I Am Enough: On Self-Validation and Refusing to Settle in Life or Love

I've always set goals aggressively. By the time I was 12, I had a meticulous plan to get into ...

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I've always set goals aggressively. By the time I was 12, I had a meticulous plan to get into the college of my dreams and go on to immediate, phenomenal success in my chosen career field. But the time I was old enough to drink, I discovered sometimes your plans aren't worth the moleskin notebook your scratched them in. Life happens. Priorities change. Desires wane.

I never planned my personal life, that of marriage and family, with quite the same ambition. I picked a general age around which I'd like to be married, but it never felt quite as urgent. Building a life with a partner I love and trust is my ideal, but this is the only area in wherein baby steps have always been acceptable.

To be clear, I've entertained my fair share of, let's say, less than desirable men. But even during those romantic entanglements, I never imagined entering into a life-long covenant with them.

As a heterosexual woman who wants to be a mother, I believe the single most important decision I will make in my life is choosing the father of my children. An active, engaged partner can make a tremendous difference in kid's lives, and  I have a responsibility to unborn Laila and Charlotte (my baby names of the moment) to choose wisely. Of course, you never know what type of father a man will be, but my intention is to minimize risk. That's how I approach dating.

As a professionally ambitious woman, my desire to find the "right" mate isn't simply about the well-being of my future kids. It's about self-preservation. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has said time and again that the single defining factor for the success of working women with children is the support of their spouse. Because patriarchal society expects women to assume the role of primary caregiver and homemaker as default, picking the wrong mate can derail a career.

But I am more than what I wish to achieve. After reading Justice, Gender, And The Family, I felt affirmed in my refusal to commit to a man who doesn't "get" my faith or my feminism. Families are the building blocks of our society. What happens inside of them are important in shaping the kind of world we want. These are points that I cannot concede.

No matter how clearly I've thought through my decision to remain single until I find the right person, moments of doubt creep into my consciousness often. Have I doomed myself to a life of being the "cool aunt" and overly ambitious "sister/daughter/friend?" Who will I care for? Who will care for me?

If you're luck, young women learn the importance of these concerns, but we also receive constant messaging that to have a man, any man, means to be validated and valued. The push and pull of societal expectations pressures women to settle -- settle not only for partners who don't share their goals or views, but for men who don't make them feel consistently extraordinary.

Too many define women by their ability to keep a man. How many times have you heard men and women discuss finding a romantic partner like an achievement? Those who can maintain a happy, healthy relationship deserve commendation, but when women are ridiculed as "forever alone" that's not what we hear. The commentary is if you are a woman without a significant other, no one finds you worthy of "wifing." It's what causes us to chase and seek affection from anyone no matter how trifling ill-matched.
My decision to wait it out means I have to validate my damn self. Despite the stigma that accompanies being unpartnered. Single isn't a bad word. My life is overflowing with every type of love imaginable. My goal is to be too busy basking in it to concern myself about a lack of romance. Loneliness doesn't scare me nearly as much as the discontent of living an unfulfilled life. And if I don't meet a man I can build with until I'm 30, 35, 40, or never. That's fine. Though one can hardly ignore the (in)fertility hysteria, but even the thought of rapidly deteriorating eggs doesn't scare me enough to sway me. The universe gives us what we need, and I'm enough.
 

Kimberly Foster is the founder and editor of For Harriet. Email or  

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