be familiar with the concept that you’re over the hill once you pass 24. So 30? THIRTY?! You may as well just call it a day – how on earth is anyone expected to be attracted to a woman 30+? Such a big ask. I know too many girls who are part of the ‘if I’m not married with kids by the time I’m 30 I’ll just…’ They never quite finish the sentence but it’s clear that being single and childless post-30 is a fate worse than death.

Then there’s the career element. You could take a year out after sixth form, before uni to go live life a little, but then you’re a year behind on the grand master plan and the clock just keeps ticking towards 30, you know? So, stay put, stay focused and climb the ladder because it’s already harder for us as it is, so if you really want to be donning the power suits by 29, you better really be about your business starting at like, 15. Time’s a-wastin’!

The pressure to have it all figured out in this short amount of time leads to many women having full-on melt downs, forgetting to actually live life, making poor decisions and rushing choices in the quest to get it all ‘right’. I saw a clip of Kim Kardashian recently where she was crying about her recently bust marriage saying ‘I thought I’d be married with kids by the time I was 30 and I’m not!’ Gah! The horror! She went from relationship to relationship, more than one engagement and seemed to have been with this most recent one a matter of months before announcing they were to get married. Seventy two days later, they file for divorce.The pressure to have it all before she was 30 damn near sent this chick stir crazy.

And no matter how much people tell you differently, the mentality has been so engrained in us that we find it hard to believe that there is actually life after 30. I’m not married, I don’t even want children and my career is far from being ‘on track’ but having turned 30 this year, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I learned so much in my 20s by both rushing to hit all the things I thought I should by magical 30 and then by chilling the hell out and living life. So when I see people tweeting ‘OMG, I can’t believe I’ll be 25 tomorrow!’ I can do nothing but chuckle.

I’ll tell ya, it’s way more fun hitting 30. All that pressure is released. I’m just gonna achieve at my own rate. I won’t be crying into my Cornflakes if I haven’t done X, Y and Z by the time I’m 32. Screw the numbers – work hard, enjoy life and the rest just falls into place.

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35 Comments

The Jaded NYer

I agree the pressure is out there, and I especially felt it because I did everything backwards: baby at 20; left undergrad w/out degree; got married; 2nd baby at 25; undergrad degree 2yrs after that; grad school 3yrs after that; WRITING CAREER STARTED AT 30. But then I realized writing is the only fine art you can start late in life and still have a real fighting chance. I’m gonna be just fine.

And back in the day I was freaking out until my friends started having their babies & mine were already grown. I thought to myself SWEEEEETTTTTTT– while they’re potty training I’m dropping it low in the club. Just saying. Every path has a silver lining, ladies. Que sera, sera! LOL

angel_dee

And I’d like the point out to all those that are rushing to get married before thirty are in the group with the most failed marriages .. think about that for a moment.
For me as a teen, I was extremely mouthy kid (no change there) but looking back it was to cover up the fa(ct that I was SO uncomfortable in my skin. I wasn’t pretty enough, I wasn’t the right body type, boys wouldn’t like me because of this. The list was endless. So when I had my son at 20 (which I definitely do NOT recommend) it just pretty much broke the camel’s back.

I can honestly say that something suddenly clicked in my head after a tumultuous eight years and I realised that although I was close to that milestone age I wasn’t going to subscribe to that nonsense of ticking things off lists especially around the New Year concept. (Must say I’ve never done that) I made my changes daily for ME and nobody else.
Skip forward a few years to the me that appears to you now and while I have my moments as I’m human, those moments are thankfully few and far between and all that “I’m going to look like a failure if I don’t do this by time I’m 30” is irrelevant. As believe me when I’ve spoken to friends they haven’t even noticed what anyone else was doing cos they were going through their own piece of hell.

