The 5 year plan…. A way to scew people up!
7:00 PM Maryland
Stacey, I am thinking of writing a blog post about how society is programming kids?
Oh my gosh, yes!!!
Yeah, both of our lives didn't exactly follow that path.
Yes!! Lets make it happen!
12:00 AM Scotland
Oh? I know what you could call it!
Something to do with the 5 year plan?!
Do you remember that conversation?
Hey, I actually have a lot to say on the topic, shall we write it together?
Thoughts from Becky:
How we program our kids?! We are told very early on that there is a plan for success...you go to high school, you go to college, you meet someone in college that you will marry but first you must get a job....you will be in that job for a couple years and at that moment the Mr. Right you met in college will propose, you will then get married and after 1 or 2 years you will have kids and some how magically your husband will make enough money for you to have two cars, go out on dates, get your hair done (which costs and arm and a leg), and not work....now I am not saying that some people don't get this but a lot of us do not get it. Some how magically this is the progression that you are told will lead to a perfect life. Everyone (everyone as in Church leaders, Parents, friends, family members, movies, TV Shows) seems to say this to you as you are growing up and with all of that programming through the years I feel it now has made people totally feel inadequate and especially women.
The reality is that there is no Mr. Right...the reality is that most of us women need to work now, the reality is you may actually want to work, and the reality is you may not fit into this perfect puzzle. When you don't fit into this puzzle society seems put endless judgment on you and at least with me I beat myself up over and over with it.
So here is my deal...I am a women who waited like 10 years to have kids with my husband and decided to start my career first. My career is in full swing and I have to say I am doing pretty well...but now that I have kids the world seems to make me feel guilty because I may actually want to work. How do I give up something I have been working so long for? It does not mean I don't love my children but I also just feel like there is more that I want for myself. I will never forget going to California and when I told people I was pregnant with our second baby the absolute first thing someone said to me was "so now that you are going to have two kids are you going to work?" I mean really??!!! Are you kidding me? So hear is my answer to that question....Yes I like to work, would I like to spend more time with kids...yes but I also like to take nice vacations, not live in the ghetto, I like to get my eyebrows waxed, my hair highlighted, pay for private school for my kids and drive a some what nice car. So guess what...I am choosing to work...Not only for my own sanity but also to give my family some nice opportunities. I am not against women who can afford to stay home...more power to you if you can do that. I just can't.
(On a large side note.... Not sure if you heard of President and CEO of Yahoo Marissa Mayer but she kicks ass and is a mom. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marissa_Mayer
I want my children to understand there are so many ways of making life work and they need to find the right path for them...It maybe not be getting married...not having kids...it maybe becoming a CEO or even being someone who lays brick. There are many paths to being happy and not just one path will work. Since this path does not work for most of the world then why do we program this into our heads of what perfect is suppose to look like and why do we tell our children from such an early age that this path is what we as women need to do.
I spend a lot of time with younger people who are just starting out in life and it seems most of them are feeling so much burden by the thought that life is not working out the way it is suppose to be. I think my age group has felt this pretty strongly but I think girls just starting out now is feeling it even more then I did. We seem to criticize them for not having a path, not knowing what they want to do...but are we as parents really giving them the skills to figure that out ? They seem to be feeling like they are disappointing their parents or their parents friends because they can't seem to fit into this mold that we are telling them that life is suppose to be and they get stuck on the hamster wheel.
I know that my sister and I both did not fit into this mold and we both seem to be fine and still making an impact on the world. We both took very different paths...my sister is not married yet, traveling the world, getting her PHD and doing all sorts of awesomeness....but why does she feel like she has failed? Or me...I can't afford to not work and if I want to give my kids the life I want to give them I need to work....so why do I feel like I have failed as a parent? Not sure I have the answer...except I want to break this pattern with my kids.
I want Jillie and Wyatt to make their own path and I don't want to put these foolish ideas of what perfect is in their heads...because in the end I am going to love them for whoever they become even if they don't go to college or follow the five year plan :)..I am also learning as I get older to learn to be happy in the moment and not worry so much about these ideas that have been programmed in me of what a women should be!!
Our five year plans were different than originally laid out. Becky is a working mom and wife and living it up. Stacey is an expat, working towards a PhD and living it up. We hope that you can find your own guilt free way to enjoy the life that you lead.
Thoughts from Stacey:
I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. Sitting at the dining room table, mom was thrilled to empower her girls to grow up and be successful women with the knowledge, skills and abilities to take care of themselves. I remember the purpose of the conversation. I know that her intentions were not malicious ones, and she had every desire to show us a different way then the society showed her how to fit in as a woman. Now even without children to pass this information onto- here I sit reflecting on my womanhood wondering what type of message I would want to share with young girls of future generations. Mom first and foremost wanted us to be happy and independent. She didn't want us to succumb to the life of taking care of a man, and being dependent on a man for the rest of our lives. Rather, she wanted to prepare us for a life where we could take care of ourselves if something happened to our future men. That we would grow up, be smart and educated and not need some other person to basically survive. We both understand her original purpose and do thank our mom for instilling the value of independence in us; however, the message was clear- there would be a man, we just had to wait for the perfect time to find him. While we were waiting for that time, we were preparing to be successful women who didn't actually need him if he turned out to be a douche, or worse died before we celebrated silver and gold years.
