Thought For The Day:

“I’ve been single for awhile and I have to say… I think I’m the one.”

Emily Heller

Question For The Day:

Will you live fully with or without a family?

This post was written at the urging of a dear friend who was one of my aces while an undergrad at Howard University.  Twenty years later she is still my sister from another mister and she (like most Bison women) is still doing her thing.  One of the most amazing things about her is that she made the decision to become a doctor in her thirties after realizing that life was calling her higher.  While many others would have just chalked such an intimidating ambition up to a pipe dream and kept plugging along in mediocrity, my beautiful and brilliant sister friend, went after that dream and achieved it.  She recently completed medical school and is currently working on building her practice.   She is everything we women should strive to be: successful, accomplished, and living on purpose all while making the forties look fabulous!  She also happens to be a single woman with no children.

Now as you read that, let me ask you to be honest with me.  How many of you were intrigued and inspired as I told my friend’s story, up until the point where I informed you that she was unmarried with no kids? Was there any part of you that went from being impressed to feeling sorry for her because your mental reflex was to judge the fact that she is a single woman in her forties?  Of course, I know people who read Get Lifted Girl,  would never be that petty (sips tea), but we all know those less enlightened sisters “out there” who keep Steve Harvey books loaded on their Kindle and live for scouting out their Mr. Right and watching their biological clocks. These women might look at my friend much like they probably look at themselves.  Yes, they may have a couple of degrees, be the head of their department at work, or be a successful entrepreneur all of which is “cute,” but for them there’s still not really much to brag about unless they can prove themselves capable of locking down a husband and a baby to seal the deal.

If you are backwards enough to read my friend’s story and still furrow your eyebrows and pout your lips to say “aww, poor thing” then allow me to challenge your perspective.   Why are men seen as whole people with or without a family, while women are generally reduced down to a ring finger and a uterus and the occupancy of either seems to determine if the whole being is worth anyone’s time?   Why do we herald the mother of four in the trailer park as a strong example of womanhood, but dismiss the single CEO as bitchy and not in touch with real emotions?  Why is the burned out, suburban soccer mom the standard for achieving the American dream over the financially independent, single businesswoman who is killing it in the board room but somehow still considered flawed because she remains “unluckly in love.”

This post is for women like my friend who’ve spent many nights studying, rehearsing, working, praying, and putting one foot in front of the other despite an arduous uphill climb. Though their efforts to finally secure that PhD, breakout role, medical degree, or  passing score on the bar exam are unquestionably meritorious, they’re still forced to dodge countless inquiries from ‘mama and nem’ who are proud of their baby but wonder when they’ll get down to the real issue of finding a husband and  having a baby already!  Is that fair, or nah?

Here’s the thing, as a wife and mother I can attest that being married is cool (most of the time)  and having children is a wonderful experience (most of the time), but what if it simply ain’t for every woman?  I can remember some pretty cool things about being a single woman with no kids also.  I’m frequently envious of women who have the freedom to travel or change cities if they are so inclined.  It would be awesome to get aggravated with your man and opt to just ignore his texts but in a marriage you still may be responsible for washing his dirty drawers no matter how pissed you are.  I miss dancing until the wee hours of the morning and sleeping in on weekends.  There is beauty in not having to answer to anyone or be responsible for anyone else’s behavior or choices.  When you’re unattached, you not only have the right but the ability to put yourself first and you don’t have to wrestle with the guilt of deciding to indulge yourself in the face of other’s needs.  Truth be told, though we wives and moms like to gush about how fulfilled we are, most of us long for more because contrary to what’s politically correct to admit, there are indeed limits to what you can do with your time, energy, and money when you have a family to support.  The Struggle is Real

I know most of us were programmed to expect marriage and motherhood to be the pinnacle of the female experience.   Why else would our well-meaning mothers and aunties buy us all those baby dolls and encourage us to ‘take good care of them’ while little boys were chastised for even looking too hard at a doll.  We women were supposed to go away to college and come back with not just a degree but hopefully a suitable husband where men were encouraged to focus on their studies and sow their wild oats while supplies lasted.  If a man decides that he does not want a wife and children, he is seen as the illusive mystery man who’s the ultimate challenge for a woman on the prowl.   Yet if a woman decides she’d rather go it alone and keep a variety of companions on deck, she’s given the side eye and assumed to be promiscuous, defective, and apparently not worth the effort of pursuit.

