Lately I’ve been having a surprising number of conversations that go something like this…
-Are you married?
-Do you have children?
-Oh. I’m sorry.
Usually the person asking the questions is a relative stranger, and the conversation ends with some sort of awkward pause during which I’m not sure what to say.
Apparently I’ve reached an age where to be single is unquestionably indicative of some sort of personal failing (at best) or a massive character flaw.
And being childless (or child-free, as I prefer to think of it)? In a word, pitiable.
It surprises and saddens me a little to learn that so many people consider a woman’s fulfillment to be so singularly tied to marriage and children. This goes back to a topic I discussed earlier this year in Scare-City and the Single Life: The Future is Now.
On the whole, it seems to me that people who are married are not necessarily any happier than those who are single. Perversely, it seems that many married people live vicariously through their single friends, and those who are single long to find “the one.” It’s funny because most marriages nowadays end in divorce. So, is finding “the one” more of a fairy tale now than ever?
Maybe the real theme here is that a great many people are not satisfied with the here and now. They spend much time longing for the future, or the past.
I think living well has a lot to do with being satisfied with the here and now, rather than saying “I’ll be happy when….” This isn’t to say we shouldn’t have goals, plans, and hopes for the future. But if those get in the way of living fully today, or if we feel that life can’t start until we have the perfect partner or the perfect family, then we may be denying ourselves the joys of the journey.
Each stage of life has its unique pleasures. When we allow ourselves to experience those fully, we are truly living well.