Julie struggles with being single.

What's it like to be a 30-something woman in America today? From religious devotion to home schooling to struggling to become pregnant, women across the country face a wide variety of issues.

One issue that plagues an average of 6.3 million women in America is being single. Julie, a Chicago pediatrician, struggles with the stigma of being alone in her 30s. "I've tried JDate, a Jewish Internet dating service, Match.com, setups by my friends," Julie says. "I recently adopted a dog, hoping to meet someone out in the dog park." Like many single women in America, Julie is no stranger to the dating scene—but finding dates isn't always the problem. "It's not that there are no men to date. It's that I'm not meeting anyone that I'm attracted to. Nobody that I think is quality, and worthy of me and what I have to offer and what I want to do."

Now Julie thinks that marriage may not even be what she wants. Instead of waiting around for a husband, she's considering having a child on her own. "I'm probably going to investigate an anonymous donor and do it artificially...I want it to be my own biological child," she says.
DeChane finds that men are intimidated by her.

DeChane, a successful attorney in Washington, D.C., also struggles with the 30-something single scene. Her fear is that men are intimidated by her. "None of my female friends have ever said I'm intimidating," she says. "Having an education, a house, a job does not make me intimidating. It just makes me an adult living an adult life." She finds it ironic that her achievements may turn men off. "I would think they would find it more unusual if I walked into the picture not having anything. But I think after 35 years of living, working, and being driven, I should have something to show for it."

DeChane also thinks that men make assumptions about single women in their 30s. "I think they assume that if you aren't married, you want to get married," she says. "Instead of meeting you and approaching you in a manner that's very basic—I want to get to know you, who you are, what your likes and dislikes are—I think they walk in the door expecting you to try to strong-arm them into getting married, and it scares them away."
Amy, a divorced mom, faces dating challenges.

For Amy, a divorced mom, dating in her 30s has been stressful. "I wish there was a manual for dating, because I have been out of the game for so long," she says. "Growing up, I always wanted to be a wife and a mom, and didn't expect that I would find myself single again."

With four children at home, Amy faces a unique set of dating issues. "I run a criminal background check on every guy I go out with," she says. "I have to be very careful about who I invite into our lives."

Amy also realizes that a woman with kids isn't what every guy is looking for. "I don't consider children baggage. I think they're the bonus piece to the set, but there are a lot of men who don't see it that way," she says.
Julie, DeChane and Amy talk about marriage.

For many women in their 30s, the pressure to get married can be intense. Julie says she isn't feeling that pressure as much anymore. "My original goal was to meet a man, have a family just like I grew up in," she says. "But it just doesn't seem to be going that way."

As a single mom, Amy says the pressure comes from people who feel like something must be missing in her life. "People see me as a single mom [as if] that's something wrong. 'Oh, you poor thing. You'll find somebody.' People will do that kind of thing because they don't feel like it's acceptable, or that you can't do it on your own," she says.

DeChane takes a more relaxed approach. "I am prepared to go with the flow as far as children and marriage are concerned," she says. "I was raised in a family where a number of people, even married relatives, have chosen not to have children. So it's never been the expectation that you have to get married, that you have to have children. It's really more being who you are and having a happy life. That's the focus for me."
Mubarakah talks about being a personal trainer.

For devout Muslim Mubarakah, a 30-year-old mother of four, life in her 30s is about family and career. Married for 14 years, Mubarakah never had to worry about the dating scene. "Dating in Islam is forbidden," she says. "When you meet someone and you're talking to them, the purpose is for marriage. So you're getting to know someone to know whether or not that's somebody you want to be married to."

In her career as a certified personal trainer, Mubarakah's biggest challenge is finding workout clothes in keeping with her faith. "As Muslim women, we can only show our face and hands," she explains. "Most workout outfits are either short sleeved or too tight." She modifies her clothes by adding length to sleeves and hems, taking care to look cute at the same time. "I try to at least look like I'm matching and I have some kind of style," she says. "So generally my headscarf will match my outfit."
Mubarakah talks about being a Muslim-American.

Mubarakah says she encounters many myths about her religion, including her heritage. "People automatically think I'm from another country, but my mother's family is Cherokee and my father's African-American, so I'm as American as it gets," she says. An open attitude helps Mubarakah deal with misconceptions. "If people don't understand, I just try to be very personable with it," she says. "I'm very open as far as questions."

Commitment to her religion requires Mubarakah to pray five times daily, whether she's working with a client, at the movies, or in her living room. Still, she says that American Muslims are just like any other Americans. "We're no longer immigrants or converts to Islam, but rather American-born Muslims that lead regular American lives. [We] incorporate our Islam beliefs and practices into our every day," Mubarakah says. "In the end, all our goals are the same. All of us want to raise our kids to be contributing members of society, to be healthy, to be happy. And no matter where you choose to worship, every woman wants to know, 'How do you get rid of cellulite?'"
Angela home schools her eight children.

