A friend of mine recently sent an article with the title "What People Don't Tell You About Freezing Your Eggs." After three long blinks and mentally slamming my head into my keyboard at work, I asked myself, "Should I be thinking about this?"
The thoughts and emotions that flooded in all before I even clicked open the link reminded me that there are millions of anxious women having feelings just like this. Feeling as though the dream of a loving marriage and family could end up being just...a dream. This fear of never finding true love, or having the kids they've always wanted is very real for many women. As I thought more intently about this fear that I didn't necessarily share, I recognized that it isn't purely natural, but there are outside influences that make singleness, for women in particular, dreadful.
American society plays a major role in how us gals view our unwedded lives.
There are thousands of movies on love and romance, finding that special someone, or being "lucky" enough for them to find you. The strong emphasis on being "chosen" makes it oddly taboo to discuss being single, as a woman, especially to do so fondly. It's a topic that isn't as welcomed in girl chats as it is in guy groups, and because this status isn't affirmed as much in women, ladies everywhere are urged to feel the way popular culture tells us to feel about it: miserable. It is often this urge that causes women to remain in relationships much longer than they should, or to rush from relationship to relationship without much or any time for reflection and healing in between.
Then there are those that are actually in relationships, married, or with child. Perhaps without even trying, many of them use language that elevates those titles over others. How many captions have you read from a new wife or mom that go something like, "I'm finally complete" or "Now I know what true love is" or 'Motherhood gave me purpose"? And it's not just women who do this. I've seen some damaging statements from men also, that are along the lines of, "You become a man when you become a father." How might that man or woman with reproductive issues feel when reading these?
If he's never been able to help produce a child, or if she's just had her 9th miscarriage, is he or she any less of a man or woman? Of course not.
There's also this stigma that if you're of a certain age and single, that something must be wrong with you.
I've heard so many conversations over the years where a woman who seemingly has a lot to offer is picked apart once it's known that she's single. Comments like, "She must be crazy," or "I wonder what she does to run men off" are prevalent in these discussions. What a flawed, but common way of thinking. In case anyone reading this doesn't know, there are women out here that are literally choosing. Women who could jump the broom at the snap of their fingers but would rather wait until she finds the one her very soul adores, or focus on her own wholeness, instead of rushing to keep up with the world's timeline. Go figure.
I have a somewhat unique perspective, having been on both sides of this pendulum. I've been engaged before, and have experienced "wedding culture" with nearly everyone around me treating this experience like it's the best one that will ever happen to me, when in actuality, ending that particular engagement was! Since being on the other side, I've found and am still finding, such freedom and joy in truly discovering me, my interests, my goals, my heart's deepest desires, without the influence of another person.
It saddens me to hear women discuss their singleness like it's a curse or a punishment - it is neither. If treated well, it is an incredible time of self-discovery and refinement.
I asked my mother a couple years ago, what was the hardest part of marriage to her, and her response has stuck with me ever since. "I didn't realize how much 'me-time' I'd have to give up," she said. "Once I got married, all the time outside of work was shared with your father in some way. Even if I did things by myself, like going to the grocery store, it'd still have something to do with him because now I have to think about what he wants in there. Then the kids came, and I completely forgot what 'me-time' was."
Now, my parents have been happily married for 38 years (TODAY actually), so it's safe to say my mom wasn't lamenting, but just highlighting a very real point. In case I wasn't catching on, she ended with "Enjoy this time alone, 'cause once it's gone, it's truly gone." That advice didn't make me shun marriage, but it did give me a new appreciation for my singleness, knowing that this incredible time to be selfish is precious too.
I wish I could change the narrative of what singleness for women in particular should look and feel like.
It shouldn't be a sad, dreaded experience, but an invigorating and empowering one. It should be a time of growing and learning from the inside out. And it doesn't have to be riddled with any of the various "phases" that people suggest women should experience in their singleness. Along with wholeness, you can be completely liberated without the intimate company of another person.
It's a fairly common misconception that romantic relationships are the only ones that grow you. I'm thankful for the friends around me, male and female, who push me and make me a better human. Don't take those opportunities to be sharpened by platonic relationships for granted. You can learn compromise, patience, forgiveness, faithfulness, TRUE LOVE, and much more from ya own homies, and I'm learning more everyday. And if you plan to be in a relationship or married someday, it's a good idea to work on these qualities with your friends, your family, your coworkers etc., because they won't magically appear when you're boo'd up.
Society encourages women, in particular, to justify our significance based on marriage and children.
We've been influenced to feel that singleness is a lesser position, and our greatest hope should be that we're one day chosen by someone else. Call me a rebel, but I just can't surrender to that way of thinking about such a sweet time in life! We don't have to play by those rules. Romantic love is one of the MANY things, to be enjoyed in this life, and so is singleness.
Singleness should be treasured and spent well.
I LOVE love, and I deeply value marriage and family. But I desperately want women [people] to know they can and should be whole without either. Romantic love is a desire of my heart, but an even greater desire of mine is to have a life where if it never happens for me again, if I never birth children of my own, or any other of my many hopes, that I am happy, whole, and complete; trusting the God who knew my end from the beginning.
I strive for the apostle Paul's level of fulfillment in being content (satisfied) in whatever state I'm in (Phil.4:11), and I hope the same for you. And if we are not first whole ourselves, we'll never be the wives or mothers we were (possibly) meant to be anyway.
*Article originally published on Joya Smith