Filtering My Dreams as a Woman In 2010

2010 February 3
by Grace Boyle

Today, women are getting married and having babies later.

Today, women are also scared to talk about wanting conventionality.

I helped to end a relationship by choosing career, moving for my own dream and not confining to his dreams and career. Forty plus years ago, societal standards would have looked down upon this. It wasn’t really done. Now, people do it everyday.

Little did I know it at the time, but I gave up a wonderful, strong, intelligent, handsome, successful man to move away (literally, West of him), start my own career path, be independent and follow a dream I wanted. A year later you know what, I am my happiness, he wasn’t my only happiness. And now, here, I am happy and fulfilled, single.

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In terms of career, I don’t doubt I will be a woman who will surpass many men and create my own success. I thank the powerful women (and men) in my life for that inspiration.  I’m not worried. If it’s something I want, I will go get it.

At the same time, I have no problem admitting that I’m also a woman of tradition and I am excited to marry one day and have a family. Marriage doesn’t sit on a pedestal for me, it’s not my only desire, and I also don’t think it belittles my ability in the office, my ideas or even my independence.

Lori Gottlieb, author of Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr Good Enough inversely writes, “My dream, like that of my mother and her mother, was to fall in love, get married and live happily ever after. Of course, women are loth to admit it in this day and age, but ask any soul-baring 40-year-old single heterosexual woman what she most longs for in life, and she probably won’t tell you it’s a better career or a smaller waistline or a bigger apartment. Most likely, she’ll say that what she really wants is a husband (and, by extension, a child).”

Why fret? In the past, a woman who was unmarried at age 35 or 40 was unlikely to ever marry. Today, 15 percent of all women who are unmarried at age 40 will marry in the next 10 years.

I know I can’t have it all. I look forward to enriching my career, by learning to balance a family and creating a new generation of parenting, being a career-woman and a mother. When my longtime married friends with children explain the “You can’t have it all,” to me,  I see how they filter out their dreams, in turn for their children and largely, their family. That I understand. My point is, let me filter it out. Don’t tell me what I should believe or expect.

Gottlieb asserts, “What makes for a good marriage isn’t necessarily what makes for a good romantic relationship. Marriage isn’t a passion-fest; it’s a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane and often boring non-profit business. And I mean this in a good way.”

I’m willing to go through the struggle, trying to find a balance and find someone to deal with my shit and not walk away. I will be patient, giving and deal with his shit. Life is messy, but we follow our own timeline, needs and experiences as they come. Right now, I am working out my dreams and in the future, I will undoubtedly recreate new ones with my family and partner, unselfishly.

I’m sick and tired of hearing how you can have one or the other, you have to settle, or you can be a wonderful stay-at-home mother, but then you lose out by following your passion and building a career. The passion-less and mundane marriage that Gottlieb speaks of may be exclusive to her experience. And who knows, I could experience what she’s talking about. But I will not settle. It’s not in my bones. It’s not something I’ve ever done. If anything, I will filter, mold and be flexible. That’s different than settling. Maybe I will quit my job and spend time with my children, to raise them.  On the flipside, I was raised with parents who have been married for 30 years and mundane would never describe their love, partnership, friendship and romance. I don’t know yet what will happen – that’s okay.

There are stepping stones in life and right now, I’m having the career, I’m traveling, I do what I want every day and I drink champagne in the morning with breakfast. In ten years, get back to me.

Elizabeth Gilbert of “Eat, Pray, Love” and more recently, “Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage,” writes that women lose in the exchange of vows and that marriage doesn’t enable happiness. I know this. I’m not planning on getting married anytime soon, but I do not lose sight of a vision that I’m creating now and will filter through to create when someday, I find a partner, a family, a different chapter in life that won’t be mundane and passionless. When that eventually happens, next, I will write a post on having children and then grandchildren.

I will figure and filter it all out. I will choose my own ideas, my own path and my partner. You will too.

Do you resonate with the progressive mindset or do you cringe at the thought of conventional wisdom? What do you filter in your career, life and romantic dreams?

