While I feel happy and proud of who I am and of what I’ve accomplished, lately, I have been feeling pressured to satisfy other people’s expectations of what my life should look like at this age.
I paid for my university education, I own my house and car, I have lived and traveled abroad, and I have a career that I am passionate about. I don’t ask for help; financial or otherwise.
Despite these seemingly life-fulfilling credentials to be proud of, why is it that many family and friends focus and remind me of what I do not have? Is having a husband and children in 2016 still the threshold and pinnacle of “making it”? Why have we allowed being a single woman who is childless in their 30s to automatically equate itself with being less than?
“Do you still want kids?” says a friend who is only just now pregnant and one year older than I am with her first.
Yes, I still want kids at my ripe old age of 32.
“You’ll get over it. He obviously wasn’t serious. Screw him. You should go online.” Apparently, now that I’m single, my life can’t have any value or meaning until I meet someone new.
There’s no time to allow yourself to heal after the pain of a breakup, or use this period of loss to grow and become stronger. I am encouraged instead to quickly find and fill that missing piece of what should make me whole again.
When you choose to be in a relationship in your 30s, you really believe in it. It is heartbreaking when it ends. Let us have our time with grief.
“I can’t even imagine having kids now” says my friend who is the same age and won the relationship lottery of meeting someone in university.
“Poor you. I’m so exhausted at the end of the day I would have no energy to have to go out for a date on a weeknight!”
“Wow. I wish I could have a day like that” another friend says, scoffing demeaningly.
This is the reaction I receive as I relay my plans on Saturday of going to the gym and making use of the pool and sauna after my workout. Taking care of myself instead becomes my frivolous, self-indulgent life that is clearly an extravagant luxury in the “real world”.
“Must be nice to be able to buy that” as I put my designer purse down on the chair next to me. I apologise for having it and make excuses by saying, well I don’t have daycare costs and I thought about it for a long time before I bought it. That is the correct answer to this mother of three.
That is the only answer acceptable from their single friend—apologising for having nice things. Apologising for being less than what they expect and need you to be.
“Why don’t you come over for tea.” Sure, that sounds like a much more riveting plan than our original going-out-for-drinks-downtown idea. Sure, I’ll come to you because that’s what’s best and easiest for you and your schedule. I’m just a single adult so I can always do what’s easiest and best for people who have real dependents at home. I can’t wait for tea.
Why are so many women my age made to feel incomplete and failed if we are single and in our 30s? Men are praised for putting their work first and seen as ambitious, lacking the time required for frivolous relationships with women that get in the way of their race to the top. Why are some women forgetting what it was like to be single?
Why can’t you let me enjoy being single?
Why is my life of going to the gym, spending an afternoon reading, meeting a friend or going on a date on a Wednesday evening (gasp!) for a drink, buying something I don’t necessarily need but like (sometimes retail therapy actually does work!) wrong?
If I am okay with it, please tread lightly if you are not: I’m not a spinster, or abnormal, or someone to be pitied or belittled. Yes, I’m single, but that doesn’t mean I’m “less than” someone who isn’t. Can’t we all just be positive and supportive of each other, regardless of one another’s lifestyle?
I invite you to try to enjoy and celebrate in my life the way I do for yours. I will spend countless hours at events that relate to your reality. Weddings, dress fittings, bachelorettes, baby showers, first-year-old birthday parties, baptisms; the calendar is endless! Why is it incredulous to have you go out of your way to do something that would benefit my life?
Pencil me into your calendar, too.
And please, for the love, please, let us talk! We need more talk time.
It is not always fascinating for us to listen to you speak at length about your child’s gymnastics schedule, or the woes of breastfeeding, or the drama with your spouse’s ex and mother of your stepchildren, or the consistency of your child’s poop that morning.
But life isn’t supposed to always be a roller coaster of excitement. We embrace your mundane. We listen. We ask questions. We know to do this because this is your reality—because you are our friend, or our family and you are important in our lives.
Try to give the same courtesy back. Feign interest, at the very least. We can talk for days about so many things, but we need to be asked. Correction. We need to be asked more than just “are you dating anyone?” Probe deeper.
As women we sometimes have the tendency to talk solely about what is underneath our personal umbrellas. By nature, we are caregivers and conversations can naturally become all about that. We must leave room to discuss politics, current events and ideas. I crave intelligent and thought-provoking discussion and debates. I need it in order to be fulfilled in my relationships. Don’t you?
My Facebook newsfeed is already flooded and inundated with your life. Isn’t that enough news to project onto others? I rarely post to begin with, but when I do, try to go out of your way and press that like button even though it isn’t a selfie and you think that my traveling or health article is less than important in your reality. Press the like button. Show me that you care about my life the way I almost get carpal tunnel from liking yours.
Am I where I thought I would be 10 years ago?
Are any of us where we thought we would be?
Being single does not define me. I know and fully endorse that life is designed to be lived in two. Trust me. You are constantly reminded of this.
And I do want that for myself. But I am waiting for that person.
There is something to be said for having lived on your own independently and the person it helps you to become. I really know myself.
I have been in many relationships and have grown and fostered a better understanding of the mould of a man that I desire and that I can fall into. I’ve loved deeply. I’ve lost greatly. I’ve grown immensely.
I don’t just want children—I want a life partner. I just haven’t met him yet.
This is my reality. It may not be yours—but it is mine and it should be praised and celebrated, too.
Instead of judging, comparing, and criticising, women need to celebrate and support the many different ways that we live our lives. Make room for the other.
There is so much to learn from each other. Let’s not lose sight of the importance we each bring to this relationship.
Author: Ashley Yvette
Editor: Erin Lawson