On Being a Woman: And Not Being a Wife and Mother


Your personhood matters apart from your relationships.


I was teaching the students in our youth group the other day when I caught myself saying something I instantly regretted—something that I often heard when I was a student. We were talking about loving our families well and how difficult it is. I said, “Learn to love those you share a house with now because how you love your parents and siblings now is how you’re going to love your spouse and your kids one day.

It’s not untrue, but I wish I hadn’t said it.

After I wrote my first post in this series, I had a friend message me about her own story of not fitting in the church’s “box” of womanhood. One of her frustrations: being single and feeling like less of a person “until she got married and had kids.”

After my friend and I shot messages back and forth, I thought back to all the times as a teenager or college student I heard “when you get married and have kids…” over and over again. I didn’t realize at the time how subtle and insistent these messages were. It didn’t often occur to me that marriage and/or kids might not happen for me, and that if they didn’t, everything was going to be okay.

That is the reality for so many of my good friends, male and female, who do not fit into the married-with-kids box and feel not quite good enough. They are mostly a person, mostly an image of God, but when they find a spouse, they will be totally there.

But I look at the prophet Anna in Luke 2, who lost her husband after seven years and spent the next eighty-four living in the temple, devoting herself to prayer, waiting for Jesus. Her devotion wasn’t so that she could someday be a better wife or mother—she never became a mother (that we know of) and she never married again. Her devotion was so that Jesus could be lifted up, and He was.

So there’s just one message I have in my mind today. I intended it originally for women who didn’t fit into the box of “wife” or “mother,” but as I think about it, I realize that it’s a message we all desperately need to hear.

Your personhood matters apart from your relationships.

God made you a full person, fully in His image, regardless of the spouse or the kids you may or may not have one day.

I was told countless times as a student that young men, when they were thinking about a wife, wanted a woman who knew how to do domestic things like cook and clean (Yeah, we can talk about that advice later. I wish I would have taken the chance to inform everyone that I, too, was looking for a spouse who could cook and clean, but anyway). I already loved to cook, but I developed some sort of compulsion to cook better, to be impressive, to make sure I was one of those eligible bachelorettes that got snatched up and was a complete person.

I wish I had been told “Cook because you love it. Cook because you reflect the Creator in creating delicious meals. Cook because a meal brings people together and nourishes them,” (Or, you know, “Don’t cook, and do whatever else it is you do that serves others and reflects the Creator,”).

We don’t preach virtues as a means to an end. The character that the Holy Spirit is developing in you—whether you are married or single, with kids or without—the fruit He is growing, the gifts He is giving, are valuable in and of themselves, not just for your family or someday family.

Becoming loving, patient, caring, forgiving, and kind through the power of the Holy Spirit is a good thing regardless of if you ever have a spouse or kids to share that with. Maybe you’ll be more patient with yourself, maybe you’ll show love to your barista, maybe you’ll forgive co-workers. Or maybe God just wants to develop those virtues in you to reflect His love and kindness.

So when I think about the students in our youth group, I wish I had told them, “Love your family because of how God loves you. Love your family because it’s what He asks of you. Love them because you’re always going to have to love difficult people. Love them because they are special.”

You are a full person, a full woman, a full Christian outside of being a spouse or parent or the potentiality of being a spouse or parent. Whatever the Spirit is developing in you is good, in and of itself, and He will use it for your good, for the good of the world, and the good of those around you.