In my religion, there is nothing more valued than the family. To be a spouse and a parent is the ideal. So naturally, members get married young and have lots of children. Typically, the father works while the mother is the primary caregiver of those children. According to this premise, I am the ideal. I got married when I was 21, I married a man who served a mission, and I take care of our daughter. I have the ideal life with the ideal man serving in the ideal role.
And it is unbelievably hard.
I got married at 21 but I probably had the emotional maturity of a 13 year old going through puberty. I married a man who served a mission for our church who had his own flaws and idiosyncracies. I’m a stay at home mom and it can be boring and exhausting and hard hard hard.
I was thinking about this during the last hour of church today and I realized that while the roles of wife and mother should be valued, and I’m grateful that they are, they are not the only ways to have value or be valued. I am also a daughter, a sister, a friend. A woman.
At 21, though, I was still a girl in many ways. I thought marriage would solve all of my problems. I would feel good about myself if I had a husband. I would never have anything to complain about if I had a husband. Nothing could ever hurt me, so long as I get married.
Imagine my surprise.
I didn’t suddenly mature because I got married. Feelings of self-worth didn’t come rushing into my psyche because I was now a Mrs. Marriage made so many things about my life better but it didn’t automatically change the person I was. And I didn’t value myself as a single girl. I wasn’t okay being alone and I wasn’t going to suddenly be okay because I was part of a pair. I’d waited my whole life to have value. Fortunately for me, 21 years isn’t so long a wait to find out you’re wrong about something. But I feel bad about the time wasted. The time I could have spent becoming okay with myself; I’ve had to do that with a spouse and a child depending on me.
I’m glad that family is so important; it should be the most important. I’m grateful for my parents and my siblings and my husband and my daughter. My family. But families are made up of individuals who have worth and potential and who are good enough on their own.
I know now that you can’t wait to have value. Don’t say “I’ll be happy when…” because there will always be something at the end of that sentence. I’ll be happy when I have a boyfriend turns into I’ll be happy when we’re engaged, I’ll be happy when we’re married, I’ll be happy when I have this, this, this, and this.
I know now that I can be happy now. When I’m with Ella, when I’m out alone, when Matthew is out of town, when he’s sitting right next to me. I don’t have to wait for it.
I know now that we all have worth in all of our circumstances. Married, single, divorced, widowed, whatever. We have value because we’re daughters of God and that never changes, ring on your finger or not.
I know now that I can’t be defined by other people. My worth is individual, it is constant, it is real.
And finally, I know now that there is value in the non-ideal.
Happy Sunday, everybody.