what is the self-styled life?

My first post sets it up pretty well, so I figured I’d give it a page of its own rather than making people dig through posts:

The Self-Styled Life: a particular configuration of your professional, personal and physical life reflective of your passions, ambitions, imagination, desires and tastes. Put simply, Life on your own terms, conforming (or not) to traditional structures as you see fit. [This is a working definition…]

The term self-styled does not always have positive connotations: a self-styled “expert” in something is usually a person who just fancies himself so, but who doesn’t actually have the credentials to be called a proper expert. But when we’re talking life, you have the qualifications to create your own simply because you are here. No credentials needed beyond that one!

I think of something that is “styled” as something that was actively and attentively curated to be a collection of complementary elements that form a cohesive whole. I like to go from this definition of style: “a quality of imagination and individuality expressed in one’s actions and taste.” There’s no right or wrong to a self-styled life. Who’s to judge it? It’s yours.


I’ve been meditating on this concept as a result of a recurring theme I have noticed among my friends. We are feeling that with the freedom that the women’s liberation movement has given us (and don’t get me wrong, we are very grateful for this), there is an expectation that we pursue successful careers (and maybe build a family in the off-time). This is what we’resupposed to want. Often, when I finally blurt out in confidence that I’m not finding this model suitable and maybe I just want to stay home and bake, my friend totally gets what I’m talking about, because she’s had similar taboo thoughts.

But under the pressure of these expectations, we went to college and some of us even went for more schooling (maybe because we didn’t know what else to do). We are highly educated. We are getting married, setting up a dual-income household. And there is no time to consider what we’re doing. Saddled with student loan debt and the need for two incomes, we’refloundering about in the professional world, trying to find something tolerable (or dare we dream, wonderful) to make money with the hope that at least we’ll get a decent maternity leave, or maybe even have saved enough to stay home for a few years. And that’s the dream. A few measly years before the kids are off to school and we’re back to work so we can pay for their college education.

When I need a break from this pressure, I dream of the self-styled life. I am highly and happily educated and I do have passions that extend beyond the home, that form some fuzzy vision of “professional” success. But I’m beginning to doubt that the generally accepted 9-5 structure is for me. I’m starting to dream up my own model. To me, the perfect picture is this: I am essentially a stay at home wife and eventually, maybe, mother. I imagine taking courses like my grandmother took, to learn skills in homemaking. I want to create thatperfect home—clean and organized, beautifully decorated with furniture I’ve redone myself. Because I have time to refinish furniture. But I do other things too, either part-time or from home. With any luck, it’s writing. Or maybe a cleaning business, yoga instructor, or refinishing furniture and selling it on Etsy or Ebay. I build a career that is varied, flexible and reflective of who I am, and my value in our life is measured not just on my income but also the home I create. I want a successful life, not just a successful career.

I think our society is going through a readjustment. We’ve explored the extremes for women—on the one hand, being kept uneducated and forced into essential servitude in the home, and on the other hand, being well-educated and sent out into the world with every expectation of becoming professionally indistinguishable from men. Now, some of us are looking for balance, something in the middle. We didn’t just want to get married out of high school, yet our greatest dreams in life are not measured in rungs on the career ladder. Can we make something else?



60 responses to “what is the self-styled life?

  1. Woow! This is a……I don’t know what to call this blog. I don’t want to use words like “neat”, or “great”, or “awesome”. Its more like….a bubbly glass of Ginger Ale. Its got life and sparkle. Its got a unique life to it.
    Keep doing what you’re doing! I look forward to reading more of your posts. Continued success to you!


    • Hi Jeff. Wow, thank you so much for your generous comment! I love Ginger Ale! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my blog so far. Thanks for following!

