By now you will have seen that meme that's been knocking about for a while. You know the one: “My parents at 29: Let's buy a house! Me at 29: I'm going to eat this pill I found crushed up on the floor.” Or, my personal favourite: “My parents at age 25: Let's get married! Me at 25: Nooobody, nooobody, nooobody, nobody, nobody, ooh nobody, nobody, nobody.”
The meme is supposed to be a self-own that highlights the differences between generations. While boomer and Gen X mums and dads were apparently out there building their own houses and having 2.5 kids and a dog by their late 20s, those who are now a similar age are simply trying to keep their succulents alive and spending the last of their rent money on Nintendo Switch games and DMT off the darknet to smoke in their vape.
Is it really like that, though? Did our parents feel conventionally and existentially “sorted” by their late 20s? Were they not also murdering their plants and eating pills they found crushed up on the floor (I have never done that, by the way, except once)?
To find out if the memes speak any truth whatsoever, some of us rang up our parents to ask what they were actually doing at 29.
Mum of Hannah Ewens, VICE UK Features Editor
“When I was 29 my first daughter – you – were three and I wanted to have another. We were just about to move to the Isle of Wight and were getting all that ready, to sell our flat in London. I was going to give up my job – it wasn’t a career and I had a daughter so I didn’t mind. Once you’ve got kids, that’s it – you do lots of kiddy things, taking you out to the park. We had a little paddling pool on the balcony and some artificial grass.
I was picking you up and taking you to nursery and then watching telly when you were asleep. Your dad’s mum was down on the island so he wanted to be closer to her and I was quite happy to go. I thought it’d be nice to live by the seaside and I didn’t have a career so thought I could just pick up some job a few years down the line. I can’t say I was doing anything exciting like climbing up Kilimanjaro or sailing around the world in a yacht or something.”
Mum of Daisy Jones, VICE UK Associate Editor
“I was reaching the end of a relationship. We had moved to North London and you were just beginning high school. You used to hang out with me a lot back then. I was training to be a complementary therapist because I had to find a way to support us. I was on benefits, but in those days they gave you free training as well. So I set up my own massage business with The Prince’s Trust. Then when you’d stay at your friend’s from school, I’d go out and party hard. But that didn’t happen very often – once every couple of weeks? We had a really nice life at that point. I quite liked it then.”
Mum of Rhys Thomas, VICE UK writer
“At 29? I was out every weekend, drinking and smoking. I’d been a nurse for five years and before that I was a carer. I left school at 16. Oh, and I was having you! I stopped drinking when I found out I was pregnant. Didn’t stop smoking though, sorry. We were living with family while waiting to move into our first home together, which we had a mortgage for. We’d been married a couple years.”
Dad of Serena Smith, VICE UK writer
“29… I would have been living in Cambridge. I had bought a house in London when I was 26, sold it and then bought a house in Cambridge along with my sister and brother-in-law. It was a little terraced house, with a little sitting room and kitchen and two bedrooms upstairs.
I was working as a manager at [accounting firm] Coopers & Lybrand. I enjoyed it, I had fun. I think at that point I was also thinking about what I wanted to do in the longer term because one thing that happened when I was 27 was my dad died. That sort of shook up my view of what I wanted to do, and when, and all the rest of it. I was in that sort of frame of mind when I was 29.”
Mum of Gina Tonic, VICE UK Writer
“When I was 29 I was married with three kids and a mortgage. I'd applied to go to university - and gotten accepted - for being a nurse, but wouldn't start until I was 30. I was also working as a part-time carer, too. I got married at 21, which I feel people don't do anymore. I don't get that jealous of this generation who do things later on, because I always wanted a family and I'm not very adventurous in that way.”
Mum of Hatti Rex, VICE UK Social Editor
“I'd got you as a toddler, was pregnant and having a house built. We bought the land to have our house built and you and I went to live with your nan and granddad and your Ddad went to your grandma's. We moved in around March and [your sister] was born in June. I sat on the stairs at the new house and cried and told your Dad I didn't like it (cry laugh emoji x 2) – think it was my hormones. Bet he thought 'FFS'."