Having it all – is it society’s expectations or just FOMO?

So it has been decided, right? Women can’t have it all. It was all a lie that was sold to us to sell books, magazines, and further the female empowerment cause. Regardless, the idea of having it all has been completely ingrained in not only our thoughts and expectations, but those of our families, friends, and the society in which we live.

A successful career, a loving marriage, a fit and healthy body, a circle of close-knit friends, and happy and smart children – these are apparently all the things that will make a woman have a fulfilled and satisfying life. Not just one, or some of these, but all of them; preferably all at the same time.

We hear about it or read about it all the time:

  • A woman that has quit her job to be a full-time mother is wasting her intellectual mind and talents
  • A woman that focuses on her career instead of having children has her priorities all wrong and her eggs are shrivelling up
  • A woman that puts her children into day care to work full-time is not prioritising her children
  • A woman that is so overworked juggling a job and mothering duties is neglecting her husband and her marriage.

These are the real expectations that women have of themselves, which in turn is undoubtedly due to the pressures and expectations that family, friends or society has of them.

If you are a woman who has a strong sense of herself and what she wants, you probably couldn’t give a hoot about what people think about you and how you choose to live your life. But if you are like the vast majority of women, it can be pretty difficult to separate society’s expectations of you from what it is that you actually want. How do you know what it is that you really want or what is best for you when everyone is in your ear about what you should be doing.

I certainly have this dilemma when I examine my own life. I’m not sure whether I want to get married, even though I am certain that I want to spend the rest of my life with the man that I love. However, as anyone in a long term de facto relationship can attest to, when you’ve been with someone for a couple of years, all your friends and family start asking the question, “so when are you going to get married?”. Why does it matter to them whether you and your partner are married or not? Shouldn’t they just be happy for you that you have found someone that you love and are in a committed relationship? How often do couples just get married because they think “it’s time” after being in a relationship for a while because that’s just what couples do?

It is no different when it comes to having children. As soon as a couple gets married, all the buzzards start asking them, “so when are you going to start having children?”

parents with child in bedroom

Regardless, the expectation of our romantic and child-centric societies is that this is what people want. Apparently, everyone is desperate to get coupled up, walk down the aisle, and start producing offspring. Perhaps it’s also biology, but is this what we actually really want? Or how much of this is led by the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)?

This is a very real fear or concern amongst a lot of single men and women, particularly when they hit their thirties. And this fear is compounded when they see their friends with young families and wonder, “am I missing out?” Dating singles that feel that their time is running out before they become a lonely spinster or bachelor want to quickly ascertain whether their potential mate is also on the fast track to marriage and babies.

Certainly there is often a degree of bewilderment when one meets a person who expresses no desire to get married or have children. This can be a degree of a large magnitude when expressed to parents in particular, but maybe we should be questioning why this reaction is automatic.

The pressure from the presumption that everyone wants to get married and have children may be forcing us to make the wrong decisions in our lives in the Fear Of Missing Out. Perhaps if we stopped instilling this fear in our friends and family, and ourselves, then we may see happier people with a lower rate of divorce and fewer instances of children growing up in broken families.

* Image courtesy of stock.xchng

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2 thoughts on “Having it all – is it society’s expectations or just FOMO?

  1. Lovely to read this post – as someone who has just got married but wouldn’t have minded if I had just stayed with my now husband- the questions from others are never ending whether it be children, a house, a new car etc etc which feels a lot of pressure to me when I don’t necessarily want those things. I wonder why we can’t simply be happy as we are and always want the next thing (I am very guilty of this despite my best efforts). Time we refocused on what makes us and those around us happy?

  2. Pingback: I’m not a pessimist, I’m a catastrophiser | Laugh Lots, Travel Often

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