Opinion by Suzanne Venker
In a December 2018 cover story for The Atlantic, author Kate Julian wrote about what the magazine dubbed a “sex recession,” or the trend of young people to put romantic relationships on the back burner. This message is particularly geared toward women, who for the past several decades have been groomed to prioritize school and career over love and family.
One young woman told Julian that when she was in high school, her parents, both professionals with advanced degrees, discouraged relationships on the grounds that they might diminish her focus. Even today, in graduate school, this young woman finds the attitude hard to shake:
“Now I need to finish school, I need to get a practice going, I need to do this and this, and then I’ll think about love. But by thirty, you’re like, ‘What is love? What’s it like to be in love?’”
There are serious ramifications for women who structure their lives in this way. To not wind up in this young woman’s boat, women must reject the message they’ve received from the culture and possibly from their parents.
Do not prioritize your career over love.
Rather, be as intentional about your personal life as you are about your professional life. Be more intentional, actually, because whom you choose to marry, and how that marriage fares, will be the axis upon which all other decisions are made. Indeed, your relationships at home will have the single greatest effect on your happiness and well-being. Nothing even comes close.
It also doesn’t make sense to put love off and hope to find it later. According to clinical psychologist Meg Jay, 80% of life’s most defining moments take place by age 35. This is especially true for young women, who have to think differently about the future than men do. Here are three things women, in particular, need to know:
1. What’s important to you now will likely not be important to you later. At 20, your career may feel like the most important thing in your life. At 30, you’ll likely have marriage and babies on your mind. Once you become a mother, you will change dramatically. In fact, you may not even recognize the person you were before you had those babies. The culture frames this transition as a woman “losing” her identity, but in fact it’s in this transition that a woman finds herself.
Yes, men change, too. But their need to provide becomes more pronounced once they have a family.
2. Your body has a clock, and your boyfriend’s does not. Men can postpone marriage longer than you can because they can always move on if the relationship ends and have children with a younger woman. Most women don’t choose to marry men 10 years their junior, plus women have a biological clock. They are far more fertile between 25 and 35 (closer to 25 actually) than they are after 35.
This is isn’t a popular thing to admit, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
3. You will very likely want to take care of your babies and will thus need a man on whom you can rely, if only for a few years. We hear endlessly about what women lose if they drop out of the workforce to stay home with their children. But rarely do we hear about what it is women gain when they become mothers and how desperately many of them want to stay home but can’t due to decisions they made early on under the assumption they wouldn’t want to (or shouldn’t want to) stay home.
Women should know in advance about the rude awakening they’ll have when they try to combine full-time work and motherhood. There’s a reason less than three-in-ten married mothers prefer full-time work and why most married mothers, if they work at all, work part time. You don’t see this reality on TV, but it’s a reality nonetheless.
Bottom line: The culture and your parents have set you up to fail when it comes to love and family. If you want to be successful in this domain, you need to think differently from the way you’ve been taught to think. If marriage is part of your life plan, move relationships to the front burner. Put love first, and work everything else in around that.
That’s what I did, and it continues to pay dividends to this day.
3 things young women need to know that no one has the courage to tell them
Opinion by Suzanne Venker