Stop judging your high school classmates that opted to start a family over a career

Once I started college, scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed meant stumbling upon more photos of engagement rings and baby announcements posted by my high school classmates in Bellevue, Neb.

It became common for me to receive texts, Facebook messages and even Twitter direct messages informing me that “so and so” had gotten married over the weekend from my friends stationed at colleges across the country. But what stands out more than the volume of these messages was the tone that accompanied the topic of marriage and babies. My friends and I subtly implied, through texts, phone calls and in-person conversations, that our classmates had made the wrong decision.

Despite our all-knowing tone, I really don’t know that they did make a wrong choice – no one aside from the couple can really know that. As an outsider looking in, I have no idea what led my classmates to decide to get married and frankly, it isn’t my business. I wasn’t even invited to their wedding, but something inside me and my friends made us believe that we knew what was best for a couple that we hadn’t even met. Getting married and having children is a natural part of life, and just because we are attending college and choosing to be more career-oriented does not mean that those who choose to start a family and settle down are lesser than us.

From a young age, my parents drilled the concept of independence into my head. According to their rules, it was important to be independent and self-sufficient before getting involved in a relationship. I interpreted those life lessons as a plan: go to school, start a career, save money and, once I am ready, get married. So when I see my high school classmates getting hitched and having children, it is off-putting because it is different than the values I hold.

In conversations, I find that women are vastly more criticized than men. I am in no way, shape or form, ready to have a baby, but some of my classmates are. In our progressive society, where women are pushed to be leaders in all types of industries, we ignore that being a mother is just as big of a responsibility, if not bigger. If my former classmates are ready to get married and start families, I shouldn’t judge them – I should recognize the huge responsibility and independence they are exhibiting.

While I decided going to school and working was my plan for after high school, those weren’t the plans for all of my friends and it doesn’t make sense that I ever thought someone else needed to follow my plans. While I’ve grown accustomed to the competitive nature of GW and D.C., I can forget that this atmosphere is not what is in store for all of the people that I grew up with, and I find that many of my friends at GW are even further removed from this lifestyle because of their residence in a city and generally wealthy upbringings.

I still catch myself in conversations where a group of my friends are bashing a former classmate who had just gotten engaged or just had a baby. We justify these feelings because we tab it as old-fashioned and outdated. Most of us grew up with the notion that we should focus on our careers before we focus on starting a family. And while that’s perfectly fine, it’s also fine for people to focus on family first or even at the same time.

Watching our classmates and friends get married should be a good thing. The personal opinions, like whether the couple is too young or that it all seems rushed, are just that – personal opinions. Marriage is not the end of anyone’s life or career, and it’s time to recognize that as college students, we shouldn’t look down on people who leave high school, head straight into the workforce and start a family. Everyone has a different plan and vision of how their life is going to work out and honestly, heading out on their own instead of to a cushy college campus is commendable.

Renee Pineda, a senior majoring in political science, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.

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