The myth of having it all.

The other day I had a very interesting conversation with a single female friend. My friend is beautiful, with a great education and exciting career and apparently is a great cook too.  She was telling me how hard it is to meet a decent man these days and how meeting shallow losers has become the rule for dynamic single career women.

Having spent most of my 20’s being single I used to have very strong opinions about men and relationships. Some of them I have given up and to some others   I still have to agree when I speak to certain single friends. However, I feel like I need to stress a general injustice done to single women nowadays: They are not all single for the same reasons as naively  the media, “experts” and know it all couples presume. Single women without careers are victims of a whole different kind of stereotyping as they are two steps behind from reaching the idealized career and family fairytale.   I will just say that their need for both a career and a marriage falls into the same modern frenzy that basically dictates that, yes, you should have it all, and that is what is expected of you. As soon as you conquer one area of your life people is interested to know how you are doing in the other. Have you ticked all the boxes?

Observing the world around me, people who have both satisfying jobs and have created happy families are something of an urban myth. When they exist, they generally fall into the following  categories:

a)      Couples that have been together forever and from very early on have developed common life goals. My parents fall into this category. They both met at the University and grew up together. Even though these people have had little time for “exploring” life and probably paid no attention throughout their lives to the Cosmo style inspired advice How many orgasms make a happy marriage they managed to keep a balance of both areas in their lives, had kids relatively early and at the same time focused on their career goals.

b)      Couples that met when time was running up and married/had kids within less than a year. The annual Greek doctors living abroad ball is a great example.  Once we had the good old matchmaking done by the parents/relatives. Nowadays, unless you are traditional Indian, matchmaking by parents is seen as a kind of a social stigma that is meant to oppress and destroy a person’s dreams. The mere word makes my brought up in the 60’s parents cringe.  Everybody overlooks the fact that matchmaking had a practical base. Good matchmaking basically matched your personality as well as your social status, which today we call life or career goals.  The paradox is that today’s singles are happy to use dating sites or be introduced to someone suitable by a friend, which basically does what traditional matchmaking used to do, minus the social stigma of following your parents advice.

c)       Couples where the woman is the breadwinner. Most women would mind supporting a man but truth is if you desperately want to combine career with family then you should be open to the fact that the hubby will stay at home with the kids for a while or even long term for you to pursuit your career goals.

So what are women with careers that do not fall into any of these categories complain about?

I know a lot of single women with great jobs. If you ask me their lives are great: they have stimulating careers and a circle of close friends they meet often. Lots of women single or not, would envy their lifestyles, their ability to spend Friday nights out with friends sipping cocktails in fancy bars instead of changing nappies at home.  Some of them travel a lot and meet interesting people, and generally receive a great deal of satisfaction from their socially active lifestyles. However if you ask them about men in their lives you will hear the odd story of that emotionally immature man who treated them badly, disappeared without a trace or turned out to be wrong in every sense of the word. The story is more common and repetitive when it comes to serial daters and/or people who admit using dating web sites.

Watching my career friends waltzing through their 30s following the same pattern I have to make some observations.

First of all my career women have the financial/social ability to date as a social experience, whether that means repetitive expensive dinners or drinks where the man’s chivalry can be tested. This ability taken to the extreme can lead to misunderstandings and quick assumptions. I know a woman for example, who in the course of 3 dates wined and dined 3 times with a man before she decided the guy was cold and uncaring.  In the meantime she was thrilled to be taken to expensive restaurants and sip French wine while her need for companionship and communication was replaced by the joy of the social experience of dating. In this sense, it was a priority to be flattered and pampered as a hard earning independent woman. All good with that, but if you are looking for a meaningful relationship perhaps you should reduce the stress that comes from the need to constantly evaluate each other’s social and financial worth.

You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your Prince. This popular assumption is that the perfect match is out there for you. In my experience people can be more or less compatible.  If they have common life goals they are more likely to stick together.  At the end of the day you will have to work hard to make a relationship work no matter how great and exciting its beginning is. Some of my single friends are not really willing to make this compromise unless that is for an exceptional case. They just do not realize that.  Be honest what your priorities in life are and what really motivates you.

Running out of time and putting pressure on people. Never has worked in history of mankind and it never will.

All the above  lead to the bottom line:  Expectations.  That is the popular idea that the modern women should never compromise her career goals and should dedicate her 20s building a career. She can still meet “the One” and have a family in her 30’s, right? My mother among other parents had been a passionate supporter of this idea. Having met my dad at the Uni  in her early 20s she always felt she had made career compromises  that if she were single she would not have to. She just assumes that single women in their 30s are at a more privileged position but like many people has no empirical evidence to support that.

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