When I got home from my staff meeting today I went into my room, laid down on my bed, and cried for about an hour.
My week was long. My students were really demanding and needy. Not in a horrible way, just in a childish way. I haven’t slept well this week. I wasn’t in the mood to go to a staff meeting in any event. But I doubt there would be any circumstances where I would be in the mood to hear the following:
“Of course, this isn’t possible for those of us with kids. It’s not like having no commitments, flying off from date to date in the evenings.”
This comment did not go uncontested by another single faculty member, but I was done.
I am subjected to comments like this all the time. Last week my very ability to perform my job was called into question due to the fact that I have no children. Now apparently I not only have no children, I have no commitments. As each individual instance occurs, I can say to myself “it doesn’t matter, they’re not thinking about what they’re saying.”
So let me give you something to think about.
I am not married. I do not have children. But do you know what I do have?
Showers to take. Bills to pay. Meals to cook. Garbage to take to the dumpster. Carpets to vacuum. Floors to mop. Clothes to launder. Friends to check in with. Family to care for. Books to read. Walks to take. Appointments to keep. Trails to face. Anger to calm. Fears to face.
Does this sound familiar? Is it possible that my non-child-having life has the same fundamental requirements as your child-having life, only on a smaller scale? You see, there is a horrible strain of thought that insists that because I don’t have a husband and children to care for that I do not have to care for myself. That somehow being single means having escaped the general responsibilities of being a semi-competent adult. And that is simply not the case.
I have a ton of help from people I love (and sometimes from people I don’t even like). But for the most part, the basic functions of my life are solitary. This requires a particular disposition. No one thanks me for the meal. No one offers to clean the dishes for me. No one makes the bed just to make my day easier. (Okay, I don’t make my bed that often, but it’s because I like to sleep in a big messy disaster of blankets.) No one hugs me before I go to sleep. There is no exchange of love that sustains the home life. There is the simple dignity in a life well lived.
Would you like to know what I am? I am, to the best of my poor ability, a witness to living life in obedience to God’s will and not my own whim. Where someone to ask me if I preferred to be married and have children, or to carry on as I am, I would choose the former without hesitation. But that is not what God is asking of me at this time. He is asking me to be patient. And to give another perspective. I know that there is easy sex and indulgent distraction available to me should I choose it. I have times when I feel like a complete sucker for trying to hold my head up and live a life of purpose as a single devout Catholic. But I think the world needs women like me just as much as it needs mothers.
That picture of single-hood you get from pop culture may be a reality for some women, but it is not my reality. And that is by choice. I choose to be responsible. I choose to be restrained in my desires. I choose to be of service to others rather than to reduce other human beings to vehicles to be used for my pleasure and discarded.
Maybe the next time you’re inclined to brush off my existence as an endless string of suitors and cat-naps between drinks and dancing at the club, just stop. Stop and really look at me. Ask yourself who packs the lunch I eat everyday. Ask yourself who washes the blouse you just complimented. Ask yourself who hugs me when I have had a long day managing children, stumbling through math lessons, and replying to the incessant emails of over-eager parents.
Ask yourself what life I am actually living, instead of joking about the life you think you would be living if you were me.
Maybe my example could show you something something worth seeing.
(3 Years, 4 Months, and 10 Days Sober)