This week, due to travel, different time zone, holiday and a cold to boot, I’m posting some old faves and good reminders. Today I’m reprising and edited version of a previously published Flash Friday – where Molly Ford of Smart Pretty and Awkward and I tackle an issue from both the 40-something and 20-something perspective. The topic… how family relationships change from 20 to 40.
The 20-Something Perspective, by Molly Ford
Family plays a changing role in our lives as we age, ranging from caretakers to role models to friends to dependents. For 20-somethings, relating to your family in a decade of change can be both challenging and rewarding, and varies greatly based on simply who is in your family and how close you are.
Many 20-somethings discover that family relationships are cyclical. Mandy, 23, a freelance writer, says:
“When I was about 16, when I knew everything and wanted little to do with my parents, my stepdad sat me down at the table and said, ‘You know, daughters leave their parents when they’re about 14 and they come back at 24.’ I’ve never known something to be so true. I’m turning 24 this February and I have to say, I’m growing closer to my parents every day.
Our relationship changed from this awkward “trying to figure out how we fit now were all adults” thing to a comfortable, easy relationship where there’s support on both sides. My parents ask me for an opinion. They share more things with me. A different kind of friendship creeps in.
As I get older, I know that things will become more equal. Instead of being the one taken care of, we’ll take care of each other. We’ll be less afraid of saying how we feel and what we think. And then, a long way down the road (I hope), it’ll turn into me taking care of them, giving guidance and the support that was once given to me.”
The 20’s decade is also the time when many 20-somethings leave the nest for good, and may move to other areas of the country. You can lose the day-to-day trivia that comes with the face-to-face each day. While video chats and frequent phone calls can help bridge the gap, family relationships can be hard with everyone being so far apart.
Lora, a 20-something wonders what will happen when career and children come into the picture and everyone has to adjust to new roles.
The Forty-Something Perspective by Christina Vuleta
40-something women agree that family relationships become both more enriching as we age…with or without children. Just like we evolve from twenty to forty, so do our family bonds:
In our twenties we are exploring who we are and proving ourselves to our families. In our 30s our role with our families is crystallizing and by our forties we have seen the crystal ball.
We now own the paths our lives are on. We are more confident about our choices and the knowledge that we want to impart on others. All of this manifests when we interact with our families. Our role is clearly defined and by now has been put to the test on a regular basis. And that’s okay because we’ve figured out most of the “work-arounds” or “resets” and can stand up for ourselves even to our family.” – 40-something marketing exec from Washington DC
Women who have children find that the experience of becoming a parent marks a significant shift in the relationship. As we shift from daughter to mother, a new dimension emerges:
“What has changed is that we have a common understanding on being parents. I’m now a mother and understand what it takes to be a parent – both the joy and worries. It is definitely not easy.” – 40-something entrepreneur
While for most, the relationship with their parents becomes more friendly and two-way, just like with your friends, it doesn’t mean tension doesn’t exist. Now instead of stomping your feet and shouting “I know I was adopted”, you (hopefully) deal with it differently. This 40-something finds that as she got to know herself better she learned to accept more give and take in her family relationships.
When you’re in your 20’s and struggling to be independent, your family still takes a back seat to friends, college, work and your own life. If you move away from home, the distance can be both liberating and painful. When visiting, it can be difficult for your parents to understand the “new you” and for you to respect that it’s your parent’s home. Much of this leads to tension and a greater desire to be your own boss.
All of this changes at some point, often triggered by increasing responsibility, marriage and children. You start seeing your parents in yourself, and in your actions. Spending time becomes more important and the arguments and differences less important.”
There is an increasing realization that time is too short as you realize your parents’ mortality shares this woman who recently lost her father:
Losing my father recently really put things into perspective. I find myself calling my mom for no reason, just to say a quick hello or laugh about something that happened. It’s no longer about my independence. I have that. It’s about me needing and wanting to be around my family.”
The changes don’t stop with your parents. Many women find that sibling relationships become more complex as brothers and sisters mate, marry and have children. We get a smaller piece of the family pie as we move from sister to aunt. This fashion exec from a large family with a new family of her own found it raised new issues:
When your siblings start to have families of their own it adds a tremendous amount of joy but can create issues as well. Do you like your siblings’ mates? Do you spend less time as a family now that new members have joined and they are sharing their time with their mate’s family? Do you enjoy their children or are they brats?”
Women who have children find that the experience of becoming a parent marks a significant shift in the relationship. As we shift from daughter to mother, a new dimension emerges, as this 40-something event business owner shares:
What has changed is that we have a common understanding on being parents. I’m now a mother and understand what it takes to be a parent – both the joy and worries. It is definitely not easy. When grand-kids enter the picture, a truly new bond is formed. You can now relate to each other as parents, which allows for new dialog, discussion, and support.”
Of course some people do face toxic family relationships and find the only route to self-growth is cutting the ties or at least cutting back. But for others, it often when you begin to see your family as people with fears and foibles that you not only learn more about them but also about yourself.