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  • Ron

    I liked this post, mostly for the “having it all” part. I read an article the other day in the NY Times about a bachelor in his 40s (John Bowe) who'd just written a book about the pursuit of love, the sacrifices folks make and so forth. The quote that I liked most from the article said:

    “The goal was always to avoid being that surly alcoholic guy who didn’t live up to his dreams and blamed the wife and kids for that. So, you make your calculations, you roll the dice and you hope you’re right that there’s time after you make it to then join the human race and have a normal emotional life.”

    I think for many of us, there seems to be an either/or scenario that puts a ticker on our aspirations in a really dangerous way. For women, it's worse because so much of what people value in society often relates back to 1) false standards of beauty, 2) how much your mate makes and 3) the sorts of impressions you can create for people whether they're reflective of your actual life or not.

    As for the leaving someone behind to do your own thing, I've been there too. And I recall telling an ex-gf once, that I couldn't picture myself settling for where we were, having realized I was close to doing some of the things I wanted to do. Looking back now, you could say that it hasn't always gone exactly according to how I would've imagined. But so many of the experiences are things I wouldn't have done and are things I'd have a hard time imagining my life without.

    So I think the relationship thing is all about timing. You know, finding the right person and circumstances at the time where you feel like you're not being encumbered and feel even freer to be yourself and to grow. I don't think there's an age for that, though, and it's different for all of us.

    Insightful stuff, as usual.

  • LostInCheeseland

    You did the exact opposite of what I did. I followed my heart and am just now figured out what I'm doing with myself professionally. I admire your strength to go out on a limb, take the chance on your career, move to a new city alone and find happiness in your choices. I envy you because I don't know that I would have had the courage to make the move to Paris ENTIRELY on my own, if I didn't already know someone and have a sense of security. I envy you also because you are probably light years ahead of me in terms of your career trajectory, although I believe we graduated from undergrad only a year apart. These things make us different women but women who are faced with tough decisions and societal pressures nonetheless.


  • Holly Hoffman

    I'm not sure I buy settling for Mr. Good Enough. Maybe it's because I held out for my dream guy & actually found him. At the same time, I didn't have unrealistic expectations. My criteria had less to do physical attributes and profession, and more to do with the kind of love I wanted.

    I've always been searching for what I want, but until I met Mark I didn't think I could have the things I was afraid to want. The kind of support and love we have for each other makes me feel like I can have what I want. I don't think of “having it all” as something society dictates. My “having it all” is having everything *I* want for my life (for me, it's to run a business from home & have kids, which is actually kind of typical these days). And it's not a check list (ie, business – check, kids – check); it's the way I feel living life.

    It doesn't really matter to me what it looks like from the outside. Difficult decisions arise, but if I take my time making them and consult the person I hope to be in the future, I'm ultimately guided to the right choice. And there are no second thoughts or regrets there.

  • Elisa Doucette

    Almost every definition of settle means coming to a stop or sinking to the bottom. The etymology of the word itself comes from a word loosely translated to mean “sit.”

    I for one have always been HORRIFIED by Lori's article in the Atlantic and moreso by Oprah's endorsement of it (I mean seriously, the woman got a President elected…you think her endorsement of a belief isn't going to sway a woman's mind.) As a writer it makes me angry cause I realize that if you just write crazy sensationalized bullshit and find a magazine to pick it up then you get a book and movie deal. Which is just what this world needs…more senastionalism.

    This isn't to say I don't agree with parts of Ms. Gottlieb's theory. I DO believe that we as women sometimes let great guys slip by cause we are waiting for our Hollywood ending to play itself out rather than accepting the realities and complexities of relationships. For some love may not be important, but for most there has to be some sort of feelings there. Instead of chasing an impossible dream why not live in a beautiful reality. Sure he may not have Mr. Darcy's personality or Brad Pitt's abs or Mr. Big's money and you know what…that's ok. He might be the perfect guy for you EVEN without those things.

    I also agree that a marriage is not all butterflies and sunshine. It's hard. There are so many issues when you live your life with someone else, and if you are foolish enough to enter into a “lifetime commitment” with someone without talking about the important issues or accepting that you might be on horrifically polarized opposition on issues (kids, money, right side-left side of bed, etc.) then shame on you.

