It was the morning of our fourth Memorial Day as a married couple, and I was excited to spend time away with my husband and some dear friends. As one of them approached our front door, she looked dejected. The good time we had been anticipating seemed in jeopardy, and I was concerned for my friend. I asked, “What’s wrong? You seem so sad.” She answered, “My darling single sister just called. She is dreading this holiday. She will be alone and is thinking of ways she can stay busy.”
Those words brought a surge of memories. I recalled the many holidays I had spent alone and how often they had been painful. I remembered seeking out friends to be with and places to go and how lonely I had been.
I love all occasions when people come together to rejoice: weddings, luncheons, reunions, and get-togethers. As my younger sisters married, I eagerly attended every shower and luncheon. At one event a guest, with sincere caring, asked, “Don’t you feel bad? Isn’t this making you feel sad because you’re not getting married?” I realized friends were beginning to view me, in my early 30s, as an old maid, “a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit” (3 Nephi 22:6). It surprised them that I was so pleased with my sister’s happiness. I was totally enthralled and did not want to miss one precious moment.
As time passed, however, my feelings became more tender, and the holidays and parties took on a new significance. As a young woman, I had imagined my future with a husband and family, with ideas about how I would prepare my home and how we would enjoy every moment. When friends all around were getting married and my dreams had not materialized, I felt abandoned and distraught. My life was not turning out the way I had planned. I was confused and disappointed. I had believed it would all be so different from the way it was.
With the passing years, holidays served increasingly as reminders of unfulfilled dreams. It became more painful to be alone during them, particularly because I had not adjusted my expectations. I longed for a white Christmas with little children, a Thanksgiving surrounded by friends and family, a Valentine’s Day when I was someone’s sweetheart, or at the very least, a Fourth of July under the splendor of exploding multicolor fireworks with a date I enjoyed. Even those who are married and have all they need to create fun holidays find out that events often transpire quite differently from what they had anticipated. I wanted every holiday to be a perfect experience. Such expectations are destined to cause disappointment. Holidays were especially precious to me because they were often the only days in the month when I, as a consultant who traveled continually, could be assured of being home.
One single sister commented to me, “I hate the thought that well-meaning married people and priesthood leaders will read your book and assume that all single women are waiting for invitations to Christmas dinner and dreading Memorial Day weekend and Mother’s Day. I get inaccurately pitied enough.”
Singles don’t desire pity, because it robs them of their personal dignity. I have chosen to write about the holidays because for me they were sometimes tedious and often lonely. I believe that for others, whether married or single, this may also be the case. The holiday may not even be the day of concern; it might be any day when any of us need a friendly greeting and an uplifting hand.
Single Women and Mother's Day
Holidays can awaken emotions that relate to our eternal roles. Mother’s Day is just such a day. This precious day arouses within us an awareness of the sacred role of women. It can also serve as a reminder of the children you do not have and the blessings yet to come. As Latter-day Saint women, we have such a deep and abiding conviction of family that this day causes some single women to stay away from Church and to have a day at home to reflect and regroup. I often felt on this day that my life was not where I wished it to be; it seemed a reminder of blessings I didn’t have. Many mothers, married and single, have shared with me that this day is difficult for them, too. They feel regret and worry over children who struggle, are rebellious, or unhappy. I came to realize that motherhood is a great blessing, but this period of waiting for the gift proved an enormous blessing, too.
Included among my Mother’s Day memories is a very tender experience when I sat in Relief Society among noble, valiant women whom I loved, and my heart melted because of their feminine tenderness. I began weeping, not because I wasn’t a mother but because Heavenly Father had bestowed on me the gift of womanhood, and I felt so blessed by it.
Sister Julie Beck, Relief Society General President, in her general conference address “A Mother Heart” provided me with a reminder of our purpose on earth as women: “Female roles did not begin on earth, and they do not end here. A woman who treasures motherhood [and treasures being a woman] on earth will treasure motherhood in the world to come, and ‘where [her] treasure is, there will [her] heart be also’ (Matthew 6:21).” Women who treasure womanliness and motherhood experience joy on this earth because of their eternal perspective. “As they keep their covenants, they are investing in a grand, prestigious future because they know that ‘they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads forever and ever’ (Abraham 3:26).”
During our stay in the Philippines, I witnessed firsthand the great power that faith and the motherly love of a single woman can exert. In one of my auxiliary training sessions in a very humble ward with few resources, I asked if any single sisters were present. A tiny, elderly sister stepped forward. She was about four feet, eight inches tall, weighed only 90 pounds, and had an enormous smile on her face. She bore her testimony about the joy of service and her opportunities to teach and serve. After the session ended, many sisters hurried up to the front of the room to help me put my materials away. These sisters were leaders in the stake as Primary, Young Women, and Relief Society presidents. They surrounded the tiny sister who had borne her testimony and began to hug her, saying, “We are her children. She never had her own children, but she was our Primary teacher, our Young Women teacher, our Relief Society teacher, and our friend. Like a mother, she helped us, loved us, and taught us our faith. We are very much thankful for her.”
Lead image from Shutterstock
In a Church that is focused on family, singles can feel somewhat discounted and discouraged. Oftentimes the very resources meant to support people can inadvertently cause pain. In the bookA Single Voice, author Kristen Oaks addresses questions such as:
What is “the single best thing you can do” as a single person in the Church?
Are there ways to ease the transition from a singles ward to a home ward?
What are some specific ways to make single life happier and more fulfilling?
What are some tips for coping with the unique challenges of holidays?
What are the key decisions that singles need to make?
A Single Voice addresses these concerns and offers valuable insights, personal reflections (including the story of the author's courtship and marriage to Elder Oaks), and rich advice for living life to the fullest as a single member.