Rebecca Kamm
Poking a stick at ladies' issues, pop culture, and other cutting-edge curiosities.

Rebecca Kamm: The problem with perfect life advice

The constant background hum of advice for women can be stressful.Photo / Thinkstock
The constant background hum of advice for women can be stressful.Photo / Thinkstock

Marry young! Don't! Just marry him! Don't! Have babies younger! Don't! Obligatory and terrifying fertility statistic about over 35s!

Fact: a woman cannot turn on her Macbook without being smacked in the face with the latest, most provocative "women's interest" piece about when to marry, when to have children, how to keep your marriage fresh, how to "have it all", how to win at your career, or some variation thereof.

Whether it's Sheryl Sandberg's career-oriented Lean In or Susan Patton's much-discussed Advice for the young women of Princeton, there is a constant background hum of advice - to put it mildly - for ladies finding their way.

Which is okay! Kind of. Women do want those things out of life, a lot of the time. And there's no denying timing is a conundrum, what with plummeting egg supplies and making sure your career doesn't turn into a puff of smoke post pregnancy. But these endless pieces also create a mild undercurrent of panic, too. As a 30-year-old female friend said recently:

"I'll just be trucking along, pretty content - interesting work, happy relationship, all of that. But then I'll see another one of those pieces and start wondering if I'm on the best possible track in terms of life stages - and what I can cram in before and in-between those life stages. It makes me anxious."

Interestingly, I can't recall a single male-skewed opinion piece telling men to marry young, try for babies sooner (dudes' fertility declines too) or debating the pros and cons of having children at all.

Which is strange, because I was under the impression men also had children and got married.

In fact, research published last week found men are actually more "depressed and sad" than women if they don't have children. Something you would never guess looking at the merry-go-round of media attention given to childless women.

It's enough to make a lady want to throw caution, husband and babies to the wind. Because clearly, there is no right path, formula or expert tip that'll make all the eventual juggling easier. Or predict that the decisions you make now will ensure you end up with The Perfect Life. Or ensure healthy children and marriages.

So: how to read these pieces and not let them give you a panic attack? Maybe just don't read them. Or write them. Or - and here's some advice I was given once that actually helped - try to consciously have some faith in the decisions you make: you made them to the best of your abilities at the time, and that's good enough.

(Disclaimer: the "30-year-old female friend" was me.)

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