    As a final thought, I would offer this to Ms. Gottlieb – I can't WAIT until you find someone to spend your life with Ms. Gottlieb, since this seems to be your end game. And he reads your book. And understands your theory. And you have to look him in the face and explain to him that he is merely a second prize, a guy you “settled for” because at the age of 40 you realized that you were sad and alone and had let the perfect guy pass you by so now “he'll do.” I'm curious if he will stick around, wanting to be with someone who is with him cause nothing better ever came along.

    Whew! :)

  • Grace Boyle

    @Elisa Well said! I was horrified too and remember seeing the article after you tweeted it. I then found this follow up post and put two and two together (with my recent experience of leaving a perfectly good man) and had to write.

    I tried to express that I know marriage isn't easy or all sunshine, but that settling is insane. Maybe we will settle in terms of letting go of certain things that were once important to us. I suppose I'm not looking for movie star love, I'm looking for real love that is challenging and makes you face it all – the nitty gritty. I know it's all a mouthful and this topic will never get old. Thank you for sharing and weighing in. Good to hear women on the other side of the fence :)

  • Grace Boyle

    @Holly I don't either. I really disliked the article by Lori in The Atlantic (that this post linked to and the follow up post in the Telegraph). I really like how you bring up “having it all” is what you want and need. That was my frustration, that people tell me I cannot have it all when they don't know what my “all” is. Does that make sense?

    I'm so happy to hear your story and thank you for sharing it. I trust and that's why I said, it will be okay because I know I will filter it out and work out what I need.

  • Grace Boyle

    @Lindsey There isn't a right or wrong :) I think what you have done is beautiful and I followed my heart to move to Boulder, just left a little piece of it back with him. There were still so many fulfilling parts of my heart that LED me to Boulder.

    I also see all the paths that we're on and it's beautiful. We face societal pressures all the time as women and I really appreciate hearing your story, on the other side of the fence. I don't doubt that someday, I will move for someone and give wholeheartedly. I think it shows a strong woman and in the process, you followed your heart. That's so important.

  • Beth Oppenheim

    Loving this post! I think that it's really interesting how we all form our ideas of dreams, and our ideas of what will eventually make us complete. I think for a long time I sought a relationship to complete me, and it wasn't until I got past that mentality that I was able to really see my dreams as achievable goals. Loving your topics lately, really quality stuff! :)

  • Grace Boyle

    @Ron Thanks for your response. I really like the quote you included from John Bowe. I also appreciate you sharing your story. At this point, I don't have regrets. I followed my heart to come to Boulder, just left a little piece of it with him and have since filtered that out. You're very right, I would have such a hard time imagining my life without these experiences.

    I do have a question though: Is the relationship all about timing? I believe if we both wanted to make it work, we would have. I think timing is an easy way to excuse the relationship or move on. Is there ever a “right” time for marriage, finding a mate, etc.? I wonder these things…

  • Chelsea Talks Smack

    I love this- I think you're the way modern day women should be….the thing is finding that person who lets you “do what you want everyday” and not take AWAY from your freedom, but supplement it. I love the idea of getting married and having kids, but its not because i feel that pressure from anyone. If anything, my man anchors me and dances in the daisies with me while i live the bohemian lifestyle. I'm most ly ALLL unconventional, and progressive and it works for me.

    I loved this post.

  • Rachael Stott

    I love this post because it speaks so clearly of who you are. And indeed, well represents about 90% of my friends and their view. Intelligent, career orientated, independent, passionate women who know in their bones that 'settling' for an imperfect man and a more mundane career because of family obligations would crush their souls.
    The irony for me is that we don't know what we would willingly sacrifice for the man of our dreams until we meet him and something has to give. Also, until you hold your child in your arms naked, perfect and screaming you have no idea how that moment dwarfs every other objective in your life.
    Whilst I hope to never tell another woman what she can or can't, should or shouldn't do, I applaud the women, married with children, who tell you the truth of their experience. Only when all women honestly share their lives will we collectively truly be able to shape and reshape the roles of the modern woman.
    I was career orientated, happily independent and master of my own destiny. Then I followed my (soon to be) husband interstate and back again and then left the workforce, for now at least, when I had my son. I now have no desire to return to my previous career until my child is at school and even then I'm not so sure anymore.
    Having it all is possible, but the all definitely doesn't consist of blissful family, amazing career, perfect marriage and happily ever after.

