Dear Single a Girl: Don’t Waste Time; or How Who I Am Factors into being a Stay-at-Home Mom

Miles and I have started doing “school time” together a few days a week.  I know, I know…he’s only two.  Let me assure you…it’s really simple and laid back and only takes about 20 or 30 minutes.  And we’re both loving it.
Admittedly, I may be loving it slightly more than Miles.  For those of you don’t know, I’m actually a certified elementary school teacher.  I only substitute taught and never had a classroom of my own, but that background and training is there.  After a few years of mostly cleaning up messes and trying to keep a semblance of order to our house, and years before that working in a completely different field (accounting at a furniture manufacturer), I’d almost forgotten how much I really did enjoy teaching.  
You see, Miles’ school time is, for me, all of the things I loved about teaching without all of the things that made it hard and, on certain days, downright awful.  I love fueling his curiosity and seeing his mind expand and grow.  I love scouring the Internet for ideas.  I even really love planning out units and making lesson plans.  
I know, that’s all nice and everything, but what does that have to do with single girls?  I’ll tell you:
Recently, the idea came across my Facebook feed that if your dream is to be a wife and mother, then your days are best spent at home being a “homemaker” and helping with siblings. Essentially, practicing being a wife and mother.  Honestly, that saddens me.
You see, I am very blessed to be able to be a stay-at-home mom and homemaker.  I love what I do.  But there’s also so much more to me than just changing diapers and cleaning toilets.  I have specific interests, passions, and abilities that make me uniquely me.  Granted, there are seasons where there isn’t much room for all of those things.  But they’re still there inside of me, and at some point they have to be allowed to bloom or myself as a person will wilt inside.  
I’ve shared how I’ve struggled with some PPD.  Somewhere in the midst of that I lost my grip on my identity…who God created to me.  Yet, I’ve been watching myself come alive again planning and researching and teaching. I’ve been pulling out the stuff I learned in college, long since packed away.  I’ve been rediscovering and refining my “Philosophy of Education” (you education majors will know what I’m talking about).  In short, this one small thing of doing school with Miles has made me feel the most alive and like me that I have in awhile.  I no longer feel like just a mindless robot who cooks and cleans and changes diapers.  The most beautiful part about it is that I’m still doing all of those things.  I’m still a stay-at-home mom…only now what that looks like is altered by who I am as a woman.  And you know what?  I wouldn’t be able to say that if all I’d ever done before marriage and babies was cultivate the domestic arts.  
So, if you’re single and wondering what you should be doing with your time, I’d tell you to ask yourself these questions: What are you good at?  What would you like to improve at?  What makes you feel alive?  
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a wife and mother.  And there’s nothing wrong with learning to cook, clean, and take care of kids.  Yet, I’d venture a guess that there’s much more to you than just that.

Pursue your passions.  Work hard at something.  Stretch yourself.  Someday when you’re a wife and mom, you’ll be glad you did. 

Searching vs. Desperation

Marriage is a very beautiful and wonderful gift.  There is nothing like going through life and serving side-by-side with your partner and best friend.  It is a rich blessing, and something that should rightly be desired.

I talked last week about how dangerous and damaging desperation can be for a single woman.  I’d like to clarify, however, that seeking a spouse is not the same thing as being desperate for a man.  If we as women truly desire marriage, then sitting back on our heels and waiting is not the wise alternative to desperation.  I don’t feel that it is wrong in any way to put yourself in positions were you’ll meet nice, godly guys with similar hearts for the Lord.  God has put desires in your heart for a reason.  While we have to wait on his timing and trust Him, sometimes we also have to actively seek…and there is nothing wrong with that.

There is a big difference between seeking and being desperate.  When you’re desperate, you’re eager to find just about any guy.  When you’re seeking, you are actively looking, or at least keeping your eyes peeled, for a man who you’d be a good fit with.  Desperation consumes your time and your life, whereas seeking merely takes up a small portion.  With desperation comes a willingness to compromise who you are to “snag” a guy.  Searching  involves finding out who you are and what you believe, and looking for someone who matches that.

Here are some ways that I have found for single women to seek a spouse without becoming desperate for one:

Don’t hide away at home.  When I was a teenager, I worked with a guy who took a Pilates class in college.  He was quick to admit that he was only taking the class because he wanted to meet girls.  He knew something that a lot of single Christian women miss: getting out there, being social, meeting people, and making friends is one of the best ways to meet and get to know nice guys.  Shocker there, I know.  Aside from the plus of meeting men, I don’t believe God called us to lock ourselves away in service to Him.  He called us to be lights in the darkness, a city upon a hill, and He also emphasized the importance of fellowship.  So go to the young adults ministry, take a class in something you’re interested in, or sign up for a mission or service project. 

