Ladies, there is one checklist we can’t seem to ignore. A woman’s list of things to achieve before she turns 30 or 40 — or dare I say 50 — never really ends. Yes, some women are actually content with their accomplishments, but the majority of females carry a heavy burden from the expectations of others in their lives.
Societal expectations include everyone: friends, family and even strangers that have stereotypical views on certain milestones that should be met by women within a particular time frame. For instance, turning 30 is a topic everyone seems to have an opinion about. Parents often dream that their child is ‘settled’ by that age. This word ‘settled’ can have so many definitions and people often assume there is only one path to contentment in life. This expectation comes with good intentions, but if your children are following a different path, it can influence feelings of inadequacy and unhappiness in their journey.
Even without societal pressure, women can feel jolted with nervousness. This year, I turned 29 and even though my family is very supportive of my life decisions, I must admit the thought of turning 30 next year made fear trickle down my spine. This fear is not a fear of wrinkles, weight gain or bad health but the real issue after months of analysis is about not reaching where I thought I would be according to my ‘list’.
The profound thing is most of my friends — both younger and older — felt the exact way! Women are constantly asked when they are going to get married and are even told what type of man they should get married to. It does not stop there because even when they tie the knot, there’s an unavoidable pressure to have kids, and the list goes on. Few people inquire if you’re happy — and I don’t mean social media “happy” — I am talking about happiness on the inside because you are living your best life.
It is beyond sad that as a woman the list of accomplishments in your career can be a mile long yet there is still someone asking if you are married and if you’ve had kids yet. The first female president of Trinidad and Tobago faced judgement and scrutiny by some citizens for being unwed. I’ve seen friends settle in lame relationships just to get a ring on their finger. Others are even abused at home and keep quiet in fear of being judged by society.
Women sometimes treat the topic of infertility as taboo, allowing so many females to feel trapped, alone and ashamed for no reason. Men have divorced women and women have left men for such issues and it breaks my heart to think we are still viewed as baby-making machines in modern society. Why is this still happening? We are all unique and on a different journey, so how can expectations rule us this way and why do we allow it?
To add fuel to the flame, women are constantly compared to other women. It is a known fact that many are conditioned this way since childhood. “Why can’t you be more like their daughter?” or “You better learn to cook or no man will want you” are common comments in many traditional Trinbagonian homes. This encourages a constant desire for approval and admittedly, it can influence healthy competitiveness but it grows envy and jealousy in young women.
I often wonder if that is one of the reasons women are in constant competition with each other. Always wanting the bigger house, better brands, a richer husband, more popular job when they should be focused on wanting a happy home, developing their own style, building a genuine connection with a loving life partner and working at a job they are passionate about. Getting married, having kids and owning your own home are all beautiful blessings but it happens sooner for some than others and that’s okay.
Why are we our own worst enemies? Women should empower each other and stand together so we can break, bury and burn these dated societal expectations whilst setting a new mindset for future generations. It starts with each and every one of us.
Love the life you live and don’t settle for less because society is rushing you. After all, this is your story and you shouldn’t forget to add self-love to your list.