Is your biological clock ticking?
Your friends are all coupled up and your family keep reminding you about the tick tock of your biological clock. What happens when you’re single in your thirties, but want to start a family? Victoria Stokes finds out…
Most of us had the perfect idea of how it was all going to pan out in our twenties. We’d get on the career ladder, fit in some traveling, meet ‘the one’, get married, and, if you’re so inclined, start a family. But for loads of Irish women the reality has been very different, with the 2016 consensus figures suggesting some 43.5 percent of women in this country are single between the ages of 30 and 39. Of course, many of these gals might be perfectly happy flying solo, or refuse to compromise or settle for less. But considering our narrow fertility window and how common maternal desire, and the desire to share our lives with a partner is, it’s fair to say that many more are still on the lookout for love.
Despite all the dating apps and our busier-than-ever social calendars, meeting someone seems harder than it’s ever been – something 39-year-old Alison has experienced firsthand. Single for six years, she’s encountered every type of human turd in her search for love, and she isn’t exactly feeling positive about the future.
“Back in my twenties I’d go to a club, meet a guy and he’d ask for my number. Three days later he’d call, ask to meet up and we’d be officially going out,” she muses. “But in the last six years, I haven’t had a single boyfriend, despite trying online dating and going to bars.”
In that time Alison has encountered more than her fair share of shitty dating behaviour.“I’ve been stood up by a guy who was texting me moments before our date. I’ve found out someone I was seeing for two months was seeing someone else at the same time and I’ve been ghosted more times than I can can count.” She even says she once felt in physical danger with a guy she was meeting casually.
While Alison says being on her own has taught her to have a lot more respect for herself and not to tolerate bad behaviour, she is still keen to meet someone and is certainly feeling the pressure to settle down. “Part of me still hopes I’ll meet The One. I really want a family and to have kids, and even though I’m almost 40, I haven’t given up on that quite yet,” she explains. “I even had an ovarian reserve test to see how many eggs I have left.”
There’s no denying times have changed. Look back to 1977 when the average age for a woman to marry was 24 and compare that to today’s average of 33 and it’s easy to see the contrast. Alison is just one of many women who have had to adapt. “I have to rent out two rooms in my house to help cover the mortgage and it upsets me that I have other people living in my home” she confesses. “I get very lonely sometimes too, especially around Christmas or when I’m out with all my married friends.”
So what gives? Why are more women than ever still single in their mid to late thirties, despite wanting to settle down? Matchmaker and dating expert Sharon Kenny (matchmaker.ie) has some theories. “Many of the female clients I meet over 30 are single because they live in the city and have put their job first,” she explains. “They put career first and suddenly at 37 realise their clock is ticking and begin focusing on finding a father rather than a love.” Perhaps that’s a bit simplistic; few of us wake up at 37 and realise there and then that time has passed. But it is fair to say that it may not bother someone until they reach their so-called ‘scary age’.
Fortunately, it’s not all bad news with recent research suggesting women who stay single for longer are more savvy and self assured. Sharon agrees. “Never before have ladies been so independent and self sufficient,” she notes. “They feel happier in their own skin and they no longer need to marry for economic or financial reasons.”
She also points out that our expectations are a lot higher these days too. “A partner isn’t just for stability anymore, he has to be your best friend, your adviser, your person to go out with,” she explains. “In the past we’d need a community to satisfy what we expect from a man now.”
So what’s next for Alison and women like her who really want to settle down? Fortunately, there are options for women who worry they’ve left it too late, and the popularity of egg freezing has taken off in the past five years, with big companies like Apple and Facebook even offering the service to female employees. While egg freezing isn’t cheap, the option’s there and it can be reliable insurance plan if you don’t know what the future holds. The bottom line is, when it comes to your career and starting a family, you don’t have to choose between one or the other – and you also don’t have to have sprogs with Mr Right Now just because the clock is ticking, either.
As for Alison, she’s taking herself offline in her search for love. “I think online dating has made it infinitely harder to meet someone. Guys don’t have to make an effort because if I’m not interested, another girl is just a swipe away.”
For Sharon, the trick is to create as many real life opportunities for love as possible. Keep socialising as much as you can, take up new hobbies to meet people with similar interests and most importantly if you see someone you like, approach them, she advises. It’s all too easy to let our fear of rejection stop us from grabbing the bull by the horns.
If there’s any hope for those looking for love to be gleaned from the recent census figures it’s this: while 43.5 percent of women in the country marked themselves as single between the ages of 30 and 39, only 23.6 percent of women aged between 40 and 49 ticked the same box, so if your goal of meeting that perfect someone hasn’t come to fruition in in your thirties, the opportunity could be just around the corner. It’s never too late to find a life partner, after all – and surely we have a better chance of meeting a great guy when we’re older, wiser and know ourselves better, right? They say we learn something from every relationship we have, but as Carrie said in the Sex and the City finale, the most important one we’ll ever have is with ourselves. Food for thought.
This article first appeared in the December issue of STELLAR Magazine. Our January issue is on shelves now.
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