If I could talk to my 20 or 25 year old self I’d give her a shake and tell her to chill her ass out and go with the flow. If you’re at that age and reading this I’m shaking you and telling you “chill your ass out, sistah” … X

Laura@keepinghealthygettingstylish

I turn 30 in August next year and I can not wait! I guess I am fairly ‘together’ being married (not that I felt pressured to be married before 30) and having an ok job, but for me, life starts at 30, it doesn’t end there. I think women really come into their own in their 30’s, I know I’m a lot more self confident now than I was in my early 20’s, I kind of feel like I’ve grown into myself if that makes sense? I’m certainly in no rush for kids despite what my parents may think ;-)I’m looking forward to my thirties being full of lots of adventures, I just wish more women could embrace being older and not stressing about the pressure society often puts on them.

Jade

I turn 30 in 2012 and despite being a mother of four I honestly sometimes have the “omg who am I? What am I doing with my life?” moments, I have no idea really, at the moment I guess I’m just trying to live my life and be happy in the present 🙂

Tinuke

I’m nearly 30 and I must agree I’m of the ‘life begins at 30’ camp. I’m 27 in a couple of months and have although I have loved seeing how much I’ve grown in the last 7 years, I definately think I was ‘lost’ and uncomfortable in my own skin for the majority of this time.
Finally, I’m coming into my own and am more confident about who I am and what I want. It doesn’t matter if I have my dream house/car/private school for the kiddy right away. It will happen, just maybe not before the big 3-0

Honest Mum

YES YES YES thank you. We all have a path to lead and the pressure I put myself to direct my first feature film before 30 was ridiculous. There’s an economic meltdown happening, I’m lucky to get any work at all, let alone ake a feature film and sadly it was other people putting this crazy time limit onto me. You are so right, in fact only the other day watching 17 year olds going through adolescent torment in The Slap I smiled that thank goodness I’m now 31 and don’t have to go through that again. I’m happier now than I’ve ever been and am doing it my way. I wanted kids and never let the gasps of horror from my filmmaking peers let that put me off. I’ll do it, and if I don’t as long as I’m happy and healthy, that’s all that matters.

P.S I look at Jennifer Aniston and JLO and actually look forward to hitting 42. Those women are HAWT, successful and their age is not an issue!

Emma

I’m 31 – I am getting married in June to be fair but career-wise I’ve just decided to jack it all in! After a decade in the rat race I’ve realised that climbing the greasy pole is NOT what I want. So armed with 6 months pay from my voluntary redundancy package I’m about the embark on a period of extreme uncertainty….all at time when I have a wedding to plan and I want to try to kids soon too. Am I mad? Maybe. Am I happy? Yes!

Irene

I’m not sure if the “30-pressure” is country or personality dependant: I turned 30 in July and felt no pressure at all! I actually got myself plenty of presents to celebrate it! I had set absolutely no goals for myself when turning 30… I’m not married and I don’t feel the need to be, I’m pregnant because I felt it was the right time for me, not because the clock was ticking. Some people may think I’m “too relaxed” but it’s so much easy this way!

Dawn

Loads of my friends (we’re all around 22 to 24) are starting to panic about having it all done in the next few years because once they settle down, they won’t be able to do anything. At which point, I feel like asking them if they’re going to be locked in their house every evening, weekend and holiday when they have a permanent job and partner. I refuse to live a life like that.

Even now, because I have a long distance relationship with a guy back in Ireland; some of my friends keep insisting that I’m missing out on early twenties life because of it. All these things about doing certain things at certain ages is completely an artificial construct, and for our own mental health, we should ignore it!

Knight's Eclectic

Great post, I still don’t know what I want to do with my life and I’m 29! The most important thing is to do something, or lots of things to enrich your life and find what you’re good at x

Esther (Fab Fingertips)

I think it’s ok to never have it all at any age, if that makes sense. When people start doing what makes them truly happy instead of trying to impress people, then the world will be a much better place. I don’t have a degree or a great job but am at home with my children whilst husband works. I works for us and we couldn’t be happier!

