A Word on Wellness:
There was an article going around recently, I forget where I saw it, otherwise I would link to it here... but it was addressing the pressures that women (in particular) feel in regards to reaching specific "life milestones." In case anyone is unsure, which I know you're not, these milestones are - a) getting married b) having children. I wrote briefly about thisover two years ago, but after years of focusing on women's mental health I am more acquainted with the stress this causes as many, many clients come in trying to cope. The op-ed piece I read was focused on having kids and all of the different questions women are asked in regards to this. Comments on age, comments on relationship status, if you already have one child, then "when will you have your second?"
Many of my clients come in stressed out and self-critical as a result of being on the receiving end of questions, very personal questions, or comments about where they are in their life in regards to "settling down, getting married and having kids."
To illustrate one way that this is harmful, I'll tie it into mindfulness (which I've written about in the past) and the peace and happiness that can come with living in the present moment. Whenever a woman is enjoying a moment in her life, she's got a great apartment and a job, perhaps she's at happy hour with coworkers and someone bluntly asks, "so are you and ___ getting engaged anytime soon?" By asking that question the person has yanked her out of the peace of the present moment and asked her to look at the future. Why? Will she ever be allowed to enjoy the moment, or life phase she's in without being asked to think about the next one? Now, if this is something she already worries about, and the person asking is a very close friend, then maybe she's happy to be able to talk about it. BUT if the person asking is not a close friend, then they have no idea how this question will land, and perhaps shouldn't be asking it.
Women are confronted with these present-moment-stealing questions ALL THE TIME. And the kicker is, these questions are also not open ended... meaning there is an implicit judgement attached. The judgement being that she "should" be on the road to marriage and children. The person asking may not think they have an opinion either way, but asking at all is making an assumption, no? As more women aim to define their lives the way that they want to, perhaps in ways that don't include (or don't only include) the short list of "life achievements" there will be a disconnect between what they are doing and what people assume they should be doing. Unless we all do our part to change the conversation.
As for me, I aim to be more mindful myself when my conversation defaults to these topics (I'm guilty too!) A good rule of thumb is to spend a moment reflecting before making the comment or asking the question. Asking oneself, "do I truly know this person well enough to ask them this personal question right now?" and also, "If, for some reason, this is an uncomfortable topic for them (which may not be obvious), are we in an appropriate place for me to broach this, and am I an appropriate person to be bringing this up?"
If this resonates I would love to hear from you in the replies :)
Something to Read:
In the spirit of the above: Important milestones you can have in your life besides getting married.
In Case You're Searching:
As Therapists, we get frustrated that there isn't an easier, better way for clients to search for us. I've been on the client end of trying to find a therapist and have found that many of the platforms out there aren't too helpful. It's like, "here are 200 therapists in your area..." So we're all a little excited that Being Seen is here. It's too early to tell, but the creators of Being Seen also started Open Path Collective and I've heard from many people that OPC functions well for client and clinician. So, I'm going to cross my fingers and give Being Seen a try, and the next time you're in search of a therapist it could be a good place to start.