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  3. I’m so grateful for emancipation. Not because now I have to work, too, but because I CAN should I choose to. It’s sad that we pile even more pressure on women nowadays, suggesting that because they can, they should have a career. On the other hand, some women might find that having children is just not for them and they choose their career over kids, and that should be fine, too. I’m glad for the choice, a choice in many ways men don’t have. A stay at home dad is still raising some eyebrows 😉

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  9. Wow, it’s crazy how when reading this I felt like you took my very thoughts. I have had many conversations with friends about the social pressure for women to go out and be successful business women. Now, instead of feeling the pressure to stay home and be a good wife and mother, we feel there is something WRONG with us if we want this. I, myself, have felt VERY confused by all of this. I feel the want to stay home, maybe blog for work…but then I also hate the thought of feeling like I have some sugar daddy (haha). I still feel the pull in BOTH directions. I am struggling to find a career that is on my own terms, like you are explaining, but that I feel fulfilled in, independent, and mostly HAPPY doing! I keep thinking if I could blog (I am blogging, but for money) and be a Crossfit trainer I would be super happy…so reassuring to read a woman who is all together and is feeling this conflict as well. Great blog 🙂

    • Thanks for commenting. It is definitely reassuring to hear of other women feeling the same way–that’s part of why I started writing this down! I know what you mean about not wanting to rely on a “sugar daddy.” I worry about that too whenever I consider having a freelance career. It’s a scary prospect to think of working and not having a steady paycheck! Your plan sounds reasonable though. I have definitely gotten to the point where I’m realizing maybe it’s not necessary to have one single career or source of income. Good luck to you and thanks again for commenting!

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  14. Dear Jean,

    I have no idea how I stumbled upon your blog but I am in awe. You have managed to so eloquently put how I feel onto the page. I am also twenty-eight, married, but I am a mother of two kiddos under the age of four and only have my Associates Degree. I met the love of my life just before choosing a major (so many interests, lack of follow thru) and am now a full-time mom with this big monkey on my shoulders (also known as the should-coulda-woulda’s), trying to figure our how to live a self-styled life while raising two children and struggling with perfectionism and picture-perfect ideals. It is such a blessing to stumble upon your blog and hear someone who can relate. I am sorry about the loss of your sister. I enjoy reading self-help books and learning about manifesting my own destiny but I recognize that so much of the good life is just being present and open to who we are (beyond purpose and doing) and recognizing our “ordinary” blessings. Thank you for sharing and I look forward to peeking in on your journey.

    • Hi Vanessa,
      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my blog so far! It sounds like we might have a few things in common 😉
      I appreciate your kind words about my sister, and I hope that my blog will continue to be useful to you!
      Good luck with your own journey!

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  18. Jean,

    I wanted to congratulate you on your courage. Saying ‘stay-at-home-mother’ is, generally frowned upon – especially, I find, in the education circles! Good on ya!

    Hey, 9-5 ain’t for me, either! Glad to ‘meet’ another like-minded human being. Thanks for this page, will be sharing it with others.

    Bless You and your husband!

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

      Haha, I’m not a mom (yet) but my husband and I definitely want to arrange things so that I will be able to stay home. As I said, I know so many women who are kind of “rebelling” against the taboo of staying home. Thanks for the encouragement (in advance ;)!

      • Oh gosh my apologies, I was thinking more of my fiancee and I (she’s a stay-at-home-Mom to our two children).

        I let my subconscious get away from me, I suppose. lol.

        Have a good day….

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  24. I found this extremely interesting and showed it to my husband.
    We have been married for almost 10 months now and one thing that I always told him was I just did not feel comfortable with the “expected” way of living: college, in debt, 40 hour work weeks, both husband and wife working.

    I’ve always had certain goals and areas I want to be successful in of course, but I do not think there is anything wrong with wanting to be a stay at home mom striving for other accomplishments.

    It’s funny how hypocritical people can be: yes there was a liberation movement, but shouldn’t that mean that we are liberated to live lives that fulfill us, whether that is being stay at home moms or career-oriented or whatever, but free of judgement?

    That’s an idea I like to ponder, because people in general can be so contradictory.

