Reevaluating the big life plan...
August 13, 2009 7:18 PM   Subscribe

Late 20's life planning, do I plan for the family I may never have or do I live my life as if I'll be single forever, unless I just happen to meet someone at which point i reevaluate?

I'm going to try really hard and not make this an omg I'm 27 and going to die alone post.

Basically, I'm in my late 20's and very single. While I date fairly frequently I can honestly say I've only met a couple men in my entire life I could see marrying. The last guy I met who I had serious feelings about didn't feel the same way about me, as have more or less all the others. This year has brought a flood of engagements and I find myself with fewer and fewer single friends, but really nothing changes for me. I'm largely ok with this, but I see the day coming very soon where most of my friends will be married with kids and well, I won't be.

There are lots of really interesting opportunities out there to live abroad, go into the foreign service etc. I think this would be very interesting, but I've already lived abroad several times and it isn't something I have to do again. This life style would also involve a lot of moving around every couple of years and not laying down roots anywhere, which isn’t ideal for meeting someone or raising a family. Going abroad would also be a serious cut in income, which would be alright if I was single and had no dependants.

I really like the idea of settling down in the next 5 years and having kids, I've always really wanted children, but I honestly don't know if that is going to happen. Basically, I don't want to sit and build a career and save money primarily so I can buy a house and have kids one day if I'm going to wake up in 10 years and be exactly where I am now, but probably unable to have children. Up until this point in my life I've made most of my decisions under the premise that I wanted a stable job and money so I could have a family. Now I'm well on my way to that goal, but I have absolutely no real prospects at this time and it has been years since I've met anyone I could really see myself with. Is it better to go with plan B (travelling, adventure, less security) which I know I can make happen, rather than hope Plan A works out (meet someone, fall in love, have a kid before I'm too old)?

My friends tell me I could still meet someone in time to have kids etc, and they are absolutely right and this certainly isn't a question about giving up all hope or to stop dating. I just really don't like the idea of planning and saving and forgoing other opportunities for a husband/partner that may never enter into my life.

I should also add that I don't think I would want to be a single mom. While it isn't entirely out of the question, I was raised by a single mom and I don't think it's really the life I would want.

So boiling that down to an actual question, what's the better bet for a single 27 year old female? Do you plan for the life you want or for the life you know you can make reality?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (25 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Do whatever you want to do more now. You talk about traveling abroad as being more possible now, but is it what you really want to do? If you really want to travel, travel. If you really want to nest, nest.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:28 PM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

If know it feels like the clock is ticking, but don't listen to it. You're young and have plenty of time to do what you want. If you do end up having kids sometime in your 30s, you'll quite likely be glad you were able to have that time in your late 20s to go on wild adventures back when it was so simple and easy.

It depends on listening to your heart, and evaluating who you are and want to be -- are you fulfilled right now? Will your career and financial stability be derailed if you go one way instead of the other? How do you feel about that?

The good news is that it's a false choice -- the answer isn't one or the other, you can have both, including someone with whom to share not just a family but also adventures.
posted by dacoit at 7:42 PM on August 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

You have a good ten years to have kids. Don't sweat that. Life could be dramatically different for you in 5 years.

DO, however, sweat the other stuff women in their mid-to-late 20s neglect when they are waiting for Prince Charming to turn the hell up. Build the best life you can for yourself. If that means travel and adventure, do that. If that means security and stability, then start a 401K, buy a house, and get a dog (or a horse! or a goat!)

I would also add that if life has not changed dramatically for you as you pull out of your early 30s, being a single mom may look very different to you. It's at least slightly likely that you will feel more capable, more stable, more confident and more goal-oriented when your biological clock starts screaming, let alone ticking, and that something that doesn't feel like a real option now later becomes a real decision.

I don't think, though, that in facing this fork in the road, there's a wrong answer. You could travel and have a great time and come home and never meet anyone. Or you could travel and meet Mr Fabulous on a train in Prague and be running a B&B together in Thailand in five years. So do what feels like it will give you the best possible life for yourself, be happy you don't have to take anyone else's needs into consideration when following your passions, and see what happens.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:43 PM on August 13, 2009 [11 favorites]

You seem to be living with a very narrow view of what's possible i.e. either you can travel or you can stay put and have a family. Who says you can't travel, meet someone and have them travel with you for a while, so ya'll can have fabulous adventures as a couple and then settle down and start a family? It doesn't have to be A or B. If you meet the right person, ya'll will make it happen.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:45 PM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

if I'm going to wake up in 10 years and be exactly where I am now, but probably unable to have children

The chances of any given woman being infertile at age 37 are, at maximum, 20%. 80% of women can conceive at that age without fertility treatment. The success rate for most fertility docs with patients of that age is at least 40%, so we're talking a 12% chance that you might not be able to have biological children. That's not "probably."

