“I think the biggest thing we’ve got from Mom is independence through what she demonstrated, what she said, and how she parented.”
In 1960, 84 percent of all 25- to 29-year-olds were married. By 2010, that number was just 42 percent. This 50-percent drop in marriage rates among young people over the past 50 years means a lot of things: women are postponing traditional life milestones like marriage and childbirth in favor of pursuing educations, careers, and financial independence. As a result, the multifaceted lives of women today look a lot different than the lives their mothers and grandmothers led at their age.
Becky Paroubek is a Wisconsin mother of two. Her daughter Lilly, 27, is a Crossfit coach and business owner living in Colorado. Her daughter Cat, 30, is the owner of an online plus-size boutique and a consulting firm in Minnesota. To understand the ways that societal pressures for women have ― or haven’t ― changed throughout the years, we partnered with SK-II to get mothers and daughters talking about these issues, and the ways their lives differ from each other at 30.
Becky: When I was 30, I was pregnant with Lilly and Caitlin was a toddler. I’d worked remotely while Caitlin was a baby as a computer programmer, and I felt a lot of pressure to work a lot of hours, but could only do it while Caitlin was sleeping. I quit to become a stay-at-home mother when I got pregnant with Lilly because I knew I couldn’t do the work with two little ones to take care of. I could barely work with one, so I felt I was doing the right thing becoming a stay-at-home mother.
I was fortunate that my husband supported the stay-at-home decision, even though it was a huge financial struggle for us. However, even though I had a partner, the kind of parenting that was the norm back then was the kind where the mom did everything for and with the children. Ultimately, Caitlin and Lilly were my responsibility and mine alone.
Lilly: Did you ever think about what me and Cat would be like at your age?
Becky: Yes. I knew what I wanted for you! I didn’t care so much about what you would be doing, I just wanted you to be physically and emotionally healthy. I always thought you would get married, and if you chose to have children, I hoped you’d have a more equal parenting relationship with your partners.
Cat: Did you imagine we’d have more opportunities to succeed in our careers than women of your generation did?
Becky: Well it’s interesting because my mom always told me I must have a career. She said I must have a way to financially support myself and be independent. I expected that of my daughters, too. But, I don’t know if I thought the world would be more progressive when it came to women’s issues. I was brought up in a religion where women were subservient to men, so the idea of feminism or women’s issues kind of fell on deaf ears for me back then. But, as an early computer programmer, I knew enough about technology to see new career paths for you guys opening up.
Lilly: Looking back on how you imagined our lives then, are you surprised by where we’ve ended up?
Becky: I always told both of you that you could be anything you wanted if you worked hard enough. With a good education and enough opportunity, I felt the world could be yours. But I am pretty surprised about how your lives turned out! When I was 30, “millennial” attitudes were not a thing.
Lilly: Ha! What do you mean by that?
Becky: I guess I pictured a more traditional, “Get an education and get a job!” future for them. In the IT industry, I was used to changing jobs often, but nothing like what I’ve seen you guys do. The norm back then for most people was to get a job and stick with it forever. I never ever thought either of you would own your own business!
HuffPost: Cat and Lilly, you were both obviously raised by a very strong female role model, how did looking up to your mom as kids shape who you are today?
Becky: I don’t know that I was a strong, female role model! I was a stay-at-home mom during my daughters’ formative years.
Cat: You are a strong role model, though, Mom! Like you said about us, it’s not about what you were “doing” career-wise, it’s about what kind of person you were.
Lilly: It’s funny because growing up I wasn’t thinking, “Wow, I have a strong, non-traditional woman as a mother,” you were just “mom.” But now, looking back, I realize you really helped me say, “Screw you!” to gender roles. Whether that was intentional or not, I’m not sure. You worked while dad did most of the cooking later on in my childhood.
Lilly: On a similar note, and this is something I’ve been thinking about more and more lately. I sometimes feel I am too independent because of it.
Cat: I think the biggest thing we’ve got from Mom is independence through what she demonstrated, what she said, and how she parented. She would show us how to make a budget for all the new clothes we needed and everything. She full-on prepared us for being independent people.
Becky: I do worry that made you too independent. I know men in my generation have not caught up to that, I’m not sure about yours.
Cat: I value that independent spirit so much! I think it has 100 percent helped me become the go-getter/create-my-own-opportunities/don’t-believe-me-just-watch type of person I am today. Do you worry about us not being in serious relationships?
Becky: I could care less, really. I hope that doesn’t sound awful. Ha! You don’t need to be in a serious relationship to be happy or successful or fulfilled. It could be icing on the cake for you. But, then again, maybe not. So no, I don’t worry about that in the slightest, but I do think about shared partnerships being financially and emotionally advantageous. Right now I’m happily single so I think they get that from me.
Cat: And, that is so rare for parents! For some reason, we lucked out with parents who are the least pressuring in that way ― in my experience. It’s like everyone else’s parents are pressuring them for grandkids but ours are just chilling.
Lilly: I think I bug Cat to make babies more than my parents combined. Almost everyone I know has their mom breathing down their throat about when they’re going to complete those “adult” steps like getting married with babies.
Cat: You really do! My friends tell me things their mom expects of them or does, and I have literally no idea how I would deal with that. Mom would never even dream of doing anything like that. I’m so glad to have a mother like you who supports me no matter what.
SK-II brings the power of Pitera, a fermented yeast ingredient which contains amino acids, minerals and vitamins to keep skin looking refreshed, rejuvenated, soft and smooth, to all of its skincare saviours. In the 1970s, SK-II scientists saw how supple and youthful the hands of aged sake brewers were, inspiring them to use the ingredient in their products. And the rest is history. And gorgeous skin. SK-II hopes to showcase the unspoken timelines and expiry dates society places on women and spark a conversation around age-related pressure that women all over Asia, and indeed the world, experience. #inpartnershipwithskii.