Saturday, April 14, 2012

"Enjoy life while you can!" -- Are we being well prepared for marriage?

It’s not every day your run across a piece like this: Harvard law graduate turned mother shares her thoughts about young women today being groomed to be executives with no real training for wife and motherhood. She shares thoughts like this:

Recently, a possibly tragic event took place: a highly educated young woman I know got married. Radiant in her delicate lace dress, full of joy and optimism about the future, this blushing bride was not yet aware of the reality of her situation: that she has been groomed through her many years of education to be, well, the groom – and this fact is very likely to cause friction for her and her family as she tries to achieve the deepest hopes and dreams of her heart.

My post doesn’t directly deal with Lea Singh’s thoughts, so I highly recommend at the conclusion of this, that you take a detour to her entire post, “The bride who was groomed for a career.”

She is quite courageous for speaking of this. But many Catholics might read it and say, “That really doesn’t apply. We’re quite pro-family here, thank you very much.”

But I have to wonder how much this really is the case.

To boil it down to the two extremes, (which of course are not the only two options on table), there seem to be two types of single women in the Catholic world. On the one hand, there are the husband hunters who are so intent on capturing a new last name that the man who is going to give her the title of “Mrs.” becomes a means to an end, an ironic object in the quest for marriage and motherhood.

On the other hand of the spectrum are the single women who want nothing to do with being a husband hunter and so are focused in pouring their all into where they are now – career, friendships, adventurous expeditions. And at first glance, this second option seems a good one – to be fully present to the place one currently is, to experience life with joy and creativity.

Such is all the case, and yet there is an inherent danger that must be avoided. In seeking to not self-identify by what is lacking in one’s life, one may become used to, trained in a sense, to view life in terms of what I do and what I experience – my job, my friends, my hobbies, my freedom. And the “my” mentality can lead to a tyranny of unintended selfish consequences.

So that when Mr. Right waltzes onto the scene, the single in the second situation may find it difficult to pry her hands off of her career, which she may love, or her weekend adventures, which a family may make a bit difficult.

But, at the same time, Single Lady #2 is doing something right in living her singlehood in joy and peace. But when she hears people say at every turn, “Enjoy it now, honey, because when you get married, your freedom will be GONE,” it can be difficult to envision marriage and family life as something attractive or worth making sacrifices.

I think the question boils down to this – why is one embracing her career, investing in hobbies, etc? Is it to truly live out this time of single life that God has given, or is it to escape something? Is it to take the attachment of Single #1 to the man of the future and to attach it instead to things – career, clothes, girls’ nights? Or is to live fully, to live present, to live with a detachment that says, “I am ready to sacrifice this when God invites me to do so.”

Instead of eagerly dishing out advise to Catholic singles to pour forth everything into career and “all of the opportunities you will no longer have when you’re wearing a ring,” perhaps we need to reconsider how to properly prepare for a married life of giving all away. How do we live singlehood in a way that doesn’t view marriage as a prison of “no more freedom” but as a lifelong gift of sacrifice and gift of self for others? Perhaps it’s as simple as occasionally skipping that $3 coffee and tithing the money instead, or of spending girls’ night in the soup kitchen to serve others.

Whatever the concrete details may be, I think we need to examine how the desire of Single #1 to live for Mr. Right in the future and the desire of Single #2 to live for something in the present can meet in Single #3 whose singlehood is very much a preparation for a vocation of service, without instrumentalizing Future Husband as the tool to achieve the goal. And if perhaps single life is perpetuated longer than planned or hoped for, then one can rest assured that she has been learning to live for God in a selfless way even though her concrete circumstances are not within an objective “Vocation.”

Now, if you’ve forgotten where that tangent began, you can return to Lea Singh’s thoughts here.

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