Are you settling down or just settling?

When I was 10 I thought I would be married with 2 kids by the time I was 20. By 15 I thought 20. By 18 I had pushed this back to about 22. By 20 I was thinking about 28. At 25 I thought 30. At 30 I thought 35. Im 31 now. I’m engaged. I will be married right before my 32nd birthday. 35 still seems somewhat reasonable for children, but talk to me in a couple of years. When I think about who I was dating at the above ‘milestones’ (15, 18, 20, 25) above, I wonder what my life would have been like had I in fact gotten married and had kids then. It’s a scary thought. (If any of my ex-boyfriends are reading this, I’m not talking about you of course). I would have been settling. Not because the men I was dating were flawed, but because the relationships were. And OK, in some cases the men were too.

Every woman has a vision for her life. An idea in her mind of how her future will look. This vision will change as the woman blossoms and grows but there will always be a goal in mind. At some point the woman will reach maturity. This is not to say that she will not continue to grow and flourish but that she has found her place in the world and her personality, ideals and temperment are firmly rooted and difficult to alter. Some women at this point in their lives have achieved all of their dreams. They are the lucky few. The rest of us exist on a spectrum. That spectrum goes from those women who may not have everything they dreamed of but are happy with what they have and the choices they have made, to those women that feel that they have settled for less than they deserve. In the middle lie those that aren’t sure they know the difference.

Everybody makes choices in life. There are few people who truly have it all. I moved away from family and a job I loved to be with the person I wanted to spend my life with. Was it worth it? Yes. But I like my current job less and I would prefer to be with my partner AND in the same city as my family and best friends. I have a good friend who was in a long-term relationship with a person she loved but could not see a future with. She was 32 years old. When she broke up with him she said to me “I realize that at my age breaking up with him means I might be losing my chance to have children, but I would rather be with someone that is right for me than have children with someone who is not”. I had never thought this way before, and I still don’t believe she is doomed to be celibate, but it is true that women in their 30’s have to think about fertility issues. With more women choosing to have careers as well as families and establishing these careers before having children the reality is it is not always as easy to procreate as one would hope. Hollywood makes it look like having babies at 40 is the norm and that fertility treatments work 100% of the time. The reality is that these treatments take a huge toll on your body, are extremely expensive (about $15 000 per cycle) and are not always effective. The side effects include fluid retention, weight gain, nausea, diarrhea, pelvic discomfort due to enlarged cystic ovaries, breast tenderness, mood swings, headache and fatigue.The efficacy is about 30-35% if you are 30-35, 25% if you are 35-37 and 10-20% if you are 38-40. Over 40? Only 6-10% effective. And if a woman does get pregnant naturally in her late 30’s early 40’s whether naturally or using fertility treatments, the risk of birth defects increases dramatically. At age 35 there is a 1 in 365 chance of giving birth to a baby with Down Syndrome. At 40 the risk is 1 in 100. There are also women who choose to forgo children entirely for their career. Or women who forgo a career for children. These are all choices. If at the end of the day a woman is happy with her choices, she is not settling for anything, she is simply rearranging her priorities.

The problem is when a woman sacrifices something that is truly important to her. A coworker of mine once announce she was getting married. She said about her future partner “He’s not really attractive or anything, but he wants kids”. It struck me as so sad that she had nothing loving or caring to say about her future husband. In my mind, there isn’t a person alive who wouldn’t want a relationship filled with love. I thought she was settling due to her wish for children and the fact she was 35 years old and had not yet found someone. This may or may not have been the case. If having children was of utmost importance to her and romantic love not important to her, then she would in fact not have been settling. Perhaps I was projecting my happiness criteria onto her. But many women do settle for less than they deserve every day. They settle for men that are beneath them. They settle for jobs that are beneath them and pay that is beneath them. They settle for treatment that is inexcusable. Men settle as well. I once dated a man just out of a 6 year relationship. We didn’t have much in common. He was a vegetarian. I am a carnivore. He likes the great outdoors. I cry after 1 day of camping. After 2 weeks he had asked me on a trip that was to take place 6 months later. He also unplugged my Glade air freshener concerned it would burn down my apartment. At 3 weeks he asked me about our future. It was too much, too soon. Essentially, he was just substituting me into his life where his last girlfriend used to be. I could have been anyone. He was settling. I didn’t want to be around when he realized it. Settling is not just making a choice, it is giving up. And no one should ever give up on what is important in life, because once you do you will have nothing to live for.

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