    Anyways, great post with wonderful writing that gave me plenty to think about. 🙂

    • Thanks for reading. You sound like my inspiration for starting this blog. So many friends of mine have been feeling the same way. It’s very frustrating to feel judged for not wanting to follow the expected path for today’s “modern woman.” I agree–we should feel “liberated” to make the choice that’s right for us, be it staying at home or working. It’s also hard to think outside of that box–to realize that there are alternatives to the mainstream way of making a living.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Good luck to you and your husband!

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  26. Very insightful. I can totally relate, having followed a similar path myself yet not really finding what I was looking for. I look foward to reading more!

    • Thank you for reading! Yeah, it’s amazing how many people I come across who are having similar feelings. I’m hoping that by talking about it all we might come up with some good ideas for ourselves! 🙂

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  28. Perfection. Sometimes Freshly Pressed delivers exactly what I’m looking for. Thanks for putting this out into the universe… hope you’re OK that I linked back to you from my blog??? Keep up the good fight…

  29. I coudln’t agree more with what you wrote. For me its the opposite—all my friends are pursuing graduate and post-graduate degrees in liberal arts or medicine, and the thought of me not wanting to follow suit is met with shock. This is inevitably followed by, “but you’re so smart, you could be x, y, and z!!” At this point, I feel like saying, if I choose to stay at home and pursue other non-traditional options (forget 7-3, 8-4 or 9-5), does that meant I’ve wasted my “talents or smarts” away?

    It seems that the successful career woman is epitomized in today’s society—more so by women than men. Again, I guess because its taboo to want the opposite. After all, women fought so hard for what we have now!

    Also, have you ever noticed how other women in the workplace also seem to place more value on work than home and family life? And then think something is wrong with women who don’t feel the same way…

    • Thanks for your comments. Yeah, it’s so hard to prioritize and figure out what will make us feel successful, regardless of anyone else’s measure. The comparison to our friends only makes it more confusing sometimes.
      It’s definitely hard to make your own decision when other people love to judge!
      Good luck!

  30. Well, one huge way to ensure a self-styled life is to forgo the child-bearing and rearing tedium altogether. Google childfree and see what comes up.

    The corporate grind isn’t for me. The 9-5? Puh-lease, it’s more like the 24-7 now. Good thing you’re looking now at ways to exist outside of this structure, or within it but in a different way.

  31. Hey, congratulations on the great stuff you’re writing here – I’m gonna recommend it to my wife. We both want to make our lives (or our passing through this Earth) more meaningful, for ourselves as well as for others.

    We think it’s about time people start to seriously turn away from all this crazy frenzy with the greed for money, power and narcissism. That’s killing both our planet (fastly) and the whole humankind (slowly).

    Will keep reading your blog from time to time. Wish you very well in your path and may happiness be your loyal companion all along the way!

    • Thanks for reading and recommending! I agree–I tend to think a lot of “problems” in society and for many people personally are interrelated (as you mentioned-the frenzy contributing to killing our planet and society).
      Good luck to you and your wife!

  32. Your thoughts here certainly resemble ones i have regularly. There is so much i can and am able to do in this life, but only so much time and energy. The biggest struggle is to set my own standards of contentment.

    • Thanks for reading! I agree–it’s hard to decide what is most important to us, especially when we are interested in (and good at) a lot of different things!

  33. Yes! This is exactly what I’ve been thinking I need to figure out how to do – live by parameters I’ve set for myself, not someone else’s (how can they possibly have my best interest in mind??)

    You’ve articulated the dilemma well, and I look forward to your future posts. Going to go hit the subscribe button right now! 🙂


    • Thanks for reading and subscribing. I’m glad you’re getting something out of this. I decided so many friends were talking about this that maybe it would help if we just started Really talking about it so that we could gain some strength and inspiration from one another!

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  40. Jean, thanks for this blog…I think about what you so well named self-styled life on a daily basis. Nada told me yesterday to check out your blog. I think we have so much in common in terms of our concerns and dreams…but I do know what it’s like to ask another woman to raise my kid so I can have the career I’m supposed to want. When I read you, I have the impression I’m reading an English version of my thoughts!

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