Let me back up, and describe the "5 year plan" or the "order of operations," if you will. You graduate high school, you go to college, you meet a man in college, you graduate college, you get a job, marry the man, have 1 to 2.5 kids and live happily ever after. My mom can do math- and we know that this wouldn't just take 5 years, but the point was you don't get knocked up in high school, you go get an education, you fall in love, you get a job that you can take care of yourself and then you get married and have the picket fenced life.
With so many young girls having children at young ages, I do appreciate the effort to help us understand the path we were supposed to take. A path that seemed pretty obstacle free. However, both my sister and I didn't take this path that was originally outlined at the kitchen table so long ago. Actively choosing to not to take the path, or arriving at a different path because the original one just never happened left my sister and I both at times feeling guilty, pressured, unsure, stressed and a whole load of other feelings that simply are unhealthy for you mentally, emotionally, physically and even spiritually. All because of a path not traveled.
Personally, I made it through the first couple parts of this path just fine. Graduated high school and didn't make more children while I was a child-check!!. I went to College. (If you are in the UK college in the US is the same as University, and if I ever refer to anything as school it doesn't just mean little kid school). I had a teacher while in college that had us put together a time line of what our life looked like over the next 5 to 10 years! I made the plan, with some alterations- I would find a husband, get married, go back for a masters degree and then have kids and be a stay at home mom. Ill never forget the red pen markings when I got my timeline back- "what a waste of an education"- more programming maybe? So you can't do both? You can't value education and value having kids? Sigh- all of these different messages. But, my 5 year plan was the one I held onto most. But, while in college I didn't meet a man. Uh-Oh. I mean, don't get me wrong, I met and dated, but I guess I never met "the man." I graduated college and began my career.
Anyway, I have been In and out of relationships constantly feeling like a failure. I was completely off course. When was my picket fence supposed to be built? Since I didn't meet someone while in college, where would I ever meet someone? Was I just meant to be a career woman? Maybe I was meant to alter my timeline and skip all the love and not waste my education after all.
After graduation, I moved, continued to develop the career, continued to be a failure at relationships (or at least drawing in my fair share of abusers, losers, and users.. future book in the making) and couldn't figure out what was wrong with me- why could I do so well at every other aspect of my life and not this one? Why did the 5 year plan seem so easy when it was first told to me? I have continued to steer farther away from the 5 year plan- maybe its just really the 10 year or 20 year plan.
As this has happened, as I now am approaching 30, I still struggle with what path I am on and its a daily decision to embrace the life that I have and be happy in the now and not grieve the path that I thought was supposed to be on. Don't get me wrong- I love my life. I love where I am at today. I enjoy every moment. But this was not something that has come naturally. These feelings of happiness are a daily decision that I have had to make to accept that I took a road less traveled. I took my own road.
I firmly believe I am not alone with these feelings. And because I do sometimes feel this grief and struggle with this idea of loss of something I have never had in the first place, and occasionally fear of never finding the one who is supposed to make me "complete," it makes me wonder what I can even say or do to help others get to a place of peace and acceptance, to a place of embracing their roads, their own paths- unique to the individual lives walking them. I have begun to contemplate how we can raise future generations in a way to not feel a void for something they may have never had in the first place. To feel as if their lives are already full; to not feel like a failure if they don't check the boxes for a path that might not be theirs after all.
A successful life is a happy life. A successful path is one walked while smiling. We should celebrate success and we should celebrate happiness. Happiness is unique to all of us and I know that we have all struggled with it from time to time, and thats ok, but remember it is a decision. You may find happiness through a five year plan- that includes a college education, husband and 1.5 kids. You may find happiness through educational development or a career. You may find happiness in a monastery in Tuscany. There is not one path to happiness.
Most importantly, teaching children at an early age to be reflective people and solid decision makers will help them grow into the people they are meant to become. Help them learn how to make choices that lead to their happiness. A discussion of decision making and consequences both good and bad might be the answer. I say all of this because at the end of the day- we have to be responsible for the choices we make in life. Thus, raising children, working with or mentoring young people is the perfect opportunity to model being reflective, share strategies that will help them develop their own ability to reflect and make decisions that at the end of the day they will either be proud of, or learn from.
So if you are reading this and are a new parent with the amazing visions for what the little ones will grow up to become- instead of creating specific hopes and dreams for them- just get excited to get to know the person you created, while you model happiness, solid decision making and reflection- I betcha anything you will guide them to the path less traveled- their own.
If you are reading this and you are in the same stage of life as I am.. know that you are not alone. Know that there are probably thousands of women out there who feel or have felt the exact same way before. You are complete. I know you desire love (as we all do) but simply embrace your present and walk your path proudly, guilt free and don't miss out on the opportunities that your life your path will present to you just because you are too busy struggling on a path that wasn't yours to begin with.