While visiting family during the Christmas season, I took the time to visit a close family member. After only being in this home for about 20 minutes, my sister and I, traveling together that day, were shown a closet door adorned with various holiday picture greetings. Our immediate family member then directed our attention to a more open area above the pictures and smirked, “And this spot is for pictures of our future nieces and nephews.” I won’t lie that it hurt, and I will note here that my sister and I are not featured in any photos in this immediate family member’s home.
Said sister and I are in our 30s—and I am edging even closer to 40. We’ve endured several comments and judgments about not yet marrying, yet we’re still not making that commitment lightly for very good reasons. Divorces abounded with our parents, and we’re survivors of many familial addictions and injustices. Sure, had life unfolded differently for both of us, we would be married, and I’d always imagined being a mom. But somehow we’re right where we need to be for now. And sometimes the constant remarks and questions get a bit difficult to endure.
Single, No Children: Who’s Your Family?
Now that Americans spend more years of their adult lives unmarried than married, and as women continue to have fewer children than they did in the past (or none at all), the question of the place of family in the lives of singles without children becomes increasingly important.
Do single people without children even have families? Many assume they do not.
~Bella DePaulo, “Living Single” in Psychology Today, March 2010
Many of my friends know the following related story, and it’s now easy to share in a humorous light. My dear Grandma Schreck, bless her heart, had all of us female granddaughters choose a pattern for a nice, 16-setting collection of silverware when we were merely 13 or 14 years old. We were asked to choose our “pattern,” so when we married, she could gift us our lovely set of silverware for our wedding. I remember her asking me twice if I was sure I wanted such a simple pattern. “No roses or anything fancy?” I recall her questioning. Like many young girls, I was groomed to assume that marriage and kids would just… happen. Many years ago, while visiting our paternal aunt for Christmas, my closest-in-age sister and I were pulled aside and told that Florida-resident Grandma had sent some boxes for us (we lived in Wisconsin). We were then told, in words perhaps not quite exact but sure to relay Grandma’s dissatisfaction with our unmarried status, “And Grandma sent your silverware sets, saying she’s not sure if she’ll be alive when you finally get married.” I most remember the tone relayed from Grandma and these words; my sister and I were hurt, feeling like Grandma and others had given up on us, then in our 20s, still not married. But on the brighter side now, I’m grateful for a wonderful, full set of stainless steel silverware and can chuckle with this story. I even have some great serving spoons and forks! A pie server! Unfortunately, Grandma Schreck did pass away five years ago, but I know she’ll see me in that eventual partnership from the Other Side.
Adding to my earlier story, I’ve experienced exclusion from gatherings, invites, celebrations because I’m unmarried and/or without kids. It gets old. Even my main nanny kids (almost-three and five years old) sometimes inquire, “When are you going to have a husband and have kids?” I’ve been a bridesmaid six times and supported and attended countless bridal and baby showers. Additionally, I need to mention that Facebook, which I joined only last year, has an interesting way of making some of us question why we’re not in a space that may seem commonplace (ex. marriage and kids) among so many “friends” and even those we admittedly google.
But here’s the beautiful part: I’m actually doing okay. I don’t know how else to be, really. Primarily, I’m trusting. I’m content and know that I’ve got to be in my best place and just can’t waste too much time pining for what I might not have in my life quite yet.
Listening to a recent radio show with host Marie Manuchehri interviewing Sue Frederick, author of I See Your Dream Job and I See Your Soul Mate, and career intuitive, numerologist and coach, I resonated with Sue Frederick’s remark that those of us still not with our partners often are not doing the “work” we came here to do. We may not be in perfect places when we meet our Mr. Partner (that’s my latest reference and desire) or Ms. Partner, but I can only imagine that when we’re doing more of what we want and staying on the Path we know is ours, we’re in a much healthier, more receptive place of romantic relationship. For me, I need to write and read more, and I need to get into a better, healthier space with my employment; overall, though, I’m spiritually, physically and emotionally in a place where I feel healthy, overall. Some people are willing to settle, some are happily married and fulfilled, and I want the latter and refuse to just settle.
My main declaration here is that while I may not fit certain people’s status quo, I really hope that certain family and friends and even strangers can see what I am doing with my life and not forget that while I see the value of and truly desire a romantic partner and children, I’m also trusting my life path as it is right now. We may not always know why others’ lives may not fit our own expectations or desires, and it can be easy to judge, but why? Our goals keep us going, and our goals keep expanding and changing. I’m not giving up.
© 2012 Erika M. Schreck. All rights reserved.