There are a lot of reasons to hate the holidays, but the inevitable judgment of your life choices by your family members is pretty high up on the list. If you live out of town or don’t spend that much time with your family, are a woman in your so-called childbearing years and don’t bring home a romantic partner and/or baby (or are pregnant), chances are good you’ll be questioned about the absence of those elements from your life.
But this isn’t your family’s fault — we’ve all been conditioned to think “success” is defined by reaching very rigid milestones: getting married, buying a house and having children (usually in that order). Sure, for a lot of people, this truly is their measure of success — and there’s nothing wrong with that — but to foist these standards upon everyone doesn’t make sense.
If we’re being realistic, not everyone wants to get married and/or have children — so why question them about “when it’s going to happen” if that’s just not in the cards for them? That’s like considering someone who has no interest in alligators a failure because they are not a successful alligator trainer.
It should also go without saying that just because someone has part of the holy trifecta of arbitrary life milestones — a house, spouse or kids — doesn’t mean they necessarily need or want all three. For instance, it’s entirely possible to purchase your own home without a partner or “kids to fill it.” And just because people get married, it doesn’t mean having children is a foregone conclusion. In fact, there could be several reasons a person or couple doesn’t have children, including factors beyond their control, like infertility.
If you are one of the well-meaning friends or relatives questioning someone’s life choices because they don’t match your — or society’s — expectations and don’t know what to say, a simple “How are you doing?” works.
Though the expectations of motherhood, marriage and homeownership probably won’t go away anytime soon, we can at least help change the conversation and stop judging other people — and ourselves — so harshly when we deviate from this path.
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