If you look up the word “woman” in the dictionary, it is simply defined as “an adult female person.” While the dictionary definition of a woman makes defining her seem simple, in real life, defining what it means to be a woman is much more complex, especially today.
Where as before the traditional milestones included the basics- learning to cook, clean, getting married and starting a family, with the growth of women in society, our milestones have also shifted.
In the old days, things like moving out of the house, getting married, and starting a family served as important milestones to mark entrance into womanhood. But now, girls are graduating from college and returning home, while others have no desire to get married or start a family. And just because you have the bilogical functions of a woman– are you really allowed to call yourself a woman? A possible working definition can possibly be created based off a combination age and one’s level of independence but can you call yourself a woman if your parents pay your cell phone bill?
As these questions swirl around the real world is calling and we need to answer whether we’re ready or not. As we work to define our career, our life and ourselves, young women are also working to discover the true definition of becoming a woman today. So when do we go from simply being a “young” woman to becoming a full fledged woman? Here are a few modern milestones.
Milestone: Earning multiple degrees.
Historically, education among women was discouraged by many religions and societies, fearful that women would upgrade their status in society and overtake a male/patriarchal dominance. Education for women was often limited to how to maintain a house, or brief exposure to the arts. In the modern world, women have the power to be educated and study any field of interest to them. And with more women getting degrees than ever, its become expected for woman to go on to earn their bachelor’s and society is hardly shocked to learn of women earning their masters and phd’s.
Milestone: Moving Out.
Lots of questions, here’s what the numbers say, according to the Institute of Family Studies, around 36% of us move out of the protection of our homes at age 19-20- either to pursue higher education, or to pursue a career. Although this move isn’t highly indicative of growth we still continue to return home to seek protection, or financial comfort from our parents. Many studies show women don’t get away from the safe zone of being “young” until around age 28; at this point 76% of us have completely moved away from our parents into our own homes, cities, and environments to fully grow.
Milestone: Learning to have the strength to be vulnerable in romantic relationships.
Modern women have been conditioned since birth to find their own place in society and break boundaries between masculinity and femininity, resulting in a battle of the sexes. With this battle, modern women put themselves first. In their relationships, they often find this mindset creates friction and tension, as relationships are ultimately about putting oneself last. However, modern women still need to keep in mind that she should want a man, not need one. And need meaning being solely dependent upon his attention, finances, etc. in order to make her feel like a woman. Knowing that while yes, you could provide those aspects for yourself, it adds to the romance knowing there is someone out there willing to provide it to you for a change.
Milestone: Remixing tradition.
Most modern women have grown up with some sort of traditional ties- be it religious, cultural, or family traditions. A friend of mine once shared her story of growing up in a household where it was custom for the women to stay home and take care of home, and for the men to go out and bring home the bread. This wasn’t the exact fairy tale my friend had in mine for herself so she went against the tradition of her family and went to college. She became a psychologist with children and house duties that she splits with her husband. Although there are some traditions she maintains, she’s made an effort to transform herself into a modern woman.
Milestone: Knowing Your Worth
Women today like to talk about how men need to recognize a woman’s worth. While true, it also needs to be said that we need to know our own value as well. In order for a man, or the rest of the world for that matter, to know exactly how much we’re worth, we need to walk with confidence in our value. Oprah Radio host Dr. Robin Smith says that we need to realize worth comes from inside of us, not from the opinion of others. In saying, we need to be confident in our beliefs, morals, values, and all things that come together to make our worth, and respect ourselves enough to stand our ground.
Milestone: Making A Solid Financial Plan.
Another limitation to growth young women face is being financially dependent on others. The desire to climb the ladder of success comes with a financial burden that someone has to carry. And according to an article by the New York Times, much of that burden falls on our parents. So while you might not be able to afford to move out the house, you can plan and forecast for it while taking into account your current circumstances. This is a big step towards taking responsibility and accountability for your life despite dependence on family. While money isn’t the key to happiness, being fiscally responsible gives us an advantage over those who lack financial organization. Setting up the basics such as a checking and savings account, and setting a goal balance to maintain in each, can allow for financial growth that can lead to comfortable 401K and Retirement Plans down the road. Learnvest.com, a financial planning and forecasting website for women, emphasizes the importance of organizing finances around age 18. Everything from college budgeting, to forecasting future job revenue can be done on the site, further stressing the need for us young, modern women to not only mature within ourselves, but within our wallets as well.