Cathy

By far the best thing about being 30 is listening to girls in their 20’s flap about how ‘old’ they are. ‘OMG I’m 25, that’s soooooo old.’ I always enjoy pointing out that if they’re still so immature they think 25 is ‘old’, they really don’t have anything to worry about…

Wendi B

I won’t lie, I was absolutely one who panicked about turning 30. I think it’s a bit easier to relax if you know you don’t want children – I actually pretty much envy those who know they don’t. But I do, and I do put pressure on myself, I can’t help it. I don’t want to have my first child at 40, but I also don’t want to rush into it, and in an ideal world I’d like to do things in the ‘traditional way’ (but I’m slowly accepting that this may no longer be the case and it’s cool). Career-wise I feel it’s easier to get started in something you love, so I don’t worry too much about that. But I admit I am one of the biological clock tickers… I’m 34 in a couple weeks for frig sake! Sorry…

Jen

PREACH! I love this post. I’m just turning 26 and have finally realised (can I quote Jessie J here? I’m gonna) it’s OKAY NOT TO BE OKAY. After graduating in 2007 until June this year I worked my ass off climbing that damn career ladder. Didn’t go on holiday, didn’t think about experiencing life, just wanted to get the career. Then I thought, ‘fuck it’, quit my job and started doing things my way. In the last 6 months I’ve had more fun and more experiences than in the previous 4 years.

I am one of the only people in my friendship who doesn’t own a house. At the age of 26! Who needs a house to tie them down? My boyfriend and I are planning our USA roadtrip and looking at working abroad. I’m 26 – I don’t know what or where I want to be when I grow up. But it’s okay, ’cause there’s plenty of time for that.

Sally Todd

I larked about in my 20’s, raised a family in my 30’s (finding the confidence to be happy with who I am, what I do and where my life is going) and cannot wait to start my 40’s next year. Nothing to panic about what so ever. Best decade of my life so far!

F_uitlist

When I was 25 I remember LMAO because one of my friends told me I’d never make it to 30 and have the husband, the kid and the high powered career, I laughed because that was not my focus at 25. My mom (as I’ve mentioned before is AWESOME) told me a long time ago that adolescents really ends at 25 and after that year I could start taking myself seriously. I lived by that and enjoyed life. My 20’s were epic, I had the kind of fun a woman should have so that when she gets to 40 or 50 she can look back and smile.

If you live your life as a race towards this ridiculous goal that 30 is the end of life it will be. I’m 36 married, and have a son and the career and I’m still here! Living and learning everyday.

Eve Maria

Great post bangs! I’m 23 and look forward to being 30…that gives me a long time to find a job (any full time job will do!) so that I can save towards travelling with my partner. I look forward to being able to support myself financially without being supported by anyone…as for kids, I’m still a kid myself so am supremely not concerned about that!

Lissy

This has made me think a bit more about something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. Although, at 24, I’m not panicking about marriage or kids (err, how the hell am I supposed to know if I want that already?!), I do fret about work and my ‘career’. I’m only 4 years into my ‘career’ (see, using the word loosely) proper, and I have achieved a lot, which I am really proud of.

However, I do feel like I am carving out a very specific path for myself which is not at all the one I had imagined. I’m doing nothing related to what I saw myself doing 4 years ago. I think I just need to go with the flow a bit more. If I do want to change my mind and go in a different direction, there’s still plenty of time to do so.

Hang on a sec, maybe I need to just chill the heck out altogether! I’m twenty bloody four… I want to look back on my 20s like to many of those who’ve written above & say I had fun, I larked about.

Definitely some food for thought…*goes for a lie down*

A Thrifty Mrs

I agree with you but wish I could apply it to my own life. I can’t seem to make it happen. I don’t want it to be an issue but it is and I really can’t fight it off, not completely anyway.

I’m 30 at the end of 2012 and to say I’m freaked out about it would be an understatement.
It was never my life aim to have a husband, children or an amazing, sorted career by any specific age, I just wanted to be happy. But as I started to collect the ‘set’ (sigh and vomit) the husband, the job I’m happy with, the other one has evaded me and it will continue to do so for years. I know, like my twenties my thirties will slip by in the blink of an eyelid and get to a definate ‘kids ain’t gonna happen’ age without a small version of me terrorising charity shops up and down the nation will break my heart.  