And, of course, not everyone who has children has biological children. I have lots of female friends who married and started families in their late 30s and early 40s, almost all with biological children. And I have several female friends who married and started families in their mid-40s and beyond; most (but not all) of those are with adopted children.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:45 PM on August 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

You seem to neglect the obvious.

If you travel the world, pursue other things, you stand a very good chance of meeting this family man you want to meet.

Having traveled the world and experienced life a bit, you will be more mate-able than someone who sat around waiting for a mate. You will be a better partner. You will also one day be a better parent, too.
posted by fake at 8:14 PM on August 13, 2009 [11 favorites]

I know a lot of people say you have your thirties to have kids, but it's harder to have kids,, harder to have energy for kids, and if you don't meet and marry a stable man with a stable career (and you yourself don't have one), then everything is harder.

It's probably time to figure out how you want to live a life without the husband and kids package, unless you're up to dating aggressively to find the family man. Chances are, you won't. So you might as well create an alternate plan.
posted by anniecat at 8:29 PM on August 13, 2009

My Mom had me when she was 30, my sister when she was 36. She really feels like she was able to relax and enjoy being a parent because she did. (Others may tell different stories, but seriously, 27 isn't old. I'm 28, and I'm not old so you couldn't possibly be.) And as far as watching all of your friends get engaged, yeah, it sucks. Been there, done that. (I have a pretty great husband now, though, and think it was worth the wait.)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 8:30 PM on August 13, 2009

I'll address one point: having children isn't a synonym for giving birth to a baby. After all, you want children and a family that will last the rest of your life- conception/gestation/birth is only a component of the experience, not the entire thing. Most of my extended family is adopted/have adopted children for various reasons, and it is far easier to adopt healthy infants with little money involved (other than necessary legal fees and medical fees associated with labour and delivery) than you may be led to believe.

Not to belittle the importance of genetic connections or experience of giving birth, but my dad was adopted and that idea was presented to me from day one as "some babies live with the mommy and daddy they were born with, and some babies live with parents that meet them after they are born". Result being I was shocked growing up to learn that most people do not see them as being one and the same.

I'm closing in on 31, so I empathize with your situation. Any way you look at it you need to deal with the biological reality that you won't be able to bear a child past a certain age.
posted by variella at 8:58 PM on August 13, 2009 [6 favorites]

It takes being brave to go after what you really want while knowing that this much-wanted thing may not transpire. But I think you will be a lot more comforted if you know you tried your damndest rather than having simply settled for the life you know you can make reality. If you know you want a family, than heck yeah you should go after that goal. Be active: Sign up with dating services, keep saving your dollars, and prep yourself in whatever other ways you think you need to. That said, don't be a crazy person about it -- keep your life going, because even once you're a mommy you're still you, right? Even if you meet an amazing man and have babies with him and buy the perfect real estate, it is not going to look a damn thing like you imagined. It's a wild ride, sister. Get on it.

And agreement with fake that foreigners are a great wealth of love and partnership potential.
posted by tamarack at 9:12 PM on August 13, 2009

Hello! You are totally me 3 years ago!

I agree with most folks here but favorited fake and DarlingBri. This is not like planning your day to stay at home because there might be a package arriving. The best way to have the life you want is to live it.

True story: I met my fiance a month after moving to another country practically on a whim. I was 27. I'm probably not going to be able to be in a position to have kids til I'm at least 31 and to be totally honest that probably would have bothered me when I was 27. But here I am with that reality and I'm totally ok with it because it's feeling like it was all meant to be.
posted by like_neon at 2:34 AM on August 14, 2009

I met my husband when I was about your age. It's really silly to think your options are closing. Most of my friends got married around 30.

That said, live the life you want to live-- don't sit around waiting for someone else to make it what you want.