Take pride in your appearance.  Disclaimer here: I am in no way trying to say that you need to dress a certain way or weigh a certain amount to get a guy.  I don’t believe, however, that we are doing ourselves any service by dressing frumpy or carelessly.  As Christian women, we are daughters of the King.  As such, we are representatives of Christ to this world, and we should dress accordingly.  Balance is key.  The term “modesty”, while skewed slightly in modern thinking, merely means to not draw attention to ourselves.  We can draw attention to ourselves in more ways that one.  What are we portraying when we are dressing showily, revealing too much of ourselves, dressing legalistically, or masking the beauty that God has given us? 

The other benefit to all this, of course, is that a man who is truly seeking and following the Lord will notice your confidence, dignity, and true modesty of dress.  Let your dress and your appearance reflect who God created you to be…a unique and beautiful follower of Christ.

Be joyful.  Have you ever met someone that was incredibly beautiful, but whose critical or angry spirit made them entirely unattractive?  Conversely, have you met someone that is far from beautiful physically, but whose joy, compassion, and love made you want to be around them?  We must learn to be joyful and thankful every day, in every season.  Guys aren’t looking for a woman who’s dramatic, whiny, or depressed all the time, and acting that way only demeans the wonderful blessings that God has given us.  Our outward attitude should mirror our inward redemption.

Pursue interests and be diligent.  No guy will be interested in a boring girl, or especially one who doesn’t really do much.  Laziness is very noticeable.  If you find yourself lonely or bored, chances are you’re wasting a lot of time on frivolous, self-centered activities.  Instead, try your hardest to become a well-rounded, diligent woman.  Take the time now to carve out and develop the passions and talents God has given you. 

Portray the best version of yourself.  With the advent of social media, it’s easier than ever to portray yourself as something or someone that you’re not…even if you’re not meaning to.  If you want to be seen as the mature, confident woman of God that you are, portray yourself accordingly.  Don’t post your life’s drama or your constant loneliness on Facebook.  Don’t act ditsy or write with pseudo-babytalk slang (mature guys are not interested in girls who act like babies).  Don’t post 5 million selfies.  Avoid long-winded posts full of unnecessary facts, and steer clear of petty controversy.  Don’t overpost, either…this makes it seem like you don’t really do much all day except Facebook stalk.  If the most interesting part of your day is seriously what you ate for breakfast, then chances are you’re not living to your full potential anyway.  

Consider actively seeking.  There are more websites out there for adults looking for a relationship than ever before, and I’ve known many happily married couples that have met that way.  While Andy and I didn’t meet through an official “dating website”, we did meet at a conference put on by a social networking site.  There’s no shame in that!

I love the line from Win a Date with Tad Hamilton where the one gal tells the other that her dad always told her, “Your odds go up when you file an application.”  It’s so very true.  You may think that actively seeking a spouse like that is taking things out of the Lord’s hands.  I don’t.  I firmly believe that if you’re meant to meet someone online, you will, and if you don’t, then at least you learned something about yourself.  The same goes for just about any other way of trying to meet someone.  Ask friends and family to be on the lookout for you (hey, my parents met on a blind date!).  Join a singles group.  Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.  While God can bring you a spouse in the most unlikely of ways, if you’re never in places where there are eligible young men, then you may find yourself waiting awhile.  The more people you come in contact with, the higher your chances are of meeting just the right man for you.    

God has a very special plan for you during this season of singleness, no matter how long it lasts.  Know, though, that if your heart’s desire is to be married, then there’s absolutely nothing wrong in seeking a spouse while you’re doing what God has for you at the moment..  Search out what the Lord has for you in this season of singleness, but don’t cloister yourself away.  Become the best possible version of yourself, put yourself out there, and then let God do the rest.

Desperate

As a single young woman, I was desperate to find a husband.  For as long as I could remember, my biggest goal in life was to be a wife and a mom.  That dream only grew as I was exposed to more Conservative groups in my later high school years.  Any other aspirations I had faded in light of the all-encompassing calling of being a helpmeet.  I decided to go to college, but only so I could get a teaching degree that would help me homeschool my children with fewer problems.  I worked a part-time job, but the rest of my free time was spent scouring blogs trying to figure out how to dress and act to snag a nice “Conservative” homeschooled boy.

