As a woman, I have always had the dreams of others placed on my lap. “Here’s a new kitchen set to play with little girl”, “Don’t you want to dress up the barbie to make her pretty?”, and “You need a prince charming to come save you from being a damsel in distress!”. You would think that this would be gone by the time you’re an adult and making your own choices. But the words they use simply change. Instead of prince charming it’s now a husband you need, and instead of an easy-bake oven the talk is now about mortgages – yikes!
I have always been a bit rebellious, independent and nomadic. I’m not one to “settle down” and do everything that’s expected of me. Since I was 15 I’ve been flying around the world on my own, and since high-school I’ve known that I don’t want a traditional 9-to-5 job. As someone who now works in International Development and travels to a new country at least once a year (but usually more like 3 or 4), this “American dream” lifestyle doesn’t fit at all with my life plan. No part of me wants a mortgage, and a picket-fence, and 2.5 children that go to good schools so that we can “keep up with the Joneses”. So what’s a girl to do?
Check out my latest blog on Expat Coffee Club to read more about my thoughts on this issue (and you can see the first bit below): The Pressure to “Settle Down”
Everyone is impacted by the society around them, whether they like it or not. You may not care what other people think, but that isn’t going to stop them from telling you what you “should do” or asking you why you haven’t done it yet. It’s not just the people around you either, it’s everything around you every day. My Facebook is constantly filled with weddings, engagements, and babies. TV shows are all about finding love (“The Bachelor”), getting married (“Say Yes to the Dress”), or life with kids (“19 Kids and Counting” or almost any sitcom…).
This pressure is especially strong for women, who are told they need to have all the kids they want before they’re 35, apparently for health reasons. I don’t think there’s a woman over 25 who hasn’t been asked about her future plans to marry and have babies. In fact, I remember when my friends and I were about 23. A friend of mine had a bit of a freak-out because she was newly single. She reasoned that she was 23, which meant she was almost 25, which meant she was almost 30! She was single and needed to find a guy RIGHT AWAY – so that her timeline of dating for 2 years, engaged for 1 year, married for 1 year, and then 2-3 kids before 30 could come to fruition! Man – that’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself, and it doesn’t help if the society around you agrees.
This feeling is exacerbated by being a nomad, a traveller, someone who isn’t in one place for an extended period of time. It’s not easy finding a partner if you’re only in a country for a few days or weeks at a time. It’s difficult to decide where you want to live permanently (or even if you want to live in one place) if you’ve been to so many beautiful places around the world. Some people don’t want kids – or if they do, they may not want to have them in a country where the hospitals aren’t as well-equipped, or they don’t have a family support system to help them out. There are a lot of barriers to the “typical American dream” lifestyle when you travel all the time.