I have a friend who met her husband when she was 40. They had a baby 4 years later, and they are still happily married with a 13-year-old.
posted by miss tea at 4:25 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mod note: few comments removed - starting with WTF doesn't seem to strike the right tone, maybe try again?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:46 AM on August 14, 2009

You have a lot of time. Live the life you want. I had a fabulous career in television, traveled the world, had some awesome adventures, and then met my husband at age 43. We had a baby a year later. I believe you can have it all but not necessarily all at once. You don't know what's going to happen tomorrow or next month or in 5 years. So since the only guarantee that any of us has is what's right here right now, why not relax, pursue your dreams and see what happens. Seek out some awesome experiences over the next several years, whether that means traveling, or building a house, or taking volunteer vacations, whatever it is that makes you the happiest. Don't measure yourself by comparing where you are in life to where your friends are. You are you and they are them. I'm betting that for you, the best is yet to come.
posted by Kangaroo at 6:11 AM on August 14, 2009 [9 favorites]

It's not like having a stable job and a bunch of money aren't good things in and of themselves. Even if you don't get married, or don't have children, being financially independent gives you a lot of freedom. If you are happy nesting now, then I don't see why you should question continue doing what you're doing. If you want to travel, then travel. (Also, I really don't think travelling will make it harder to meet people. I would think the opposite would be true.)

And this really does read like an OMG i'm 27 and going to die alone post. And like most of the others on this site, there are plenty of comments pointing out that it's quite possible if not likely that you have plenty of time to meet someone.
posted by chunking express at 8:29 AM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

From the other perspective, some (many?) men enjoy women who area able to support and build up a strong, interesting and independent life for themselves, and who enter into the married life not because they need it but because the want it/him.
posted by msittig at 8:50 AM on August 14, 2009

I agree with everything DarlingBri said above, but I also want to add my own personal story as an example of how life can change very quickly.

I am 29 and just married a man I met when I was 27. At the time, I kept saying to my friends - "what if the man I'm supposed to meet is somewhere else? Maybe I should go there." I wasn't super desperate to get married and settle down, but I was really worried that I was "missing" the guy I was supposed to be with. Fortunately for me, my husband moved here from Europe that same year and we met and fell in love. He found ME! Life has a way of working itself out, and 27 is WAY too young to start worrying that it's too late.
posted by jrichards at 8:51 AM on August 14, 2009

Do you plan for the life you want or for the life you know you can make reality?


No, really. Isn't there some way to create a balance of the two?

I don't understand how the nest-egg saving and traveling are mutually exclusive (maybe that wasn't what was intended, but that was what I interpreted).

As someone who is in similar situation as you (woman in her late twenties; happy being single but would like to get married and have kids some day; loves travel and adventure), I finally have a stable career and a place to call home. I like this -- "nesting" is a new concept for me. It's exhilarating to see my apartment transform from a place where I slept and stored my stuff, to a place that feels homey and welcoming and hospitable. I'm not sure I can properly protray my dorky excitement at seeing the various pictures I've accumulating in my years of travel now hanging up on the walls in proper frames instead of just being tacked up with pins or stacked in a box somewhere.

Still, I love adventure and travel.

Which is why I am happily saving away a goodly percentage of my income from my first "real" job (one that I can conceivably see myself sticking with longer than a year). I've ear-marked my savings for various categories - one of them is "short term travel/adventure" -- mainly for yearly big trips (the kind that swallow up at least two weeks of vacation) and weekend getaways. Another is "that huge trip I've been dreaming about forever" savings, which will take about five years to reach the point where I plan to use it.

Because I do plan to use it, no matter what. Right now it's earmarked for a trip to Antarctica. (It's a lifelong goal to walk on all seven continents.)

However, depending where I'm at in five years, I could conceivably see myself using that long-term savings to pay for a wedding and honeymoon, a downpayment on a home, or put it towards the expenses of adopting a kid (due to a medical condition there's a slim chance I could have one biologically even now, much less ten years from now, so that isn't a pressing concern for me).

But the point is, I'm going to use it. If I'm not in a place to be married and have kids in five years, then I'm going to have an awesome adventure in South America and Antarctica. In another five years after that, I'll have it ear-marked for a travel adventure somewhere else -- unless it's been put towards that wedding/marriage/kid adventure.

Of course, you're not me, ymmv, etc.