30, to me anyway, seems very much like a ‘well you’d better get on with it then’ age, which is why it scares me. I know the stats regarding decreasing fertility and age, so I can see where a fear of getting older comes from, certainly for women. 30 is the nearest big birthday before that big drop in fertility so I can see why a lot of women place a lot of fear, worry and angst on that number and being sorted before it.

I do however try to focus on having a great ‘now’, whilst giving 30 the look that my mother would reserve to only my very worst behaviour.

As a whole other aside I think a lot of this can be blamed on women needing to have it all. We need the career, the clothes, the house, the man, the perfect hair and we need it before the crows feet carve lines into our faces. It is extraordinarily unfair. Something has to crack, society has to stop putting these pressures on women. It should be enough that you’re happy with your life, even if it doesn’t look like a Boden advert – maybe then so many of us wouldn’t feel the need to comply to milestones that are pretty much made up by the media.

Beryl

Well said Bangs. I also turned 30 this year, and I could not care less about having it al, in fact kids are the furthest from my mind at the moment! I mean, yes a lovely man in my life would be great but I’m not going to be with someone just for the sake of having a date to take to other people’s weddings. I’m possibly the happiest I’ve been on my own, focusing on me and my new job.

Who want’s to confirm anyway?

MizzBusby

Its so weird, cos I’ve just turned twenty, and my sort of mantra is

“this is the decade of my life”

But I’m not sure where that pressure to do everything came from – I’m an exact victim of that pressure – not wanting to take a year out, trying to get a first in 4 years and then a postgrad and a law conversion

I’d planned my life up to age 30 from age 15!

Who knows whether I’ll do it all, but I have a bad habit of beating myself up for not meeting my own (crazily) high standards… so lets hope I can cope with not having it all by 30.

Rach

i started uni this year at 22, one of my friends was shocked to discover that I would be be 25 by the time i graduate because it didn’t give much time for me to have my career and perfect family by the time I was 30. I didn’t realise my life ended in 7 years time!

RunUrb

When I was 20 I was so excited – finally! What fun times to be had!
In my early-mid 20s I always said that age is just a number, you are as old as you feel you are. I obviously felt young. I still believe this, I’ve just grown older in the meantime.
When I turned 29 I was with someone who made my eyes sparkle and who I could imagine a future with. Despite finding the first few strands of grey hair the day after my birthday (yes, the day after, talk about timing!) I was really excited about what the future might hold.
At 30 I was single and held a massive party to celebrate the milestone, not really worried about ‘all that other stuff’. 30! A whole new decade to roam – awesome age.
Turning 31 has been the hardest so far. I’m totally ready for that special person in my life and I guess for the first time I have a sense of urgency about finding someone and exploring that side of my life, as I have explored and developed other aspects. 31. Feels less awesome, but perhaps moving into the 30s I’ll get more comfortable with things, like I did through my 20s.
It’s probable less about being 31 than about where I am in my life.

Thanks, you lovely Bangs, for the opportunity to reflect a little. xx

Lucy Clemson

I LOVE this post. For the last few years I’ve been aware of the growing number of friends I have who are turning into tick-box monsters (Boyfriend? Tick! House? Tick! Marriage? Tick! Baby? Tick!). As one of very, very few in my peer group lucky to have super laid back parents, who encouraged me to follow my every dream WITHOUT ever being all “when are you going to get a boyfriend/time’s a wasting/left on the shelf, etc” I can only assume it’s this mindset being drummed into us as young girls that is responsible for turning intelligent, driven women into anxious quivering wrecks, permanently unfulfilled in life because they haven’t ‘ticked off’ everything on this pre-determined list. I am 33, I left the dull corporate ladder to start my own business and I’m in a loving, ten year relationship. I’m far from the tick-box woman we’re led to believe is ideal, but I struggle to think how I could possibly be any happier – and that’s all down to the self worth given to me by my parents regardless of job/husband/baby add-ons. I’m not saying I’m perfect (hell, far from it!), but maybe if more girls were brought up to believe they are good enough on their own, we wouldn’t be faced with a generation of 20-somethings feeling insecure and incomplete in the absence of such things.

