never married, over forty, a little bitter


I went out last night with two of my single acquaintances to a lively event that lifted my spirits significantly.  I do think it’s really important to spend time with other single women in order to realize that you are, in fact, not the only one out there.

This post reminded me a little of my thoughts this weekend (although I wouldn’t describe myself as a naturally sunny person, I do think casual acquaintances sometimes see me that way):

My life is my own — marriage and especially motherhood make you utterly beholden to others. A wife must always consider her husband, and a mother must always, in some ways, give her life over to the needs of her children. Their schedules, their requirements, their moods… they dictate the ins and outs of nearly every moment of their mother’s day.

There’s no more leisurely reading, no more running out at the drop of a hat, no more deciding to go somewhere on a whim. Sleeping through the night becomes a major accomplishment.

And yet, I think, it must all be so utterly worth it when your child opens up his eyes and sees you there in the morning. 

So I remind myself of this: Of my independence, of the way that I can expand my mind and challenge it while it is still free of concerns over bottle temperatures and peanut allergies, when I can still go to a lecture without worrying about tracking down a babysitter, when I can make what I want for dinner or not bother going shopping for two weeks. I can sleep late and go away on weekends and dispose of my disposable income however I like.

I even try to convince myself that dating is fun — after all, almost all the men I’ve ever gone out with are good and kind, if not the man I should marry — and that my life has an excitement and variation my married friends somehow envy. After all, they sometimes tell me this.

And I see how hard marriage can sometimes be, and how one is forced to grow, accommodate and bite one’s tongue. It’s not all wine and roses.


…what I wonder the most is how I can bear all this — all this whining and kvetching and feeling ridiculously sorry for myself — and still be a bearable person? People tell me that I am cheery and sunny and funny, and men I’ve dated have even paid me the dear compliment that unlike so many other “women my age,” I’m “not bitter.” The sadness inside me apparently has eaten away only that which is too deep to be seen.

The worst thing is that those who are closest to me know, and must feel, the murk and the whining and the oh-so-not-sunny part.



When I visited with my friend, the new mother, today, I mentioned a good book to her, and she responded that she currently doesn’t have much time to read.  This is understandable, as she is also working full-time, but I wonder if she has, at least temporarily, lost her drive to read and write.

One of the primary motivations of reading and writing for me is the search for meaning.  With new roles as a wife and mother, my friend may not feel that motivation quite as keenly, at least at the present time.  Contentment may not be the greatest intellectual spur.

All this reminded me of the new Gateway Women post:

  • Being a mother is, perhaps, one of the most important jobs on the planet. Even world leaders, prophets and dictators answer to their mothers, for good or ill!
  • Being a mother in our culture is meaningful, has status and gets you out of your own way forever.
  • As a friend once said to me when she had her first child “I don’t have to worry what my life’s about any more” – being a mother is an existential ‘get out of jail free’ card. You’re off the hook, meaning-wise.

If you don’t have children, you can’t delegate the major part of your happiness, fulfillment and meaning to your role as a mother and your delight in your children. You have to do it for yourself. And the feedback loop is invisible – no cheery little people smiling and hugging you, no knowing smiles of approval from other parents, no special day in the calendar to tell you how wonderful you are and how much you mean not just to your family, but to the whole flipping world.

Whilst motherhood is a lifetime of hard work, the results are tangible (even if you don’t like them or they bring you great sadness) and once you have a child, irreversible. Creating a life of meaning as a woman without children is a promise to ourselves that no-one forces us to keep and which has to be renewed daily.