As a mother of eight, Angela is spending her 30s on a tight schedule. With no nanny, no babysitter and no housekeeper, Amy does household chores from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.—plus, she homeschools her kids! "I've been a mom for 19 years," she says. "I do not try to be 'supermom.' I know that's not who I am."

From the 19-year-old to the 3-year-old, everyone pitches in around the house. "There's a lot to be done each day, but the kids help me with everything from making beds to washing dishes, and cooking food and [doing] laundry," Angela says. "We all pull together, and that's what really works for us to keep things going."

Taking charge of educating all eight children is a challenge, but Angela tries to add an element of fun to each day. "My goal is not to give my children lots of chores and schoolwork," she explains. "I want them to love doing all these things in the process. I think that fun builds relationships, and I want that for them."
Angela opens up about having more children.

While eight kids definitely keep her busy, Angela says having nine or even 10 isn't out of the question. "I would love more kids," she says. "We have never placed a number on our family. We've always just been open to having children." Her youngest child is almost 3, and Angela says in the past she's always had another baby by this point. "Usually by now I'm nursing somebody. I don't have one to nurse right now."

A large family comes with its own set of issues, but for Angela, the joys far outweigh the drama. "Being a mom of so many children, it can be stressful at times," she says. "I guess for some it would be a burden, but for myself, I feel this is my calling. I am living the life that I want to live. I would choose no other."
Yvette talks about being a first-generation American.

As a first-generation Mexican-American, Yvette says she grew up in two different worlds—one foot in Mexico, the other in the U.S. "At home we would cook Mexican food, my dad would listen to music [from] Mexico," she says. "But at school I had friends from all backgrounds. We watched MTV. We listened to Madonna."

Yvette says that experience allowed her to see different perspectives of life in America. "I was fortunate that because I had mastered the language, I wasn't discriminated against," she says. "But my parents had a lot of difficulties because they couldn't speak English as well."

For Yvette, like many Hispanics, family is everything. Almost every weekend, she drives two and a half hours to visit them. "Family is not just about Christmas and special occasions," she says. "It's about having that connection on a regular basis."
Jenna opens up about infertility.

When Jenna and her husband, Mike, got married, they thought life would be perfect. Soon after the wedding they set their sights on starting a family. "Everything came exactly the way it was supposed to," Jenna says. "The jobs. The wedding. The home. And [the only] missing piece is the children."

After trying to conceive naturally, and several months on fertility drugs, Jenna was given devastating news—she would not be able to conceive children on her own. Her only option was in vitro fertilization, an expensive and often painful process. Finally, Jenna got pregnant, only to lose the baby at 11 weeks. "It was horrifying," she says. "We were supposed to hear the heartbeat, and [the doctor] just said, 'I can't find it.' So in that moment, everything that we had started to let ourselves believe again was gone."
Jenna struggles to move on.

Jenna says that her inability to get pregnant led to feelings of shame. "I should be able to bear children," she says. "That's the basic difference between a man and a woman physically—the ability to bear children. And I can't do that." She also feels like she's not living the life she planned. "I'm in my early 30s and the people around me are having children and living their lives, and I feel like I'm stuck," Jenna says. "I feel like I'm in a place where I can't move on until I get some closure to this."

While she is beginning to accept that she might never have children of her own, Jenna says she hasn't yet made peace with that prediction. "I'm a teacher. My life's goal is to help kids grow, to watch them be nurtured. And for me to be able to let that go? I'm not ready for that," she says. "We will adopt, or we will have foster children. But I can't let go of not being a mom."
Jennifer wrote her own obituary.

When Jennifer turned 30, she decided to live her life with no regrets. Her first move? Writing her own obituary. "I wrote my obituary just like if I died tomorrow," she says. "Then I pretended I was an 80-year-old woman looking back at my life, and I didn't want to have any regrets. So being older, looking back, what would I change?" Jennifer says writing the obituary led to her decision to become a stay-at-home mom for her two kids.

In her obit, Jennifer describes her life: "I often wore a smile on my face. I loved people and did not know how to hate. I learned to live my life authentically, and received my satisfaction and joy from watching my children grow, and I am so very proud of them for being themselves and having such caring and loving hearts." Jennifer says one good thing about writing your own obituary is learning to say good things about yourself. "If you say positive things about yourself, you want to make sure you're living that life."

Jennifer says she updates her obituary often, and as she tells Oprah, "I'm going to update it when I get home, because my dream of 20 years was to meet you!"
FROM: Thirty-Something in America
Published on January 25, 2007


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