Because of my work, I sit down regularly with single, young women. Single young women who want nothing more than a wedding ring, the kids, the house, the whole lot. And mind you, their wishes are never wicked or wrong. What they desire is not evil. What they hope for isn’t silly. They are not glassy-eyed about their future. They are not sitting across from me wondering where Prince Charming is. They are faithful young women. Hard-working. Funny. Beautiful. Smart. And they have done well to steward what they have up to this point.
And yet, I see it. When the water is poured again and they lean back after a dish is served to their friends. When they take a breath and their shoulders slump a little. After they’ve told me all of they’ve said of their current life, their work, their time, their goals. They don’t want to say it, for fear that admitting it will make them look weak.
“I know it’s silly,” one girl said. “I know. But…” she hesitated, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “I really just want to be married. To raise some kids. To take care of a home.” She’s almost embarrassed by the time she’s finished saying the sentiment. As if admitting it has made any impressive strength and wit she had faded away into a pile of proverbial laundry and dishes. As if she’s ashamed for wanting something so “trivial” and simple. “Is that silly? I mean, it’s really all I really want to do.”
We’ve gone so far down the road of feminism that we’ve forgotten how to proudly be feminine. You want to carry a child in your bones and lay down your life for them for more than 18 years? You want to lay down your life and learn to die to self for the rest of your life? You want to serve someone with all your heart, body, and soul? You want to master the art of cooking for a crowd and have clean clothes and end each day knowing that there’s a group of people who look to you as one of their anchors and rocks? You want to work your tired body from dawn to dusk for love?
How silly it is not. How trivial is no way to describe it.
I wish we loved the strength it takes for a woman to become a wife and a mother. We marvel at her physical strength when she births a child. But we forget what invisible strength she shows when she lays down her life for her home every day after that. Social media spends all of its energy telling women to remember who they are, to fight for their sacred spaces, to become the woman they want to be. All things that feel confusing when you’re holding a newborn baby and learning to forget your self-centeredness, allow others into your personal space, and become the woman that you are becoming and not who you thought you’d be.
I wish as a culture, we understood what happens in those four walls when two adults decide to sacrifice for one another, be good stewards of their money, welcome in guests, and raise a generation to know the heritage of the Lord. I wish we called it more than a contract, an agreement, or even a commitment to vows. I wish we called it holy, beautiful, other-worldly.
We’ve tried to make it easy. We’ve updated our lives with gadgets and gizmos aplenty. We’ve made our machines smarter. We’ve made our cleaning supplies more time efficient. We’ve scrubbed the hard work right out the door. We don’t even need to meal plan or grocery shop anymore. Fresh groceries can show up at our door, pre-measured, pre-planned, ready to go to the table within 30 minutes.
We’ve turned our properties into museums. Instead of well-loved they are well-liked on social media and we’ve forgotten how to create a home, and instead curate a scene for those who will never step foot through our door. We’ve replaced hard conversations with texts.
We’ve told husbands and wives that the primary goal of their marriage is their own happiness. We’ve sold them the lie that once it gets hard, tired, menial, once it gets weary, someone raises their voice, or someone says something they regret, that we can get out with a white flag that says “this just isn’t for me anymore.”
We’ve made love about sex. And sex about self.
When a woman says she wants to make dinner for her family, we crack a joke about June Cleaver and we laugh because who wants to waste their time with that? When a woman says she wants to stay home and raise children, we give a curt smile and say “But what do you really want to do with your life?” And should she decide to pursue that, other women will be the first to look down their noses at her, tell her she’s not adding anything, that she’s slowing down progress.
As if giving up your life for others isn’t an incredible thing. We applaud heroes on the battlefield, social justice workers on the borderlines, desperate souls who risk everything for the ones they love.
But marriage? Motherhood? Small living? Psh. *eye roll* It’s 2019, right?
As if the woman who chooses such things has given up. As if her internal engine doesn’t weary. As if she’s not feeling incredibly alone because all of her 9-5 friends have opted for happy hours and bursting bank accounts while she empties herself for souls who need every ounce of her life.
Children have become the last resort. The final hurrah for a marriage that spends years “finding itself.” Career trumps caretaker. Independence is king. Personal happiness above that insane idea of laying it all down.
This is not to say that those who can’t have children, don’t have children or who aren’t married are inherently wrong. I’m just wondering if we have to speak so condescendingly about those who have said the hard “Yes” to the humbling and long-term work of marriage and family. Can we stop acting like she’s chosen a simple and silly life? Can we stop talking about children like they’re soul-sucking, dream-killing, money-grabbing leeches on society? Can we stop treating wives and moms with the eye-rolling disdain that says “only the simple-minded woman would choose such an outdated path?”
We all buy into this narrative so much that when a 21-year-old girl sits across the table from me and tells me that she wants to be a mother, she blushes and gives a thousand caveats as to why she knows it’s not the optimal choice.
And yet — here’s what I know to be true. I’m nearly 36. I’ve carried two children in these bones and I’ve nursed them, held them, wept over them and because of them. I’ve planned meals for more than 10 years now for hungry bellies and bottomless pits. I’ve had seasons of scratching the bottom of empty bank accounts and seasons where I’ve forgotten to worry about money at all. I’ve forgotten myself entirely and sometimes thought of myself only and always too much.
Everyone in their 30s is talking about a rebirth and I’m still learning how to die.
But the souls that move in bodies in and around my home? They are a legacy and an investment that I do not ever regret giving it all for. When I’m weary and feeling empty, when my life goals feel lifetimes away and my body isn’t the one I hoped I’d have, I can promise you that I wouldn’t give them up for a thousand trips around the world, a perfect waistline, or a name linked to fame.
The world can forget me but they will not.
Last summer, while the kids chased fireflies and the men smoked pipes, while the bonfire’s flames licked the edge of the summer sky, my friend turned to me and said: “Do you ever feel like you found the secret to happiness?” Her long legs crossed, a toddler tucked on her lap, and she smiled. “You know — you see all these people out there chasing happiness? Adventure? Purpose? And do you think we’ve found it? Right here in our simple homes, good husbands, these kids…” she trailed off.
“I do think we’ve found it. It’s all right here,” I nodded back.
So my dear friends, as the poet Wendell Berry said:
“…every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.”
And don’t blush for saying that’s all you really wanted anyway.