The times are changing, man

by Trudie

I was born in 1993, making me 20-almost-21 this year. My mother was born in 1970, making her 44 this year. Now, if my calculations are correct, that would mean that my mother fell pregnant at only 22, giving birth to me, her first child at 23. My parents married in 1991, which meant they were engaged and married all before my mother turned 21, the age I am now.

Now, I’m looking at all these facts and figures I’ve been crunching and there’s only one thought on my mind, and that’s why? Why get married so young? Why have children so young?

It’s simple. The times are changing, man.

My grandmothers on both respective sides of my family were married by 19. What was I doing when I was 19? I was in my second year of University, working two jobs, going out drinking, eating, shopping and overindulging at every given opportunity.

I can’t even begin to image what life would have been like if my grandmothers were given all of the opportunities that I have thrust upon me on a daily basis. Like a job? Firstly, I’m the first of my entire family (ENTIRE FAMILY!!!) to go to University. Secondly, I genuinely can’t even tell you what my great-grandmother did for work. I knew her until I was in my late childhood (around 10 or 11) yet, all I know is that her parents owned a farm. Did she work? Probably not. Was she given the choice of further education? That much, I know for certain; no. My grandmother worked – but only in factories from what I can remember – never a job through a higher education. My mother is the woman I deem most successful. She went on through high school to complete her HSC, then went on to TAFE and work full-time as an office administrator and all-rounder. The difference between the four generations at play here are the time frames. My mother and I are women of the new age, raised in a time where schooling was deemed more important than family business, farming or becoming somebodies wife (and slave).

I look back to the generations of my grandmother and her mother, and think to myself: at 21, am I ready to be a wife? Am I ready to be a mother? My body says yes, but only because that’s the way it has been designed. It’s been saying yes since I was 11 years old, but imagine what a riot that would be. I couldn’t even feature on 16-and-pregnant, because I’d only be 11 and probably still playing with doll houses.

However, it’s strange to think about how nowadays, if you were to “fall” pregnant in this generation at ages 16-18 (like they did back when my great-grandmother was on the bandwagon), you’d be labelled every single hurtful derogatory word you can think of. Even as a female, my initial reaction at a younger female pregnant is shock. Why? I’m not sure. Is it because I’m worried about her? Maybe. Or maybe I’ve just grown up to be conditioned in a more materialistic and selfish way. Instead of dedicating my twenties to finding a husband, becoming a mother and cleaning the house, I’ve been taught that you go to school and you get a good job, maybe you can travel the world and eat exciting food too along the way. How bizarre it is to think that while federation in Australia was happening, so were regular teenage pregnancies and marriages and that was all normal.

All I can say here is that I’m glad the social norms have changed. Call me selfish and the exact product of 21st century narcissism, but it is what it is. My fore-mother’s didn’t fight a war against social misogyny so that I could be married at 17, god dammit.

- To my grandmother, and great-grandmother(s): Thank you, I love you, always. Rest in peace x

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