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  • Ron

    I don't think relationship is all about timing, but I do think how things work out often is. Maybe that's me putting on “I've turned 30 and introspective” cap, but…for me, it's turned on to that. I don't think timing is an excuse to end something or that if timing was better it would work. More like, if you'd met someone — same circumstances — at a different time in your life, you may have been more prepared, etc.

    But I agree that if the person is right, none of that stuff ends up making a difference at all. Nothing is really ever “right” we just adapt and make it work for ourselves the best way we know how anyway. So I think the trick is finding serendipity with someone who “gets it.”

  • Akirah

    Good post and I'm happy you feel happy and whole in who you are. Personally, I do not consider myself to be career-focused. I know I am called to be a social worker, but I think this calling simply plays out in the way I live my life. If I happen to meet a man who absolutely does not allow me to live out this calling, then we just wouldn't be together. But I'd hope to find someone who complements this calling and hopefully shares similar values so we can serve the world together.

    So I guess in my life…I don't see it as a choice between the two. I think, for me, both will have to mesh well together. Because I feel just as strongly about my calling towards social work as I do towards being a wife and mother someday.

  • Jeanna Barrett

    Ahhh. This is SO me. I just found your blog from Doniree's post about her new job/welcome committee in CO. And I literally just wrote nearly the exact same post about setting aside babies/marriage for the career I've always wanted. You can read it here:

  • ryanstephens

    1.) Please tell Elisa not to use words like etymology in the comments of a blog.
    2.) I was reading this thinking “Here we go again….” BUTI think you won me over by the end. I'm not going to re-read it just in case, but my interpretation, or rather what I liked about the post was not necessarily what other people are doing so long as they leave you to do what you want to do. As far as I'm concerned, that's a pretty damn good approach.

    I think settling is stupid. While I realize that a ridiculous amount of successful marriages (i.e people still together) probably revolve around the mundane day to day of having a roommate whom they are occasionally passionate about is reality – it won't ever be my choice.

    I suspect it's probably harder to be a woman in this situation as societal norms would dictate that you get married, especially before 30 when you only have 12% of your eggs left, or 40 when you only have 3% (FuturePundit), but really – who cares what society thinks as long as you're happy, and I'd wager you will be Grace.

    Happy to stir the pot.


  • Kate Brown

    Great post – the great challenge of the modern woman, that's for sure. You may want to check out this recent post from one of my personal heroes Tara Hunt (@missrogue):

    Essentially, she asks, as the title states, “would you sacrifice love for greatness?”

    I too left a serious relationship to come out here and pursue my dreams. Although my ex is a wonderful man, I've recently concluded this: the support that I feel as a single woman from all of my new friends and peers in this amazing place (Colorado) is greater than the romantic love that I felt from one person.

    I've accomplished more in the 4 months that I've been single than I did during the 3 years that I was in a relationship. Maybe it's because I was, well, comfortable.

    To conclude – I can't see myself as “the woman that has it all”. I am such an “all of nothing” person, that I can see myself having to chose between love and greatness. And at this point in my life – greatness sounds pretty damn . . . . great!

  • Kate Brown

    Correction – “all or nothing”

  • Grace Boyle

    @Kate Thanks for sharing your story. Slowly but surely, you start to realize that we're not alone in this plight and many people have been or are going through the same thing.

    I also feel a strong sense of fulfillment and success here – there isn't an ounce of regret (even as wonderful as my ex is). Thank you for sending the link. This topic is infinitely interesting to me and I say, “It will never get old.” Thanks for sharing!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Ryan Thanks for the dude weighing in. Always appreciate your frank honesty. Really. AND I'm happy to hear that you didn't have to roll your eyes at this post and you read it for the face value “leave me to do what I want to do.” Also, thanks for the statistics and link…I'm always down for some statistical data (although I'm not there yet with dying eggs) 😉 Thanks for stirring the pot.

