Breakups, promotions: Why we need to celebrate the non-traditional milestones too
Weddings, engagements and baby showers… is that all there is? Well, if our social calendars were anything to go by, you could be forgiven for thinking so.
In the past year, I quit my job, made new friends, did my first public speaking gig, handled some pretty stressful health stuff, and made it through my first year of self employment – oh, and very recently I got married.
Without a doubt, the thing that got the most woo-ing and squealing from people in my life was the fact I got married. And to be honest, that’s kinda cooked.
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Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled to have got married. I adore my now-husband, and to be able to marry him was so wonderful. And of course I’m so grateful that my friends were excited for me. But was it disproportionately more important than any of the other things that happened in my life this year? No.
‘How’s the wedding planning going!?’
This is the message that frequented my home screen in the months prior to our micro wedding. That confused me no end. It was a ‘legals and lunch’ type of thing, no bells or whistles. And everyone knew that. Beyond two online bookings and a ‘Notice of Intention to Marry’ form, there wasn’t much planning to be done.
What can I say? I’m just not the cake tasting, dress shopping type of girl.
Then it made me question – how many times have I been asked ‘how’s self employment going’? Hardly at all.
‘Did that client you were excited about sign on?’ None.
That realisation got me thinking about something that’s been on my mind for a while – why do we only celebrate the traditional milestones?
We’re a generation smashing stereotypes and breaking moulds. Yet our social calendar is so often dominated by baby showers and weddings. Surely we’ve got more to celebrate than coupling up and reproducing?
We don’t bat an eyelid when yet another engagement party invitation plops into the mailbox. We trot out and buy tiny little shoes for our mate’s kid’s first birthday.
We even attend as many as five events to celebrate people getting married – when you count the engagement, the hens/bucks, the kitchen tea, the wedding itself, and the new phenomenon, the recovery. And sure, that’s all lovely and worth celebrating. But is that all there is?!
Curious about what achievements or milestones other people felt didn’t get the recognition they’d have liked, I asked my community on Instagram.
Responses included everything from divorce and breakups to work and business achievements, moving countries or cities solo to buying a property on your own, recovering from surgery to getting through fertility treatment (with or without a happy ending) to coming out as queer.
Careers get some recognition, but there’s a long way to go
While some might argue that those kicking goals at work are being celebrated (capitalism loves a hustler, after all) it seems as though that things are only acknowledged if the traditional things are already ticked off.
Got a big promotion and you’re married with a baby? Woo! Let’s raise a glass!
Got a big promotion but you’re loving single life in your thirties? Yeek. I’d say you’ve got some difficult questions coming from uncle Derek at the next family barbecue.
In fact, singles seem to have the worst time getting their milestones acknowledged. Whether they’ve divorced a textbook red flag or bought a property on their own, any achievement seems to be eclipsed by the fact they’re doing it solo.
Leaving a bad marriage to pursue a life of happiness or buying a property on your own in this economy seems like something worth celebrating to me.
We need a huge shift in the things we consider worthy of interest and celebration.
“My friends and family don’t care about my business”
Another common sentiment was that those that run their own businesses struggle to share their wins with their friends and family.
Many expressed disappointment that people never took an interest, or that eyes glazed over when they started talking about their businesses.
Others felt saddened by the money they’ve spent on wedding and baby gifts for people who have never once supported their small business.
And sure, we all need to read the room sometimes. Not everyone needs to hear the details of who supplies your office loo roll or your latest client drama.
But having a collective interest in non-traditional milestones, that matches our interest in weddings and babies, would go a long way.
We don’t necessarily need to throw a huge bash for every single thing that happens, but recognising that there are wins in life beyond marrying and having babies is almost certainly a step in the right direction.