Tuesday, May 5, 2009

underrepresented

You never know what to expect from thoseandrews do you?  One day it might be pictures of a drooling 5 month old and the next it could be some fiery post about a hot topic.  This post might qualify as a bit of a hot topic, so beware. I'm feeling a little underrepresented by mainstream mommy marketing.  Everytime I watch "A Baby Story" or "Bringing Home Baby" or even a Gerber commercial it seems like all the couples are in their thirties, some pushing forty.  Has anyone else noticed this?  Let me just say it right now: I have nothing against older parents.  People have the right to make their own choices when planning their family.  But, I do think that young families with parents in their early to mid twenties are underrepresented in the media and stereotyped by society.

I found some data that shows the average age for a first-time mother in 2002 (dated, I know) was 25.  By 2009, I bet it has risen to at least 27.  In 1970, the average age was 21.  I found these numbers from this article.  Nevertheless, the average age isn't 35 like all these commercials and tv shows lead you to believe!  Where are the responsible, mature 24 year old couples with children on tv?  Nowhere.  The closest you get is "Engaged and Underage" on MTV which depicts foolish, immature teenage couples who get married.  Some because they already have a baby with their "baby daddy".  It's sad.  

I used to think that the church as a whole was supportive of young couples who wanted to marry early and were open to the possibility of children early in their marriage.  But it seems lots of Christians have adopted a pretty secular philosophy of marriage and children.  What this looks like practically is: date a really long time before you get engaged, and when you do get engaged make it for at least a year, don't have kids soon because kids are such a burden and you want to be free to enjoy each other and be carefree, also they will limit a woman's ability to pursue a career.  This advice does not support Godly young people who want to get married and it does not view children as a blessing and the natural product of marital intimacy.  I'm speaking from experience, children do limit your ability to just pick up and go! We can't go on a spontaneous road trip and visit out friends whenever we want.  But we get to parent a little boy who loves us and that is the biggest privilege and joy.  Children don't mean that you won't get to enjoy each other, we enjoy each other more than we ever have!  Truthfully, I think adolescence is extended *way* too long in our culture.  Men are allowed to act like boys well into their thirties.  College behavior is encouraged instead of adult responsibility.  Marriage, children and anything that ties you down is discouraged and a selfish, "it's all about me mentality" is encouraged.  

I'm just saying, as a 23 year old married, Christian woman with a baby, I feel underrepresented and often stereotyped by society.  People assume that because of our age we are stupid and financially irresponsible.   It's okay that I'm underrepresented.  I know that I am in the minority.  However,  I do think that as Christians it is so very easy to let secular thinking permeate our minds without us even realizing it.  This trend of delayed marriage and childbirth *can* have some disturbing motives when the layers are really peeled back and examined.  I'm not saying there is a one size fits all approach for marriage and childbirth, or if you get married and have children later in life you have nefarious motives.   God has a plan for every family and I know that His timing is different for different people.  But, this is clearly a trend in our culture and I think Christians must always evaluate cultural trends through the filter of God's word.  This is an interesting topic.  Feel free to weigh in here and share your opinion.  

In the meantime, Gerber, if you're reading...feel free to contact my family to represent the twenty-somethings with kids! 

10 comments:

Megan said...

I was always worried that people thought I was a pregnant teenager since I look so young, and the average mom age up here seems to be much older than me!

mallory said...

Me too! Either that or people think Jackson and I had a shotgun wedding.

D:No said...

move to Mississippi. :) that's all I'm saying. lol I felt so old when I was 23 and not married. I was able to find some gal friends who were older, but some of them had given up trying to get married. Others were awesome Godly women who just hadn't found the right man. But anyway, I hear ya about the age thing. it's interesting how different it is across the nation. And big cities are so different than rural areas. As far as commercials, well, those are going to try and represent big cities, probably, or try to reach the largest demographic. Interesting stuff.

Gillian said...

I couldn't agree more. Though we have not had the blessing of children (yet) we did get a lot of hate from strangers and acquaintances about getting married at 21. I never thought as a kid that I would get married 'young' but God's timing is better than anything of this world and I could not be happier with it.

The Vandevers said...

I totally agree Mallory, kids are a huge blessing.:) Jason and I got married when I was 22 and he was 23. We get occasional flack about getting married so young, but I wouldn't have it any other way! It's so much fun. :)

Megan said...

I'll take under-representation when it goes hand and hand with being a hot mom your whole life! Pop 'em out early and still have time to lose the baby fat!

Under the surface level, maturity is a virtue and I feel for those who take so long to find it. (I'm a bit fired up on issues lately so
I don't want to offend people. I'm trying to hold back on posting things on politics, religion and idiots until I cool off.)