Women who may have grown up as children of divorce or who are naturally introverted and independent, may not see the need to attach themselves to anyone else and may be fully capable of enjoying their own company. Other women like Oprah may be aware of a high calling on her life and can accept that they will not likely reach their highest career potential if distracted by a husband and family.  Men choose excellence in their profession over a half-hearted attempt at being a family man all the time, yet somehow it’s against the woman code for us to do the same.

Another double standard is that men opt out of parenthood every day.  I wish more wouldn’t wait until after they already have kids to do so, but I’m not talking about the Maury Show deadbeats today.  I’m talking about grown, gainfully-employed, established men who make the conscious decision not to become fathers.  We women might not like that, but we have to respect a man who knows what he wants and doesn’t want and is upfront about it.   Yet when a woman decides she is not interested in motherhood, she will often receive dumbfounded looks like she’s morphed into some kind of two-headed monster.  What’s up with that?

As a social worker, I can appreciate and respect any woman who recognizes they don’t have what it takes to be the best mother possible and chooses to save an innocent child the heartache.  In fact, I actually worked in adoption at one point and was a birth mother counselor.  I would offer support and counseling to women who voluntarily placed their newborn child for adoption.  The choice was not easy for any of them but it seems understandable for a woman with limited financial resources to choose adoption.  However, I did run across a few women who probably could have supported their child financially but were honest enough to admit that they were too busy, too focused on their career, or just flat out too selfish to give a baby what it deserves.  I know the motherly instinct we’re all supposed to have might have been riled up as you read that, as mine was when I first started in that position.  However, as my time in that position continued, I learned to develop a deep appreciation for those women.  To decide that someone else is better equipped emotionally and mentally to parent your baby takes a tremendous amount of self-awareness and self-acceptance.  The tragedy would be in recognizing those deficits but still moving forward with motherhood knowing the child will pay the cost for those limitations.

Maybe you are a woman who wasn’t able to enjoy your childhood or you had responsibilities placed on you early in life and now that you are able, you want to enjoy your life, have fun and celebrate your freedom.  Or maybe you’re just not a kid person.  You ain’t for all that crying and sleep deprivation and don’t want to come in contact with anyone else’s bowel movements but your own.  Who am I to judge?  Heck, there’s a reason nannies are in high demand though all of us can’t afford them.  So, if a woman knows she is not likely to enjoy the often tedious, sometimes gross, and mostly chaotic underbelly of motherhood, wouldn’t it be better for her to just own it?  If for you the sacrifice to your lifestyle wouldn’t prove worth it, then invest in some birth control and press on with your journey.   Life can be fulfilling without children and you can go in peace knowing that you are not loading unhappy children into your life’s baggage and making them responsible for weighing you down.

The bottom line is this.  Please stop judging single women “of a certain age” who are not married and don’t have kids.  Moreover, if you are this woman, please stop judging yourself.  There is no rule that says you have to get married and have kids!  If you insist on imposing this standard on yourself then the quality of your life will always hinge on whether or not it comes to pass.  Don’t waste your life minimizing your successes and delaying your progression because you are waiting for a family to complete you.   We all tend to obsess over what we want added to our lives and live in fear of what might be taken away, yet there’s something critical to remember.  Who we were born to be is valuable and that value remains constant no matter what else is added or subtracted from the equation.  God lives in all of us which means we lack nothing.   I encourage all women to stop running from singlehood and recognize that one is as whole a number as any.

***UPDATE*** Since this is a rebooted post from 2015, I have to make you all aware that the friend I mentioned at the top of this post, is now happily married.  So let the record show, doing YOU is an investment that will always pay off. 🙂

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