Turning 30 is a milestone. It marks the end of your carefree 20s, the age at which you’re finally considered a “real” adult by society. If you haven’t reached it yet, you might think that by 30 you’ll have it all figured out. But many millennial women are finding life at 30 lot different than how they pictured it.
Around the world, millennials are making the choice to get married later in life, or not at all. But while our attitudes about marriage are quickly shifting with the times, many women still feel pressured by friends, family and, yes, even strangers, to conform to a more “traditional” lifestyle.
That’s why, in partnership with SK-II, we talked to seven women who recently reached the big 3-0 about what it feels like to come of age in this “new world.”
1. “Sometimes I think my heart might explode with all the happiness I feel inside.”
― Andrea Mujica, 30, Chile
“Most women, in my experience, have a really hard time turning 30. They go through a mini-depression, and think it’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to them. I think I’m the only one of my friends who was actually excited for my 30th birthday, which just happened on June 11!
“I was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and throughout my whole life, I thought I had everything figured out. I was going to get married at 23, have three kids before 30, live in a beautiful house with my perfect husband. Just saying that makes me laugh out loud now. What world did I think I lived in?
“Instead of that traditional dream, my life took an unexpected turn. I went to live in Chile in 2010, when I was 24, and I never looked back. Now I’m currently traveling through the Americas, working remotely, enjoying the single life, blogging, and I’m loving every second of my life. Sometimes I think my heart might explode with all the happiness I feel inside.
“I never thought that I would end up in the life that I currently have but sometimes life has bigger plans for you than you think.”
2. “I’m constantly asked by married friends whether there are any men in my life, and others try and force dating advice down my throat, which is pretty demoralizing.”
― Hillary Kline, 29, United States
“Over the weekend, I attended two weddings by myself, and I really felt all the anxiety of being almost 30 and single. I will turn 30 on October 4, and quite honestly, it scares me. I thought that my life would be a heck of a lot different than it is now ― I pictured being married, having kids, having success in my job, and I am not even close to any of those things.
“I’m constantly asked by married friends, whether there are any men in my life, and others try and force dating advice down my throat, which is pretty demoralizing. To be honest, I think I am feeling my own internal pressure of being married by 30 and frustrated that it hasn’t happened yet. As a relatively impatient person, seeing your friends on baby number two, or watching kids you babysat for as a teen start to have kids of their own isn’t easy to watch. I know that it will all happen when it’s supposed to happen, but as I approach age 30, I often wonder what if it doesn’t?
“To get over this “turning 30” funk, I decided to book a solo vacation at the end of September and early October to a place I have always wanted to go: Greece. One of the beautiful things about being this age and single is that I can pick up and leave when I want, no questions ask, no need for a babysitter, no need for planning for anyone else but myself!”
3. “I’d much rather be a single and attentive mother than trapped in a loveless relationship with their father!”
― Katja Grisham, 30, England
“I turned 30 in February, and I think my anxiety about getting older is a little different than that of most single 30-year-olds, because I’m also a mother. If you’d told me at 21 that at 30 I’d be a single mum of two, working full time without any help from a husband, a boyfriend, or my extended family, I think I’d throw myself off a cliff. But I’m glad no one told me that, because I wouldn’t take back my (albeit rocky) life path for anything. I love my kids, and I’m proud to be able to take care of them by myself.
“I do get some passive-aggressive judgement from friends on a more “traditional” life path. People who are married with the white picket fence and all that don’t really understand why I’m OK with being single and focusing on my kids instead of actively looking for a partner, but that’s fine. I’d much rather be a single and attentive mother than trapped in a loveless relationship with their father!”
4. “I have chosen career over dating/marriage, and time will tell if that was the right choice. But for now, I’ll just ride the wave in my fancy clothes.”
― Brittany Goossen Brown, 30, United States
“Every day, I’m surrounded by (male) professional athletes who are always very quick to question why I am “still” single. I usually reply with a, “well I travel so much…” or “I am just so focused on my career right now” but I definitely feel the pressure to settle down, marry, and have a baby. I compare my Instagram posts to those friends of mine who took another path (marriage) and I wonder what that kind of life would be like, however I then assure myself that they are probably looking at my page and wondering the same ― the grass isn’t always greener!
“Still, sometimes I do feel like something is “missing” from my life. I have very supportive parents who have never pressured me into marriage, in fact my mother often tells me how she is envious I have had the chance to live alone and how impressed she is that I eat dinner at restaurants alone without any kind of hesitation. My friends (all of whom are married) often remark that they are also impressed with my ability to be independent when they also really mean alone. That independence does scare me a bit as I feel the longer I go being this independent “boss” the harder it will be to adjust to a partner.
