Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Age Expectations

December 31, 2004

I subbed at a local school today and a conversation with my co-teacher prompted my thinking about age and the expectations we have for ourselves at certain ages. We were talking about marriage and children, and she mentioned that she and her husband got married young. She's is currently 25, so I was curious what "young" meant. She said 23.

That began a discussion of what is considered "young" or "old" in relation to getting married and having children, because where I grew up, 23 isn't young at all - it's a pretty average age for marriage.

If you had told me when I was 15 that I would get married at 25 and have my first child at almost 31, my jaw would have dropped, and I probably would have wondered what was wrong with me.

Coming from Lancaster County, it's not strange for people to marry in their early 20s (and I'm sure some of you have parents who weren't even 20 when they got married!) and to begin a family by their mid-twenties. It's what I expected I'd do. So when I turned 23, I remember having to process the fact that I wasn't married yet and it didn't look like I would be for a few years at least. And putting off childbearing until age 30?? That was definitely something I had to wrap my mind around as well.

Living elsewhere opened my eyes to the fact that a lot of people consider the early and mid-twenties "too young" to get married. A number of these people were pursuing graduate degrees and focused on that, although many were working full-time jobs, but just don't see themselves as "old enough." And just for the record, in Lancaster, attending college doesn't necessarily mean you wait until your mid-twenties to marry. I know couples who got married in the middle of their undergraduate college education. No big deal!

I understand this mindset, but I will forever be influenced by my Lancaster County Mennonite upbringing where it's a perfectly acceptable and good thing to marry "young." Because of that, however, I can't help feeling at times that I'm incredibly "behind" most of my Lancaster counterparts because I'm just now having my first (as opposed to my 2nd, 3rd, 4th or even 5th!).

I wonder what else will turn out to be different than my expectations?


  1. Amy, I have just the opposite experience. I was 20 when I got married (In the middle of undergrad) and pregnant with my first when I walked across the graduation stage. I didn't know anyone who got married young and still am definitely the youngest among the mothers that I hang out with!

    It was very strange to be 22 in a playgroup with 30 something first time moms. I was often treated like someone's kid.

    But now that I'm back in school and the oldest people in my class are 23 I feel like I'm 100! It's all in the perspective, I guess.

  2. yeah, I know exactly what you mean... when you live in one place most of your life and some(many) of the things in your life don't line up with the expectations of that area, it makes you reevaluate a bit...

  3. I just re-found your blog. :) I have been thinking about this topic on how culture influences your expectations of oneself and others with regard to relationships as I move back to the Lancaster area from an educational community where many people marry later. It'll be interesting to see how this move influences my satisfaction with my own current state in life...