Saturday, April 21, 2012

Words and the Single Woman

A couple of weeks ago I posted about things that people need to stop saying to me since I have become a working mother. I wanted to make it sort of a feature, to allow others to post about their own niche in life and what words make them feel disparaged. The ultimate goal is to be more respectful of people in all walks of life.

I put the offer to guest blog out; the first response I received was from my friend L. I was curious what she would have to say because she occupies a very unique position. L is a doctoral candidate in Christian ethics; she is single with no children. Christian ministry in America is a world that is largely dominated by married, hyper-conservative, men. What things does L have to deal with as a woman in that world?

I found her comments insightful, and I hope you will too. Although some of them are specific to Christian women, there are many that I think would hit home with any single person. These are L's words and thoughts, and I ask that you respect them even if you don't agree with them.

Stupid Things People Say to Single, Never Married Women without Kids…

1. It’s Sunday. The pastor is encouraging people to pursue missions or some other avenue of God’s calling and directs the message toward, “All you single people and the youth group…” I am 34 years old. I teach graduate students. Many of my best friends in life are 10-20 years older than me. The one time I was part of a church singles group, the group had physicists, biologists, NASA employees, actors, teachers, physical therapists, accountants, and professional chefs. Our youth group days, although memorable for some of us, were over. Being single does not make me less mature than someone who is married and, therefore, deserving of being grouped each Sunday with the middle school and high school students (even great kids that they were)! It also doesn’t mean I have zero responsibilities and am automatically more free to pursue God’s calling than someone who is married. Being single simply means I’ve had different life experiences. I still have a job (sometimes multiples ones), bills to pay, a home to care for, relationships to maintain and people whom I must protect and care for—often doing it alone. When I’m sick, I take care of myself. When I come in at night, there are dishes, laundry, meals to cook, and trash to take out—and, unless I have a housemate, there’s no division of labor. It ain’t high school and it sure ain’t middle school, and answering God’s call sure isn’t giving up “nothing” in comparison to others. Treating single people as less makes no sensetheologically. First of all, is it only the people you see as “less” than yourself (implying they have less to give, so it should be easy for them) that you want to consecrate to God? Secondly, the doctrine of imago Dei should tell us that all who are created in God’s image are valuable, so quit treating single members of the human family as less than your equals (and young people, too, while we’re at it) or as less than adult, implying they are fancy-free with no responsibilities.
2. “When I was single, I was really selfish. You should get a relationship, so you stop being selfish.” Guess what? If you say something like that to a single person (tying their moral virtues solely to marital status, without even looking at the fruit of their life), you are are likely still selfish…. and insensitive… and just plain rude. Most of the single people I know are far from selfish. They volunteer, they pray for others, they call their friends when they’re sick or going through a tough time, and they care deeply about others. Would you like us to point out how selfish you are, when you take no time for your friends, expect them to babysit so you can go out (assuming that they have no life), or idealize the single life to meet your own unmet needs in your relationships? No, of course not. Such a generalization would not be fair. It’s certainly not fair for anyone to categorize a whole group of people as selfish. Jesus, Mother Teresa, and the Apostle Paul were all happily single, my friends. And, by the way, it’s also not really good to treat marriage like a detox treatment for “moral character flaws.” That might be...ummm... well, selfish.
3. “You must not be good with kids” or “I could never listen to advice about kids from someone who doesn’t have any” or “You should volunteer in the nursery and get some ‘motherhood’ practice” or anything along these lines. First of all, I’ve worked with several hundred kids on a professional and volunteer level. I might know a thing or two about getting them to take a bottle, changing diapers, or discipline techniques that worked for me. I’ve logged a lot more hours with kids than many parents do before having their first one. Secondly, the church nursery for one hour on Sunday isn’t motherhood practice—don’t make me a sinner or spiritually and immature and being married doesn’t make a person sin-free or spiritually and emotionally mature. Also, having different life experiences does not make me in any less need of a job or less qualified unless you want all applicants to be exact clones of your own life experiences. No one’s life experiences will be exactly like yours, but if they are a mature individual, who can emphasize with others, care deeply for them, and they have a decent amount of problem-solving skills and wisdom, God can use them, regardless of marital status.
9. And let’s not forget comments on the other end of the spectrum (ironically, sometimes from the same mouths): “Since you’re single, it shouldn’t matter when you take your vacation, if you have to work overtime, etc.” I have people who want to spend time with me, too. I have plans. I deserve to be treated with respect. The division of labor in the workplace should never hinge on marital status, but on job skills and qualifications. If I work there, I should receive the same privileges and consideration as anyone else.
10. “When I finally surrendered to God, he gave me the mate I desired.” The last time I checked, singleness was not a state of sin, nor was the desire to love and be loved. Quit implying that someone has a superior relationship with God based on marital status or that there’s some kind of magic, “spiritual formula” to getting married—God is a God of mystery, love, and goodness. I’m not single because he’s punishing me, and you’re not married, because you have some special knowledge of him that I haven’t figured out.


  1. Hey Angela dont worry dear! Live your life and be happy.
    When I married many years ago we want kids but not right now, I work and dont worry me.
    But year after year the kids dont arrive.
    Go to the doctor (Horrible) I made for my hubby I was ok but all the time the people asked me why you dont have children?? (I said we cannot) well time after (13 years after married) we have the opportunity to adopt, (I wasnt sure) but I really feel God send me these kids, yes were twins! (lol) 4 month later I was a mom of twins and I never I think could happens.
    The people asked (you will have other?) only to show you the people always comment something.
    They have now 17 years a boy and a girl, and make me suffer now cause are teens!! terrible, but we have to be patience LOL
    I shared with you because Im older than you and when people asked me why we dont childs I feel different (silly me) but with the time I understand God has an special road to us and only He know, loads of love, gloria

  2. Gloria love you your sweet for sharing and a fab mum
    Hi L nice to meet you great points :-)

    Angela fun idea for a post like it

  3. Rebecca at Chow and Chatter sent me your way. So glad I found you. I'm your newest blog follower. :)

    Thank you for this thought provoking post. I think that no matter who you are or what life choices you make, there will always be someone ready to criticize you and to voice a judgement on your decisions. L's thoughts on the matter are interesting and well framed.

    In the end, I think it comes down to this: We should all be working on being the best possible versions of ourselves. We have no place judging others and, ultimately, it doesn't matter what others think of us. What matters is that we are doing the best we can with the circumstances in which we find ourselves at any given time.

  4. its sad that people tend to made assumptions or judgements on who we are... based on the choices we make... what can't they just let us be... I started facing such people ever since I had a child and made the decision to continue working.... Looks like these kind of people say something judgmental to everyone... Now whenever I hear such things, I realize that its not me who has the problem just because I don't do as they see fit... But its them cos they are judging unnecessarily... and incorrectly... That way, I don't feel like I have to retaliate to such comments and fight for myself..


Thanks for your comments!