Looking back, I wasted precious time.  I was so focused on my goal of getting married that I missed out on much of the work that God had for me at the time serving others.  I was so desperate for a man that I didn’t even have a clue who I was or what God was calling me to do with my single years.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a spouse.  The ache in a woman’s heart for a man is normal and natural.  The problems come when that ache and that dream become the driving force behind your actions and your time.  Desperation to get a guy is a terrible trap, and one that I see many Christian girls falling into.

The first reason desperation is so common is that, like I said, that ache is natural.  It’s not wrong or shameful, but it must be fulfilled in God’s perfect timing and way…not ours.

The second is that the Christian subculture has put almost too much emphasis on a woman being a helpmeet and mother.  Single Christian woman find themselves portrayed as less important than a married woman because they have yet to achieve that “highest calling of womanhood”.  Single Christian young women in very Conservative circles have it even worse because, oftentimes, they are taught that having any other career ambitions are wrong.  They are encouraged to stay at home and “prepare for marriage” with no idea when or if Prince Charming will appear.  As the years pass and they watch friends marry off, they wonder what’s wrong with them that the “highest calling” hasn’t come to them.  Oftentimes they struggle with loneliness, aimlessness, and depression.

Finally, there is a huge emphasis placed on wives submitting to their husbands, a biblical and wise exhortation to be sure.  However, this teaching is often used to encourage young single women to bend to a man’s wishes and to be the only one compromising.  This is not good either.

It’s no wonder that these single women end up desperate for a man, and desperation can be a very dangerous and damaging thing.  You see, when you’re desperate to catch a man, your focus shifts from meeting and evaluating guys to trying to become what a guy “wants” in order to snag him.  As a single woman, I was an expert at changing my dress and speech to suit the eligible guys around me.  I was willing to compromise on a lot of things.  If a guy thought women should only wear skirts, by golly I would have been the best skirt-wearer that ever was.  If a guy thought women should never work outside of the home, or that any form of preventing pregnancy was wrong, I would have jumped right on board.  It didn’t matter that none of these were my own convictions.  If a guy was actually interested in me and was convicted about those things, I would have compromised completely, asking nothing in return.

I’m so glad I married a man who doesn’t want me to wear skirts all of the time, has encouraged me to work outside of the home at certain times, and who isn’t of the “quiverfull” movement.  Not that any of those things are wrong, I just know now that I would have regretted giving up all of the things that I was and I believed for him.  I know that, had I done all that compromising, I would be bitter today.  I would go along with all those standards outwardly, but inwardly I would be dying to just be the woman that God had called me to be.

Desperation can also blind us to the calling God has put before us for today.  When I first started classes to become a teacher, I saw them as a means to an end.  The funny part is, I ended up loving teaching.  Through it I came to have a heart first for the children, then the people of the rural county in which my husband and I now reside.  While I am no longer in the season of teaching in the schools, that heart carries over to my new passion for reaching the young moms of the area. 

Similarly, there are other talents and passions that I have only pursued and developed since getting married.  If I had wasted less time on trying to be somebody that I wasn’t when I was single, I would be a lot further along in my development.  You see, although my biggest task right now is marriage and motherhood, there are other talents and passions that God has put inside of me, and He has done so for a reason.  These are the things that make me uniquely me as God intended.  They are the things that now make me the wife, mother, and woman that God intended me to be.    

The right guy will love and respect you for exactly who you are and what you believe.  You will love and respect him for the very same reasons.  You may not agree on everything or have all of the same convictions, but the compromise will be mutual, not one-sided. 

My husband likes to say that he wasn’t “desperate to get married…but he was desperate to marry me”.  Don’t be desperate for any guy…be desperate for the right guy.  Be desperate to marry a man you agree with and believe in.  Be desperate to find a man who you can be a partner with in life.  Be desperate to marry a man who loves and encourages you to be the woman God created you to be, and not a man who wants you to be what he wants in a wife.  By all means, be desperate…just make sure it’s the right kind of desperation.

In the mean time, seek out the other passions and skills God has gifted you with and pursue them.  Find out what God wants you to do with your time right now and do it.  The places that serving God will take you are the very places where those “nice” eligible guys end up.  What better way to meet a spouse than by serving God side-by-side with him?

I don’t really know if every young woman can truly be “single and content”, as the phrase goes.  What I do know is that God has a unique and awesome plan for every woman in a season of singleness.  Don’t waste that plan on desperation.