Misty

I’m 28 soon to be 29 but haven’t felt the pressure to have it all by the time i’m 30. It just so happens that I got married in my early 20’s and have had a child but it wasn’t anything I ever planned – it just happened. However I have felt the pressure to have a glittering career. For a long time I chased a career dream that quite honestly I’d grown out of and ashamedly kept pushing for it to feel liked I’d achieved. But now im in a place where I’m more comfortable with me. The key is stop comparing yourself to other people and be happy with you!

Another great post! Wise words ????

Sian

I couldn’t agree with this more – I’m so bored with the 27, just married and preggars sect. My opinion is that you have your whole life to be settled and dull, why is everyone in such a rush to do it? Don’t get me wrong, I have a cat, my own house and bills, but I certainly don’t have any wedding/kids plans. Not for a loooong time anyway (if ever) and I’m 31!

Kirstin

I’m slightly younger than most people who wrote comments here but I loved reading them. This year, at age 24, my life fell apart. The bf I thought I was going to marry and have kids with dumped me in July. I couldn’t get a job in the career that I wanted, I was sitting here waitressing and dog walking. I was so depressed that I wasn’t going to get married anymore and that my life plan was in tatters. But slowly all that changed, I’ve realized that I don’t know myself and am excited to go on an adventure to find me, not my soul mate! So I am moving from Canada to London, England in January to start fresh and hopefully become an independent, healthy and happy individual. I want to be whole all by myself, I don’t want to have to have someone complete me!

I do believe that it’s all society’s fault that we think this way. On Facebook I see all my friends getting engaged and married already. For the first bit after the break up I thought, “That should have been me!” But now I just remind myself that they will probably all be divorced before I’m even married!

Thanks for this wonderful article, it was a great refreshing read!

Claire

I love the idea that ‘the pressure is released’. This notion makes me happy – it sounds lovely rather than the horrorshow everyone makes it out to be.

Chloe

I reckon your 30’s, that’s where it’s at (For the record, I’m 22). For me, my late teens and early 20’s thus far have been about learning how not to screw certain things up, having my first relationship, and starting on my career. I did a 4 year undergrad, I’m doing a 1 year post-grad, followed by another 1 year post grad, then 2 years of training contract. I will be, bare minimum 26 by the time I’m even qualified for my career, let alone starting to make a name for myself.

I look forward to my 30’s as a time to start achieving, rather than have acheieved everything, to be comfortable with who I am, what I want and knowing that I can get there. I quite like my 20’s as a time to work out what to do and what not to do first.

Katie Khan

You quoted my blog in here – the part about the ‘ticking timebomb in our uterus (plural? Uteri?) – but I’m not sure it was in context.

I wrote about the ticking of a biological clock as an an animalistic, inherent, embedded, deeply-rooted warning within a woman’s psyche, based purely on scientific fact – because, at 30, 90% of the eggs produced in a our lifetime have been used up.

I wasn’t presenting that as some scare-mongering about age; it is a biological truth, which is why in turn my ‘biological clock’ (ie dreams about babies and other weird creepy shit) is happening.

The rest of your blog I agree with. Horrible pressure to be ‘together’ and ‘something’ by 30, but in reality we now experience a decade in our twenties of which our grandparents could never have dreamed. Life got shuffled back.

Emily

I stumbled accross your blog today and am really glad I did. Having hit 25 this year, the mad panic is really starting to build. There just seem to be too many choices and I am madly flailing round in the middle trying to bash the right buttons for career, friends, me, family, perfection – and failing to get anything right. Reading your piece and the following comments has made me realise that I need to stop the panic flow, relax and do what I enjoy.

MM

I found your site today, and it made a lot of sense being 33. I do think life starts in the 30’s as women are so mature.

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