Last week, I was interviewed by a dynamic young woman, Julie Miller, who has a blog targeted to women in their 20s, called Life2PointOh.
She asked me what advice I would give to 20-something year old women who are contemplating marriage and kids…or not. Here’s the interview:
Life2PointOh: When you were in your 20s, what were your thoughts on marriage for yourself?
Eleanore Wells: I recall being very confused because, while I loved having a boyfriend, the concept of “the rest of my life” was one I couldn’t grasp, and I was a little embarrassed because I seemed to be the only girl who felt that way. Marriage seemed really hard and kind of boring to me then (and now). I also felt that marriage would stifle me. I have a strong, independent spirit and, back then (the 1970s), it seemed that women had to give up so much of themselves in order to have a “good” marriage. (I think that has softened a bit nowadays). In addition, I was drawn to guys who probably wouldn’t make great husbands. Not necessarily bad boys, but I would date guys who were independent, spontaneous, exciting. These are very fun qualities when dating, but probably don’t make for a very stable home life. In my 20s, I don’t think I ever voiced out loud that I would never get married; it was more of a “gee, I dunno”.
Life2PointOh: What advice do you have for women in their 20s who don’t think they want to get married or have kids?
EW: I would say to remain open. Marriage and kids are good things, though they’re not for everybody. You may change your mind…you may not. I think it’s hard to be sure about many things in one’s 20s, and this is one of them. Clearly, if you’re not absolutely sure you want to get married or have kids then you shouldn’t do it. If you change your mind, you should be clear you’re doing it for the right reasons and not because of outside pressure.
Life2PointOh: What advice do you have for single girls in their 20s who are worried they won’t find the right person to get married to?
EW: I’d say stop worrying. It’s not attractive and it sometimes draws the wrong person to you. Concentrate on what’s good about your life and stop focusing on what’s missing. Think about building a nice life for yourself: strong social relationships with good-hearted people, finding a career that you care about, indulging in hobbies/favorite pastimes. Living. Figure out how to be happy. Happy people often attract other happy people…and one of them might be the right guy. Know that there are no guarantees in life: marriage is no guarantee of fulfillment, and being single can be really good. Get out there, meet guys, date…but without being desperate. Have fun with it. It might happen, it might not. But you can burn a lot of daylight (so to speak) wasting time fretting about what you don’t have. I’d say stop worrying about how to get a man and figure out how to get a life. Then you’re good, either way.
Life2PointOh: What are the positives of never being married/having kids– in your opinion?
EW: For me, being single with no kids just feels right. I love the feeling of being free and unencumbered. My life is my own and I like not having to explain myself. I can do what I want. For example, I love to travel. My boyfriend can come along if he wants, but he doesn’t get a say as to whether I go, which may not be true if I were married. I can take risks without worrying about the impact on others. In 1998, I quit my job at an ad agency and started working for myself. I didn’t think about it for very long, had no real business plan, and no clients. If I had a husband and/or kids, my behavior would have been irresponsible. In my book, The Spinsterlicious Life, I have an entire chapter dedicated to what’s good about being single and childfree: some of them are important like the business example I just gave, some are silly and frivolous, like not having stretch marks.
Life2PointOh: What are the negatives of never being married/having kids — in your opinion?
EW: There are some negatives to not being married, though most of them can be overcome by a good boyfriend. The combined income of a married couple can certainly increase some of life’s amenities. There are also tax benefits. It’s great to have someone to share the good and bad news of the day. I need someone to move heavy things and carry big stuff. I like having someone to drag to yet another wedding or any other event I feel I need an escort for. As I mentioned, a boyfriend can fill most of these roles, so I don’t see a huge downside to not being married. Kids… I can’t [personally] think of any negatives to not having them.
Life2PointOh: What’s the big dating/relationship lesson you would want to share with 20-somethings right now?
EW: I think that when you’re young, you’re sometimes less sure of yourself, in general. However, an important lesson that I would hope any young woman receives—whether she decides to marry or not—is to build a nice life for yourself every step of the way, rather than spending time pining about what you don’t have. Have good friends and be a good friend, pursue things you find interesting, have hobbies or pastimes you enjoy, be close to people (or someone) in your family, learn to be smart about money, and stop using drugs and alcohol as an excuse for poor decisions or bad behavior. Only date guys who respect you, and leave quickly when they show less than acceptable behavior. A guy who treats you in a way that’s less than you deserve is telling you who he is and you should believe him. No reason to hang in there hoping his behavior will change. Hold your head up, be comfortable with yourself, and remind yourself that no one else can live your life for you…so make your own decisions.
So, dear reader: what would you add (or counterpoint)? What advice would you give to a young woman in her 20s about marriage, kids…life? What do you wish you had known then?
NOTE: The Spinsterlicious Life: 20 Life Lessons for Living Happily Single and Childfree— has been published and is available here and here, and on Amazon.
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