This may just be me, but I just heard an acquaintance say that at age 30, she has no work experience whatsoever past the babysitting she did as a teenager, and that absolutely floors me. It floors me even more because she’s the second adult woman of my circle and age cohort to say that recently. I don’t get it.
Maybe I’m being judgemental of people who live differently from me, but when I was entering high school, a huge number of my friends’ parents were getting divorced. (Not surprising, since the divorce rate has been steady at something like 33% for my entire lifespan.) And I kept hearing the mothers say that they’d been unhappy for years and years, and had stayed mainly because they had gotten married young and had no clue how to make it on their own financially. From this, I learned how important it is to know how to be self sufficient, even if you make different choices later down the road. I guess I assumed that most of my generation, the children of that legacy of divorce, learned the same lesson. Maybe you’ll need to separate from your husband. Maybe a parent will get sick, or, God forbid, a child, and you’ll need to shuffle financial and time obligations to take care of them.
I just don’t get it. I don’t get how anyone can go through college without ever doing an internship or a work-study job, or working retail to pay for new clothes or CDs, or substitute teaching, or temping in an office, something, anything. Even if you trust the people you rely on financially not to leave you in the lurch, whether we’re talking about a husband who believes kids need their mom around when they’re young or parents patronizing a struggling creative, you never know when fate is going to throw a wrench in their lives. I especially don’t get how any woman of my generation, growing up on stories of deadbeat husbands, ENRON job losses and grandparents with crashed-market IRAs can think that these aren’t skills they might need down the road. And they do need them; both women were complaining about this because their lives have changed recently and they need to try and sell themselves as viable, entry-level employees for the first time in their thirties.
*sigh* I feel bad for them, but at the same time, I feel like I’m trying to cross this gulf of understanding to see how they came to this pass.