Get Acquainted Dinners, the amazing social and epicurean feasts spearheaded by Ann Jarboe, happen about twice a year in order for new folks at Heritage to learn more about the church and UU in general. They are a good time to learn more about people that you’ve known for a while at Heritage. Les Tacy commented to me, “I love learning more about my friends at these!” This last G.A.D. was a luau and after feasting, we went around the table and spoke some about ourselves, focusing on our religious upbringing and what led us to Heritage and UUism. We also spoke about what kept us coming back. My story in regards to all that isn’t my focus here, but rather it was a phrase that was said that got me thinking. Kay Inskeep, in her introduction, referred to herself as one of the many “Single Married Females” here at Heritage.
I’d like to talk to that here. It’s a clever oxymoronic phrase, but is loaded with a lot of meaning. I am one and there are many. We’ve probably never given it much thought, as it’s just a reality, seemingly unremarkable. But these ladies have a struggle that is ongoing and ever-present that deserves a remark.
A “Single Married Female” (and this could go for males as well) is a person who is married but comes to church without their spouse. Their spouse either has a different religion or does not practice a religion at all. If they have children of school age, this means that they bring their children along, too, hoping for some moral guidance and religious community for them. There are a lot of personalities to take into the equation and it is different for each couple. But there is always a delicate balance that must be maintained between church and family in regard to time and energy given.
As members of Heritage, there is an expectation that we give of our time and energy. Rev. Leslie shared an article with the Board of Trustees lately that brought up the comment that the word “volunteer” does not fit when asking members to help out. It equated that with asking a dad to “babysit” his own kids while mom went out. The idea points out that volunteers are outsiders that help a cause, whereas church members are a part of the church family, so it is just helping out. When everyone gets on board with this, the phrase “many hands make light work” comes to mind.
As a SMF, I look at the many married couples at church and envy them – not in a jealous, spiteful way, but more in an appreciation that they get to share all this together. Even my single friends at Heritage, I see their independence as a nice unburdened freedom to give freely without worrying about keeping that delicate balance. Along with time and energy, there is financial support that is expected to maintain our church home. For married couples attending together and for single folks, making the calculation of how much to give is a bit easier as you are in it together or you are the only one deciding.
I have always struggled with trying to not make my husband mad with either giving too much money (he is the one that makes the bulk of the money) or giving too much of my time. Oh, I hear some of you thinking, “It’s your money too!” and I get it but still that fear is there. He did not grow up with any religion and sees the big megachurches as scams to make the pastors rich. I am not married to a controlling beast mind you and he has never said anything to me about it. But it is a worry that I have.
He has complained about the balance of my time though. Any week night that I am away, he is stuck babysitting the kids! I KNOW RIGHT?! It shouldn’t sound like that, but it is. I am the one who plans and prepares dinners, so if I’m not home, then he needs to have that extra duty. Nine times out of ten, he orders in pizza, and as much as the kids don’t mind that, it’s not ideal. My home on any given day isn’t the tidiest– they say that is a sign of a genius, right?! And I’m not a messy person by nature, but I just do not have the time to dedicate to closet clean-outs and finding proper homes for stuff. I need to keep on top of the laundry and dishes and once I get those caught up, it just starts right back over again. I’m like poor Sisyphus pushing that rock up that hill! My husband would rather I clean out closets then plan church events!
My mother-in-law once complained to me about my sister-in-law. She said “She really just doesn’t keep house well!” This made me super angry. I wanted to point out that maybe she should have taught her son to help out more. But it’s a fact that for generations, the wives were expected to do the housework and the child rearing. At least now we don’t have to do it with perfectly done hair and in pearls and heels! I’m excited to see how the next generations share in the housework and childcare. I will teach my son and daughter differently. He to be a partner and she to expect a partner! Or to go it alone? I just do not want them to feel entitled to have everything done for them.
But there it is: the struggle to maintain balance between church life and home life. Sometimes the scale tips one way or another, but it can be done. But give us some grace now and again as we really truly want to do ALL the things with you but we can’t. We treasure our time with you and we are grateful to our spouses for sharing us with you! If you ever see our spouses, often it is at a rare social gathering, it’s ok to tell them how great we are or the great things that we do. I say this jokingly, but really it does help. Often our spouses have no idea. My husband came to the auction/gala last year and the next day mentioned that a lot of folks spoke to him like: OH! You’re Jaime’s husband!? You see, usually, I’m Ben’s wife! So this was a fun turn.
So – here’s to the Single Married Females of Heritage church (and you males too!). We see you and we hear you! We wish that we didn’t have to share you because we love having you around so much. But we understand. We will be thankful for all that you can give and forgiving for the times that you cannot give. A little understanding and appreciation, as well as occasional forgiveness, help to relieve that struggle!
~Single Married Female, Modern Day Sisyphus, Balancer of All the Things