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'I'm happy to be turning 30, it's the new 23'

People in their thirties are under less pressure to conform to society than ever before and as with anything there are positives and negatives.

Rebecca Lee

THIRTY. IT’S ONE of those milestones that many people simply dread hitting. For me however, as a person who is turning thirty years of age this March, I couldn’t be happier.

You see as my dad quite aptly put it the other day, thirty is the new twenty three and I guess when you think about, it he’s right.

People in their thirties are under less pressure to conform to society than ever before and as with anything there are positives and negatives.

To me, some of the more delightful aspects of hitting the ‘big three o’ are that it’s perfectly acceptable to continue doing numerous things that you were once confined to doing in your twenties.

For example today people in their thirties are more career driven, they are returning to education, they are travelling, they are still going clubbing (notice the surge in over 28’s clubs in Ireland) and they are seemingly putting off having babies and tying the knot for as long as they possibly.

To me, this can be seen as a positive aspect of how times have changed, especially when divorce rates continue to soar year on year.

Taking our sweet time 

So why exactly are we taking our sweet time with relationships and the whole concept of settling down these days? And how have we managed to reach a stage where it’s actually acceptable to act like we’re still in our twenties, when we are in fact in our thirties?

According to Jeffrey Arnett, author of ‘Emerging Adulthood’ there are a number of theories as to why so many people entering their third decade are delaying commitment than ever before.

The first is that people no longer have to be married to engage in a sexual relationship. Sex is given freely and gone are the days where people have to work for intimacy. The second is simply down to the fact that people in general are marrying a lot older and that entering parenthood at a much later stage in life has become the norm.

A study by the Central Statistics Office revealed that the average age of Irish brides and grooms rose substantially by nine percent between 1978 and 2013. It found grooms were on average 35 years of age when tying the knot while brides were a grand age of 33 before officially settling.

On the other side of the coin, when it came to parenthood and baby making, the average age of mothers for births registered in 2013 was 32 years, which would once have been considered quite old. This is undoubtedly a huge leap from the 1950’s which according to Demographic Research saw most women give birth to their first child before the fresh age of 25.

A few extra youth years 

Another theory on why we seem to be getting more ‘bang for our buck’ in our thirties is that so many of us are returning to education. Re-entering the classroom has undoubtedly added a few extra youth years with many people concentrating on getting that degree or diploma before even considering the next steps in life.

According to the Higher Education Authority, over 10,000 students in full-time education in Ireland are now over 30 years of age.

Last but not least, another theory as to why we’re getting more leverage out of our thirties is down to a shift in meaning and values. The 1950’s saw people keen to enter adulthood, now it’s a case of ‘yes but not yet’ which in turn, is delaying us from making the leap from adult to spouse to parent.

While it may seem the thirty year old grass is greener than ever before, there are some slightly alarming trends emerging. Some of the less delightful aspects of turning thirty which could be seen as the new twenty three are that a large proportion of people in their late twenties and thirties don’t appear to want a long term relationship anymore.

Single life

A survey by Elite singles online found that just 45 percent of people believe in having one partner for life indicating a shift from wanting a single, long lasting relationship to having plenty of short flings.

Another less than delightful aspect is that due to the changes in mortgage requirements many of us can’t actually afford to buy property anymore without the help of a) a partner which not everyone has and b) mammy and daddy. This change, combined with rent hikes and job losses mean more people in their thirties are still living in the family home than ever before.

Despite all the ups and downs of turning thirty, I must conclude that I am actually looking forward to reaching this milestone, after all and in a no longer selfish way it seems I’ve a few years in me left to do whatever I like when I like, whether society accepts it or not.

Rebecca Lee is a journalist and broadcaster with Dublin’s Q102. Read more on her blog www.rebeccabexlee.wordpress.com or follow her on Twitter @rebeccaleemedia

Read: 30 things nobody ever told you about your 30s>

Read: How many of these 30 things did you discover when you turned 30?>

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Rebecca Lee

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