When You're Older...
It’s a statement that every child grows up hearing. As a professional nanny of four, I say it all the time; sometimes multiple times a day. It’s a wonderful catch-all that postpones whatever topic has bloomed. “Why can’t I drink coffee too?” “When will I get to stay up late?” “Can I drive?” etc etc. It’s a phrase that (theoretically) dissipates over time because you’ll eventually BE older. Over the last few years though, I’ve noticed that it’s seemingly all anyone ever says to me and it’s taken on a completely different meaning.
Now, there are a couple facets that helped create this awkward situation. I happen to look much younger than I am, I adore being a professional nanny, my wanderlust is strong, I may, or may not, have some commitment issues (which allows me to remain foot loose and fancy free), I live in a completely different economic and political landscape than the generations before me and people often think I’m too “sweet” to be “sensible”. What I’ve come to realize though, is that in my case, “When you're older…” usually means, you're a woman who doesn't understand yet. Therefore, people have the right to shove society’s antiquated, stereotypical agenda onto me. It was surreal at first but now it’s just weird to constantly validate my choices in life.
Let’s just CliffsNotes my life, shall we? I’m a full fledged adult. I own a house, I pay monthly bills and I have zero debt. I have a university degree and I’ve lived abroad. (Shit, I’d live abroad again.) I’ve worked in several different professions before I found one where I feel emotionally rewarded and happy. *le sigh* I’ve also suffered through the passing of multiple loved ones. I’ve had serious relationships in which I’ve had my heart broken exactly 3 times and I’ve broken a few myself. I’ve only thought about eloping once in my life and it was merely a concept of “what if” rather than a formed idea with another person. I never really thought that having a child would complete me and I have a variety of passions that hold my interest such as painting, reading, writing, running and sleeping.
Honestly, my biggest flaw as an adult is my current contribution towards my financial future. AKA I’m not doing shit regarding a 401K. Everything I do is in “real time” and I’m pretty whatever about it. I’m sure most people my age and younger can relate. I didn’t grow up in the more stable financial economy that my parents did.
For example, my dad recently retired after decades of being a Wildlife Biologist for the Government. Yet his position, rate of pay and retirement benefits no longer exist for new degree holders walking in the door. My mom recalled the Government handing her gobs of free money for university tuition and she fondly remembers her part-time, work study job. I, on the other hand, received the bare minimum of grants, worked 50 hours a week to cover tuition, books and bullshit costs of living such as cell phone and internet, while still pulling 18 credits a term to receive my cost inflated degree (that is truly just paid advertisement for resumes).
Also, the Government continues to yank from the social security and disability which I pay towards. So by the time I’ll need help, it won’t be there and I’ll be woefully unprepared. As my mom joked over dinner one evening, “You might end up a homeless bag lady.” Secretly, I like to think the zombie plague will have already gotten to me so I’m not overly concerned. But I digress…
I feel confident that I’ve checked off a bunch of “adult/life” boxes but here’s what I constantly hear.
Why aren't you married?
Why don't you have kids?
Don’t you want to be married?
Don’t you want kids?
Helping to raise someone else's kids isn't the same as having your own. (Uhhhh yeah dude, I know, cuz I get PAID. You guys just get pooped on for free.)
And then it comes…
When you’re OLDER… you’ll change your mind.
Then I usually get to say, “I AM older and this is what I’ve accomplished…” Which leads to:
What do you mean, you own a house? Like you OWN it?
What do you mean, you don’t have any debt? How is THAT even possible?!
Do you at least have a boyfriend?
But you still want kids, right?
I worked so hard to get to get to this point in my life. To be judged because I didn’t want to follow society’s preset path, then subtly stripped of my accomplishments from people’s disbelief that I could even accomplish what I have, is both exhausting and deflating. I’m tired of people assuming I’m too stupid or naive to know better. I’m tired of having to validate that I am smart and make good choices for myself. Also, I’m not a dude but I’m pretty confident that (most) loved ones, acquaintances and strangers don’t feel entitled to randomly inquire about and weigh in on their, “biological clocks”.
There isn’t one way to live life.
“Thank you to all for your concern regarding my love life and uterus but really, I’m fine.” she said, while leisurely drinking whiskey at 11:15pm, on a week night with a movie queued up.