I follow a blog called Rage Against the Minivan, in which the author hosts a series of guest posts called “What I Want You to Know.” Readers are encouraged to submit stories from their own lives “in hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face.” It is a great blog and a great series. I posted one to Facebook about miscarriage (which was beautiful and very insightful), which in turn led a friend of mine to peruse the blog and share one about singleness on Facebook.
Although I was a few years younger than the author when I met my husband and got married, the post brought back painful memories of the years of waiting. She stated so many things about singleness so well. But there was something that I wanted to tell her, and the rest of my single friends. This is what I said on Facebook to my friend who shared the post:
Okay, I just finished reading it and there is one thing that I would say to the author (and to my single friends, and to the single ME a couple of years ago): Being married is wonderful. It is awesome to have a partner in life, someone who is on your side all the time. Being a mom is also wonderful (extremely difficult, but wonderful). Being married and being a mom also will not satisfy me. I will probably always be wanting the next thing in life (right now, I think that being graduated and living in a space with more than one toilet will make me happy). It doesn’t take away my anxiety, or my self consciousness. If anything, I have felt WORSE about myself being a mom than I ever have before. But that doesn’t make the longing for marriage and family any less, or the waiting any easier. And it is a good longing, by the way. And I pray that all of the awesome single women I know meet awesome single men and get married and have awesome babies, just as I know people prayed for me for many years.
But there was still something about the post that bothered me and it didn’t hit me until later. In the post, the author says this:
What I want you to know is when I attend the women’s’ retreat at my church, and meal after meal I sit with women who complain and roll their eyes and make fun of their husbands and children, and they talk about how thrilled they are to be away from them, what a drag they are….I would switch places with them in a heartbeat.
This bothered me for two reasons. First, it pains me to think of Christian women rolling their eyes and making fun of their husbands and children. I know this happens, and that it becomes some sort of twisted camaraderie between married women and mothers. It is not appropriate, and I would encourage women (and myself) not to do so, and to communicate disappointments, annoyances, etc. to their spouses instead of their friends.
But the second thing is what really stuck under my skin like a splinter. I would say to this woman that her vantage point is limited. Yes, women may talk to each other about their husbands and children. But don’t think for a moment that as a single person you have any clue what it is like to be a wife and a mother. I had no idea until I became both. Like many other women, I had romanticized ideas of what my life would look like once I was married with children. Some of them have turned out to be true, but a lot of them haven’t. I had no idea how hard it would be to tend to a screaming baby, not knowing what the hell I was doing and feeling completely inadequate and exhausted. I had no idea how it would hurt to fight with my spouse (although I have to say, we fight pretty fairly and not too often … I thank God for a good communicator). I had no idea how hard it would be to realize that just because things aren’t done MY way, doesn’t mean Philip doesn’t do them well (or how hard it would be to let him do those things instead of always taking over). I had no idea that as a couple we could still feel really lonely with a new baby, once the initial wave of visitors and well wishes was over. I had no idea how abandoned we would feel by single friends and married-without-children friends (not that they are necessarily at fault, but we just can’t go anywhere after 6 pm). I had no idea what it would feel like to basically be a shut-in, staying home to make sure my baby gets the naps she needs.
So, to the author, and to all singles, I say this: Please, when you hear women talking about how thrilled they are to be away from their kids, know that this women’s retreat (or whatever event) is probably the first time that they have been away from the demands of house, husband, and children in months. Know that it isn’t easy to just get out and have coffee with your girlfriends. Know that those women love their families, and instead of jumping to conclusions about their level of love and devotion to them, see these “complaints” as a cry for help – for someone to identify with. Being a wife and a mom is HARD, and they need to know that they aren’t the only ones who are struggling. They need to know that that they aren’t doing a bad job, and that their children will one day stop pooping in inappropriate places. Look them in the eyes and say, “It is harder than you imagined, isn’t it? Tell me about it.” Listen to them, pray for them, and for the love … go to their house and talk to them about something that doesn’t involve baby sleep patterns or Dora the Explorer.