In short, I think the issue is flexibility in your long-term plans -- but to have long-term plans.
posted by paisley sheep at 9:17 AM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

You've also got to consider the very real fact that while you may not intend to become a single mother, that is very often outside of one's control. Even if you meet Prince Charming next year and he fathers your kids, he could very well be Prince Absent three years later.
posted by Pomo at 10:24 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

A watched pot never boils.
posted by Jess the Mess at 10:51 AM on August 14, 2009

I would take issue with the idea that "laying down roots" is the best way to meet new people. If your friends are are starting to marry and settle down, you're probably going to fall into a relatively static social network. If you're moving every few years, you're going to meet far more people. Quite a few of the couples I know met while they were moving around -- as in, "she's from Virginia, he's from Ireland, they met working in Spain, and then moved to California together."
posted by zombiedance at 10:58 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Um...I don't think you can plan for a life you don't have yet. For example, my friend met her husband while she was on vacation in Ireland and now she's moving to Ireland. There's no way she could have seen that coming when she was single or planned for it.

I think you should live your life the way you want to instead of trying to proactively plan for the life you think you may have later. Live your life the way you want to. Then when you meet Mr. Right you can sort all this out.

If you want to go into the foreign service and live abroad then go do that. You're more likely to find the right guy while you're doing something you love. I have friends in the foreign service who have a family too so it's certainly doable.
posted by bananafish at 11:55 AM on August 14, 2009

I'm 29 and in a roughly similar situation (except that I'm a bit more tied down with property). I don't see why you have to choose between planning for what you want and what you think you can get. Plan for a number of different possible realities and then adapt those plans as they change.

I wouldn't want to pass up the foreign opportunities (and the Foreign Service still provides decent middle-class income, no??), nor would I want to be financially unprepared for opportunities and pitfalls. So I'd still save quite a bit. If your child money doesn't get used for children, there's a million other things to do with it.
posted by Kurichina at 1:40 PM on August 14, 2009

As someone in almost your exact situation, I'd like to offer my perspective. I spent some time living abroad in my early twenties and then moved back to my hometown (Washington, DC) in order to really "get on with my life," as it were. I dated, but found it really difficult to see myself with any of those people long term. However, having a family is something I think I want for myself. I was very happy with my job, but felt stagnant in other parts of my life.

I'm 27 now, and about to move to India for my first posting with the Foreign Service. I couldn't be more excited. It probably will be a challenge to meet someone given all the moving around that I'll be doing. The Service, however, is great to families. Once I have kids, I have no concerns about raising them in that context. I also plan on spending a portion of my career in DC, so I can do the settled, have my own home thing then.

You don't need to take an either/or approach. As others have already said, you can find a lifestyle that isn't stationary, but that doesn't deny you most of the benefits of a settled home life.
posted by eulily at 1:45 PM on August 14, 2009

To be honest, you don't sound terribly enthusiastic about joining the foreign service/traveling for years here. It kind of sounds like a "well, if I can't have what I want, it'd be a nice second choice" thing. Ho-hum. So don't do that. If you really want to be settled, and have a life that goes along with settling, then don't go travel for years in Europe. I'd suggest an open-ended approach. Keep saving your money, get a house or whatever you need to feel "settled", but if you have some travel bent, try to find a job that will let you go off to Europe occasionally or gives a lot of vacation. Don't make choices that 100% rule out your finding a babydaddy at age 27 if the babydaddy is your #1 goal.

This is reminding me of a friend of mine from Berkeley saying that she wanted to go live in LA for a few years (she's there now), but since she wanted to settle down and have kids IN Berkeley, she'd better get her LA ya-ya's out now. I couldn't help but think, "Um, but what if you meet someone in LA and fall in love and he wants to/has to stay there? If you want to settle down with someone who wants to do it in Berkeley, your odd of that are better if you um, stay in Berkeley." In your case, if your #1 want is a husband who wants babies, stay in a life that's at least somewhat conducive to finding that guy and having a settled life in whatever town you'd want to settle down in. Not that you can't have a miracle occur in the foreign service, but your odds are probably better of finding Mr. Settled Husband if you stay put.

The sad thing to me here is that if you are sure you want kids but not to be a single mom from the getgo (as Pomo pointed out, any woman who has a kid runs the odds of being a single mom no matter what at some point), it really does take the power away from you. Are you going to be miserable if you hit 45 and never did find a man and thus you never had those kids, or are you SURE you don't want kids without a husband, period, and will be able to deal if both of those never happen?
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:52 PM on August 14, 2009

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