“The week of my 30th birthday, I was in New York City for a work event and while my colleagues did a wonderful job of spoiling me with festivities, I had a five and a half hour plane ride to think about where my life was versus where I thought it would be. I questioned myself about whether or not I was actually happy. I still don’t know the answer to that question and I’ve now been 30 for two months now, I’m not sure I will ever know. I have chosen career over dating/marriage and time will tell if that was the right choice. But for now, I’ll just ride the wave in my fancy clothes.”
5. “It’s a little frustrating to both of us that people don’t take our relationship seriously, even though we’ve been together for longer than many of our married friends have.”
― Ka Xiong, 30, United States
“As the daughter of Hmong immigrants, I always expected to live a pretty old-fashioned and traditional life. Hmong culture has very strict gender roles: the man is the provider and the head of the household, the woman takes care of cooking, cleaning, child-rearing, etc. I grew up watching my mother cook for 10 people, and eat by herself in the kitchen when all the men had finished the meal ― so that’s what I was expecting my life at 30 to look like.
“Instead, I have a master’s degree, a great job, two dogs and a loving boyfriend who I don’t ever plan on marrying (or having children with). While my family is mostly supportive of my choices, they don’t understand my aversion to marriage. My boyfriend and I have been together for almost 10 years, and we’re happy the way things are. Neither of us feels the need to spend $30K on a giant party just to appease our families. He is the son of Korean immigrants, so pretty much every family gathering on either side consists of our parents and extended families pestering us about when we’re going to make things official.
“The pressure to get married isn’t only a family thing ― some of my married friends seem to find my contentment with unmarried life offensive. I hear stuff like: “Why don’t you guys just go to the courthouse?” or “You don’t REALLY understand what commitment is until you’re married” on a daily basis from everyone. It’s a little frustrating to both of us that people don’t take our relationship seriously, even though we’ve been together for longer than many of our married friends have! We don’t need a piece of paper to tell us what we mean to each other! While I might be “single” in the eyes of the government, my family, and a few well-meaning but annoying married friends, I know I have a partner for life.”
6. “I’m afraid they’ll be disappointed or sad that my dad didn’t have the chance to walk me down the aisle, or my mom didn’t get a grandchild from her only daughter.”
― Rebecca Smith, 30, United States
“I got home from a bachelorette party for my last unmarried high school friend this weekend. We have this tradition where the bride keeps some key decorations (and a bachelorette party-worthy blow-up doll named John, of course) until the next friend’s bachelorette party. There are a key group of five of us, and this tradition started back in 2012 when our first friend got married. Since then, there had always been a friend who was already engaged or very close so we knew there would be another party for John to make his next appearance, but this time there isn’t because I’m not engaged. Not even close. There were still the comments of “Becky’s next! We’ll keep John for you Beck!” etc., and I laughed and played along, but deep down I had to wonder if that would be John’s last appearance: I’m not sure marriage is the cards for me.
“I turned 30 in October, and am currently single. My 20s were exciting ― I worked in entertainment and hospitality PR in Las Vegas where I attended and worked at events with huge celebrities and marquee Vegas events that were seen across the world, I earned a Master’s degree, and I traveled extensively. But other than a few months-long relationships here and there, love hasn’t really been in the cards for me. I moved back to Chicago about two years ago, largely in part, because I didn’t think that my “person” was in Las Vegas and thought I’d have better luck back in the Midwest where I grew up. That hasn’t turned out to be the case, and most days, that’s OK.
“I have great friends here in Chicago who are mostly single 30-somethings as well, a job I like as much as one can like their job, and the most adorable dog that I treat like my child. I own a beautiful condo, I drive a nice car, and I travel a lot. Compared to my high school friends I do have an exciting life, and they tell me as much, but then at events like bachelorette parties, I find myself longing for a life more like theirs. Beyond that, as my parents get older I have begun to wonder that IF marriage and babies aren’t in the cards for me that perhaps I’m robbing them of something. I’m afraid they’ll be disappointed or sad that my dad didn’t have the chance to walk me down the aisle, or my mom didn’t get a grandchild from her only daughter. My parents don’t say things about it too often to me, but I know they think about it. Just this weekend my mom said that she’d like to be invited to my bachelorette party. I was like, ‘What bachelorette party?’
“I’d be lying if I said I never wanted to get married or have kids. I do want that, but when I was younger I thought it was a given. I always “knew” that I’d be married by 27 and have kids by 30. Now I realize those things aren’t a given.”