This is how we see modern-day womanhood in the world around us — the markers that make for a contented and well-lived life. It's not about making everyone into a cookie-cutter version of some perfect person. In fact, it's the opposite of that. Most of these milestones are about living thoughtfully, knowing what works, and becoming the world's foremost scholar on You.
Then: Getting married
Now: Getting perspective
Looking at marriage as the be-all, end-all goal of any relationship can be an unhealthy burden on yourself and your partnership. In an age where the assumption of marriage is ever-dwindling, some would lament the loss of a gilded age, but we personally breathe a sigh of relief. Not only are the best marriages we know the result of a truly organic desire to make it official; but thinking of your relationship as an investment into a future marriage is a great way to turn a complex, emotional situation into a financial transaction. Nowadays, marriage isn't a must-have, and we find more and more the desire for companionship is fulfilled in other ways. That can mean moving in with someone, which is a huge step — and we mean really moving in, committing to throw away that other mattress and go for broke. And, sometimes that someone isn't even a romantic partner. The way we see it, great friendships are not just a childhood phase, and roommates can be so much more than a rent-necessitated convenience. Whether you're moving back in with your girlfriends later in life, or shacking up with someone dear, the point is that women today are thinking long and hard about the relationships that matter.
Then: Learning to cook
Now: Learning to eat
There are so many crazed foodies taking over the blogosphere these days, not to mention diet fads for days. With all that clutter, we consider it a major milestone to learn what's right for your body and stick to it. Whether that's through the trial-and-error of a failed Paleo diet or a carefully researched conclusion based on your genetics and your lifestyle, having a strong stance on what you like, what you need, and what you just plain want in the food department is a sign of maturity.
Then: A Hawaiian vacation
Now: A free-wheeling backpacking trip
Though there are many, we'd be hard-pressed to find a more dated, cringe-worthy Mad Men moment than Don and Megan's recent Hawaiian vacation. But, true to form, it's a pretty accurate representation of the way people used to get away. We cringe at that all-expenses-paid resort trip, isolated in overly manicured lawns and Americanized versions of local cuisine, free of any true exploration or cultural education. While we love a taste of luxury, when it comes to a truly memorable trip, we'll take swimming with elephants in Thailand or scouting out unknown galleries in Berlin any day, if you please!
Then: Owning a home
Now: Redefining the meaning of "home"
Between several daunting real-estate bubbles, the endless discussion on "having it all," and the many, many women we know who spend more time working, traveling, and cavorting than sitting in their living rooms, what it means to have a "home" is changing every day. Not that there's anything wrong with thoroughly, extensively enjoying the comforts of your living room — for us, there are few things more precious than some good alone time with a favorite chair. But the point is that women today are thinking more deeply about what a home life can and should be. Maybe it's an abstract, emotional idea that you carry with you on your travels or the arms of the one you love; maybe it's a well-curated selection of French watercolors, maybe it's that (rented or owned) loft in DUMBO you always dreamed of. It's different for everyone, but the critical thinking that goes into defining the concept of home is something we think all adults should take seriously.
Then: A solid pension plan
Now: A powerful portfolio
For whatever reason, for better or for worse, traditional retirement is becoming an old-fashioned idea. But that doesn't mean you're destined to work for life. While we know a lot of women (ourselves included) who couldn't imagine just walking away from their hard-earned corner offices at the tender age of 65, if ditching the desk is your thing, there's still a way to do it right without the company-sponsored help your parents or even your older siblings' generation might have received. That kind of disposable wealth is a privilege as well as a controversy in this country, and there's no doubt that it's not easily obtained. But the Internet and its many educational resources are making it easier to empower yourself, financially speaking, and make your own way in the market. Adults today can have a new kind of nest egg based not only on 401Ks and savings but also on smart investments, all while saving the fees of a professional broker.
Then: Having kids
Now: Having a community
There are still a lot of working women who choose to have children, and we could not admire them more. It's always a struggle, it's never a perfect balance, but it's possible and it can be incredibly fulfilling. On the other hand, we feel like we're finally approaching a point, as a society, where we don't have to look down on childless women over the age of 35. It's obvious that the worth of any woman, mother or not, is defined by so much more than motherhood. But, we find it especially inspiring when women take the time to look outside their family circle — whether that's a husband and children, a husband and a cat, a wife and a basil plant, siblings, cousins, or close friends — and care for their communities at large. Volunteering locally and globally, as well as using your particular set of skills to enrich the place where you live and just (forgive us for getting all new-agey) sending positive energy into the world is a beautiful thing.
Then: A salary, plus benefits
Now: A dream job — and the many benefits that come with it
In today's economy, a dream job might feel like an impractical prospect, something to be discarded in favor of paying the rent. And sometimes, often, there are sacrifices that have to be made. But it's also true that as the workplace goes through massive changes, there's an opportunity to ditch the 9-5 go for what you really want. Today is, in many ways, a golden age of entrepreneurship. Technology and online commerce have made it easier than ever to invent, create, market, and sell a good product — whether that's your very own brand of homemade jam, or maybe that independent fashion site you've been longing to start (sound familiar?). While solid income is obviously a good thing, that stability doesn't have to be boring. Startup culture, entrepreneurs, and an increasingly productive freelance workforce are all symptoms of a people's response to a changing, service-based economy. And that leaves a surprising amount of room for chasing your dreams.
Then: The hometown picket fence
Now: The meaningful, memorable visit
In the age of the white-picket fence and two-and-a-half children, small towns had a pretty stable population. Kids would grow up, go away to college, maybe work somewhere else for a few years, and then settle back home with a family. Nowadays, urbanization is speeding along at an astonishing clip both in the United States and in the world at large. And, the reality is that "back home" no longer has the glamorous draw nor the economic prospects that big cities do (unless you grew up in somewhere like NYC, in which case, congratulations — your mom will always be a subway ride away, and your far-flung friends are jealous of that). But there's a difference between moving away for good and severing the connection with the place where you were born. In fact, there might be something more meaningful in the consistent financial commitment required to maintain that connection. In your 20s, it's understandable that more financially able parents will do the majority of the visiting. But, as you get older, taking it upon yourself to keep up that relationship with an important place can lend a present-day meaning to your past.