Recently I was talking with a friend about the questions and calculations that come with being a woman. There are many more than I would’ve imagined 5, 10 years ago.
Some are more obvious: many women question and calculate the number they see on the scale or on the tag in their pants. We question and calculate whether it’s safer to smile at the man on the running trail or ignore him. We question and calculate if we’re being underpaid, how many minutes we’ve talked in a meeting, how our voices sound when we’re upset. We internally tally how many texts we sent with no reply back, how many invitations to hang out we’ve gotten, how many friends’ birthdays we remembered without Facebook telling us.
Other times, the questions and calculations are quieter, lonelier. These ones might be whispered in prayer or eeked out to a therapist, jotted on the margins of a journal, or kept confined to the presumed safety of our minds. These questions and calculations can go something like this:
I’m happy by myself right now, but will I be lonely later?
Is there something wrong with me if I don’t want kids?
Should I just join a dating app so that I’ll have enough time to meet someone and still have my body be young enough to have kids?
Could my mental health even handle postpartum?
Should I show my cards now, or will that scare someone away?
Will the choices I’ve made be ones I regret?
Am I the only one who thinks like this?
I know that men ask questions and make calculations, too. I do. But today I am speaking to my experience. And in my experience, there is a unique quality of womanhood that makes the stakes feel quite socially, spiritually, physically, and mentally high.
Socially — Am I welcome to hang with the moms if I’m not a mom?
Spiritually — Am I being overlooked as a mentor because I haven’t hit certain markers of adulthood?
Physically — Am I worrying too much or not enough about the ticking time bomb that is my fertility?
Mentally — Am I actually stable, or is this all a facade?
I’m glad to be a woman, but I wonder if we need to speak the questions and name the calculations to each other. Can we show each other the spreadsheets? The scribbles in our journals? Would we be able to find a quiet spot with a trusted friend and let our whispers be said with our out loud voices? Maybe in that place, you would find the space to say the things you were too scared to say. And then and there, a conversation begins, help is offered, and untidy answers unfold into time-tested truth.
Could we ask to be included in important discussions happening in the church about community and marriage and family and mentorship? Could we commit to checking in with others who find themselves in similar life situations and rally our resources, our stories, our empathy? Could we start to step towards a way of living and praying and relating to others that does not ignore our questions or dismiss our calculations, but allows room for a reminder?
And that reminder is this: the stories of our lives are much bigger and richer than what we can see at this present moment. We are not creatures born with all the knowledge, skills, talents, and traits we need, rather as those totally dependent on others. While it is never fun to feel helpless, there is a hope in the truth that we were never made to know it all, do it all, be it all. This is the hope that sustains me for days when the questions and calculations spill into my prayers and my conversations. This is a hope for me, for you, for any woman who has calculated and questioned, too.