Thoughts on “The New Single Womanhood”

6 Jul

I read an article this morning in Salon (by far one of my most favorite online publishing sites) called “The New Single Womanhood”. At first fascinating, the article makes several points, while following a variety of memoirs, about how the new urban womanhood is increasingly defined by an arguably more “glamorous” lifestyle that is both man-less and childless.

She talks of a hip, single gal who twirls her globe and jets off to the country her finger lands on—Lisbon—and lives a no-strings-attached, highly successful young adulthood unencumbered by screaming babies or cheating husbands, a life uncomplicated by the drudgeries of domestic work and childcare and working, constantly working, on maintaining a “happy marriage”.

I’d be lying if I said that type of lifestyle doesn’t stir up an occasional pang of jealousy.

On the flip-side however, the author writes, and I might say, nails my sentiments exactly, with this little piece:

“In so many ways, for so many of us privileged enough to make the most of our sparkly new opportunities, those years offer an exuberantly selfish scope for our ambitions, the chance to mold careers, social circles, homes and selves from the still-gloopy clay of late adolescence. But that doesn’t mean that the stretches of time in which we work to make ourselves into who we’d like to be aren’t also dispiriting and terrifying and frequently kind of boring.”

And I agree. There’s something inherently lonely about a life lived for just you. And while it would be nice to not have to share my bed with an 8-month old, a 4 year-old and a very ugly dog, it would be really depressing not too. I’ve found that as my personal responsibility has increased, whether through the addition of another child or by the demands of being a financially independent single mother, my life might become less glamorous but is becomes ten-fold more meaningful, more momentous, more satisfying. There’s a certain amount of peace that comes with know that after you die, a little piece of you lives on through your children; the capstone to a legacy even.

And this isn’t to say that not having children leaves some kind of void in a person’s life, because I know several happy single, childless people, both men and women. But for me, the idea of flying to Lisbon and spending two weeks alone sounds miserable, depressing. This new kind of happiness I experience is the kind that’s born from others’ happiness, my baby’s smile, my kid’s laugh. The idea of showing my sons the country of Lisbon is much more gratifying than just seeing it myself.

The real happiness in life, at least to me, is the act of sharing experiences with someone else, whether it is a partner or children, or both. Otherwise, it’s as if those experiences never happened, no one to recount memories with, no one to offer an alternative perspective on something. In a word: just “no one”.

So the concept and glamorization of the “New Single Womanhood” really does nothing for me. Except maybe make me appreciate the many blessings and responsibilities I experience every day and for the little people who color my world and make everything look that much more beautiful.

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