*Holla to married fourth years!* Le-a

Pat + Jenny said...

Our society definitely has a "prescribed way" that it wants things done. As a sociology major, I definitely challenged our society's aging process. I completely agree that we unnecessarily prolong adolescence and value selfishness (by the mask of "responsibility").

But... that being said, like you said, I believe that God has different plans for different families AND I believe we have freedom in Christ to plan for our families the way we see fit. It's definitely true we should always weigh in and decide what our motives are and assess them with Christ in mind - but choosing to somewhat go with society doesn't mean that we haven't done that. As much as society can be deceiving and tricky, we are very much a product of society and that is okay in some ways. For example, Pat and I could've gotten married sooner, but we were both in school - at different schools - so we've waited. And as for kids, although I believe we should definitely fell free and have the freedom to start a family early, for us, there seems to be prudence in waiting for a while - because of the way society is set up. We really want to be able to save while we're young so that I can stay home when we have kids. If God blessed us early with kids, and it was financially possible, maybe we could do that sooner - but the way we've weighed in on that is that we need to wait, SO THAT we can experience parenthood the way we feel called to. Also, for us, waiting for kids, means that I may be able to affect other kids lives (as a teacher).

So, I guess regardless of whatever way we choose to go, it is important to see where God is leading us and be okay with it being different than other people's decisions in life (whether that be society, or other Christians). God definitely doesn't have a "prescribed plan" in how we should date, get married and start a family - that is relevant to each couple's individual situation (with family, finances, and their faith in mind). We should seek after God's wisdom in those decisions, as we try to decide whether it is right for us, and we should be confident that God is leading us where he wants us to be - not just where we think we should be.

mallory said...

Dana- That is so true. I guess I never thought I've lived in "big cities" but Virginia Beach isn't exactly farm country either so I'm sure I wouldn't feel so unrepresented if I lived in Mississippi :)

Jenny- I completely agree with you. Thanks for your comment. I always advocate being responsible and a good steward of what God has blessed you with. For some, that may mean not getting married at a certain time or not having children right away as you mentioned. You do have to listen to what God has called you to as a couple. I was referring to the default mentality that culture gives us of "the less responsibility the better, delay all commitments, be as selfish as possible." I fully respect that the Lord leads people in different, equally valuable ways.

Rachel C Morgan said...

It's really interesting that your topic is about being young, married, having kids, etc, because In the past 3 months or so I've listened to a lot of friends complain about a LOT with regards to these topics. Here's 3 examples:

Friend #1 got married while still in college and now she's pregnant (graduating in 1 week!). She feels that people view her as irresponsible, but she said that whether she was married or not, she'd still have student loans, still have to live in an apartment, and still be crazy busy, but that her husband is her strongest support she has. She has no idea how they will even get a 2-bedroom place, let alone pay for a baby. She's very stressed out, but keeps using the excuse "this is God's plan and he will provide." She also admits that it wasn't the best time to have a baby and they slipped up on using protection once then boom! She's pregnant.

Friend #2 has graduated from college, working, goes all over the place, free as a bird, and says that she's loving it. She feels like getting married before 30 is practically a sin and always says "you have the rest of your life to be married, why rush into it?" She doesn't know why anyone would want to tie themselves down to marriage and kids. Yet she tells me how lonely she is sometimes and wishes she knew where her life was going.

Friend #3 is graduating with a great job lined up and a boyfriend of over a year. She tells everyone that she wants to get her feet wet on her own to see what the whole being a grown up thing is all about. However, several times she has told me that she really wants her boyfriend to ask her to marry him, but he won't.

It seems like everyone is affected by society acting like there's a perfect time for everything. Everyone, regardless of their situation gets caught up in the idea of not doing what they should be or the opposite, doing what they "should" but not enjoying it like they "are supposed to." I really wish that there wasn't so much pressure to follow a set path in life. There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to that.

mallory said...

Rachel, those are really interesting thoughts. I enjoyed reading about your friends. Of course, I would encourage friend #1 that God will provide for them and is not "suprised" at all by the pregnancy :)

I agree that there is no one size fits all approach to this issue. My personal thought is have children young, while you have the energy and youth to keep up with them and then "enjoy each other" like everyone is always saying when you are older and typically have more means ($) to do fun things, i.e. go on nice trips. I'd rather be an empty nester at 45 or 50 and have all those years to enjoy my spouse when we will hopefully have the blessing of means to travel and do fun things and of course, be around for my grandkids and great-grandkids! But of course, to each his own! :) Thanks for commenting!