  • Grace Boyle

    @Jeanna I LOVE Doni and thanks for stopping by :) I'm happy to hear you resonated with this post and I'm reading yours, right now. Looking forward to talking more in the future!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Akirah Finding someone who complements your calling is really important. And you're right, together you can serve the world together. It's good to hear you're not willing to compromise that. It sounds like that is your career and also passion, something you don't want to have to let go of. It's an interesting balance between greatness of career and love. I seem to think I can have both, we shall see :) Thanks for sharing!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Rachael It does indeed, reflect many ideals of the modern woman. Many of the points you speak to are experiences (as you know) that I haven't experienced. I do hear stories (positive and negative) and always take them with appreciation and interest, but want to experience for my own, how I will react to them.

    I have since accepted that maybe I could be loving my career, but become married, have a child and realize I only want to raise him/her. Also, having it all can be broad and very specific to each person. I think I'm still figuring it out … and that's part of what the post is about :) Thank you so much for sharing your story!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Chels Supplemental, great word for this post and ideal. It's beautiful to be with someone who allows you to be who you are but uplifts you and keeps you grounded at the same time. Love it, thank you for sharing dear!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Beth It can take a lot to realize that relationships or other people do not complete us. It is largely related to the self. Even love for another person, always relates back to us, the self. Thank you for sharing!

  • adrienneh

    I feel very similar – I will not settle. I have always known this. Right now my life is about finding and pursueing my purpose and passions which happens to be unrelated to marriage at the moment but that doesn't mean it will always be that way. I am not conventional – my friends would call that a huge understatement – but I am excited about a future full of love, marriage, and babies…just. not. yet.

    Glad to see that I'm not the only one. Great blog – I am now subscribed!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Adrienneh Thanks for stopping by and subscribing :) It's great to hear the fresh perspective of so many women talking about settling, their job, being married, their children and their career. Thank you for sharing and keep up the mindset, settling is no good :)

  • Amber Sosa

    I really love this post and you have the power to inspire other young females with you words and actions. Thank you for sharing! I still believe that I can have it all, at least my definition of “all”. Everyone's definitions of fulfillment are different and that is ok. For me I will not be fulfilled with only my children and husband to care for or with only my career to nurture, like I said earlier I want it all and it is up to me to define “all”. I married my dream husband who happens to come from a very “traditional” family where all the women are SAHMs. To say that we have challenged each other’s mind sets is to say the least but we are growing together and so far it is working out perfectly as I struggle to define my “all”. Thank you again for such a great insight to what many young women are facing today!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Ron Thanks for the clarification and additional thoughts about timing in relationships. I often mull of this.

  • Grace Boyle

    @Amber Thank you for sharing your story and your kind words about my post. It really means a lot.

    It's always interesting to hear shared backgrounds and what it means for the 'modern woman' to want and have it all. It really helps us understand each other better, us as in women, in what we need, want and desire!

  • Royce

    This is really interesting cause I have never thought of it in these terms. I have just thought, well, I am extremely happy with the person I'm with, so let's keep that in my life for sure. And I've enjoyed learning at my job and want to keep that going for as long as it remains worthwhile.

    And then if anything changes I'll just deal with it as it comes I guess?

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  • Grace Boyle

    @Royce It sounds like you see everything for face value, which I think is totally cool, just different. Don't look ahead for change, but rather face it when it comes, this is great advice. I just tend to see things in a big picture (good and bad) so I'm looking ahead, thinking about the future, the past, what I've experienced, etc.

  • sfordinarygirl

    I quietly read and am so thankful you're so willing to put yourself out there about careers and relationships. Your post was so timely as my parents and my grandmother have been asking me why I'm single and thinking about the next step like kids and marriage. It was frustrating me to no end and I couldn't explain it succinctly.

    Not that men have it easier but there's always more pressure on the woman to do it all – career, family and everything else yet that means neglecting her dreams and ambitions. There was that scene in Mad Men season one where Don Draper asks Rachel, the successful businesswoman who runs the Jewish department store why she's not married. And she stopped and said if the roles were reversed, she wouldn't be allowed to ask that question. Or something like that. But the point is there are certain expectations on women and those ideas no longer fit into our society today. Our generation has so much more freedom, choice, and goals to pursue. Why limit ourselves so early to having kids and getting married if there's something overarchingly more important to us?

    I”m really glad you wrote this post. It's really comforting to know there are other females who are blazing their own paths and not entirely concerned with marriage at the moment. There's a time and place for marriage and kids and when it's right, it'll happen.

    I used to regret walking away from a really close guy friend who wanted more out of our friendship. I couldn't imagine myself making weekend trips to Canada being on the West Coast just to see him. I knew I wasn't ready for that kind of commitment.

    We should embrace our freedom like you've written about before … because once marriage and kids happen, that freedom is no longer as easy. My shrink would hammer the idea in me over and over again: when you're not actively looking, you'll find someone.

    It's hard to explain to people who expect me to be married. but I'm really enjoying my freedom, being single, working on some fun projects, getting involved in my neighborhood and hanging out with wonderful friends.

  • Grace Boyle

    @sfordinarygirl Thank you so much for the kind words about this post and your eloquent response. If anything, I noticed that from the comments and my friends who read this post, many women can relate. “The modern woman” dilemma as it might be described…

    In the end, we must do what feels good. It's boils down to something as simple as that and why would we ignore what makes us happy, in the moment, successful and feeling good? Ah, if life WAS that simple 😉 Thank you for sharing!

  • EllenNordahl

    Well said, Grace.
    It bothers me to think that some women from our generation are still willing to settle for “Mr. Right Now” because they feel pressured by society to conform to some antiquated ideal. I have quite a few friends who recently got engaged, and many of them have never gone more than a month or two between “serious” relationships. Call me crazy, but I have a hard time believing that 60 days is adequate time to develop a keen sense of self-awareness without factoring in the influence/presence of another person.
    I think one of the reasons so many marriages fail is that people look to their partner for fulfillment or “completion,” or they're so scared of being alone that they try to mold themselves into being the person they think their partner wants them to be.
    Kudos to you for wanting it all and having the sense to live life for yourself until the time is right for you.

  • Grace Boyle

    @Ellen You bring up great points about 'serial daters' or people who cannot be alone. I didn't mention that in this post but I really agree with you. Being alone and being okay with it, is pretty amazing and benefits you as an individual and also the relationship. Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

  • millymalloy

    Great blog Grace! After being married for a long time and having 2 kids, I refused to believe that “you can't have it all.”
    “Having it all” means different things at different times in your life. It evolves as your desires, needs and wants evolve. Sometimes there is a gap between what your “having it all” was and what is becoming and that period can be very frustrating. But the hardest part of “having it all” is truly knowing what “all” looks like for you regardless your status and/or social expectations.
    The “having to settle” part is just sad. I've had to surrender to external circumstances at times but I have never settle for them. In not settling I have found creative ways to do what I want. This might take time and patience but that is just life. I think that in a happy marriage you will have to
    compromise but only the things might be important to your ego, not to your soul. And yes that is easier said than done, ask Russ!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Milly Thank you for this – I love it. As I perused through each of these comments each woman has such a good story (no matter what side of the fence they're on).

    You're so right that “having it all” means different things at different points in your life. It also of course, varies by the person, the family, the couple. You're a living, breathing example of how you've balanced life, love and family. Of course, it isn't easy, but you haven' t settled and that's an inspiration. You continue to follow your bliss, while also finding what “having it all” means. Thank you so much, Milly xo

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  • US jobs

    Beautiful blog! You really make me relate with your blog that when I was a student, I truly dream for being married with such perfect girl, has a talent, tall, intelligent, pretty, etc.. and have a fantastic kids but when I’m starting to have a job. All of that dream was vanished and replaced into being a rich guy someday. Actually there was a time I want to choose either “Relationship or Career” and I choose Career because now a days crisis is getting worst.