I am a single woman approaching 30 years old. I am not in a relationship and have never had a relationship in my adult life. For most of my adult life, I have made my career my main area of focus.
Recently, I have had a growing desire to get married and have a family. In the past, I dreamed about things I wanted to accomplish professionally, and now I dream about being a wife and a mom. These feelings are very foreign to me. I remember in college when girls would talk about how they wanted to get married, I just didn't get it, and now I totally get it.
Anyway, this growing desire poses a couple of problems for me.
- I don't have a boyfriend, and I really don't know any prospects. Is there something I can do to "put myself out there"? I get told a lot that I should do so, but honestly I'm not sure where to put myself.
- This is really my main question: Is it wrong for me to make current career decisions based on my future hopes of being a wife and mom? I have recently gotten an unbelievable job opportunity; however, it really would require for me to throw my whole self into it for the next five to seven years. I strongly believe in being a stay-at-home mom, so if I got married within that time frame, staying home would be out of the question. The job requires a lot of traveling and is really not ideal for a mom. I feel as if taking the job will not be a step toward where I want to be in my future, but I also feel that perhaps it's silly to make a decision based on the fact that I might get married and have babies some day.
There are countless publications that would encourage you to put your career goals — and especially career advancement — ahead of any relationship/marriage/mommy aspirations you may have, especially if there's no guy on the scene.
"Take the job offer," they would say, assuring you that the marriage thing will fit in if it's meant to be. The secular publications, and especially feminists, would say career trumps personal, besides husbands and kids can be worked into whatever successful, self-actualized life you're living.
Many Christian publications take a bit of a different approach, assuring readers that if marriage and family are God's will, He'll bring them about in His timing, and you don't need to worry about it. The irony is that though those camps hold opposite worldviews, their advice is basically the same: Grab the opportunity right in front of you; any future relationship opportunities will work themselves out.
Here's where Boundless is different. We believe marriage is more than just a lifestyle option; we believe it's a high and holy commitment to which most believers are called. So the first question you should ask yourself is, Am I called to a life of celibate service? If the answer is no, then it only makes sense to weigh career decisions with that calling to marriage in mind. Even if you don't have a man in your life right now, the fact that your desires are turning toward marriage and motherhood is a good indication that you might have one someday, even soon. Regardless of the timing, it's wise to consider your future goals for family alongside the opportunity in front of you; to be as intentional about them as you are about your job.
One of the key reasons to let your desire for marriage be at least part of the decision making process is the one you've already identified: Your new job would make being a mom unlikely and at best, difficult.
Do the math. If you're 30 now and you say it could be seven years before you're able to back off on the work responsibilities a bit, that would possibly put you at 37 and trying to conceive your first baby. The unfortunate — and often underreported — reality about fertility is that it declines every year after 28, with a dramatic drop that begins at 35 and increases up to menopause.
One fertility web site reported that "by age 35 over one third of women would not be able to conceive within a year. A woman's 35th year, therefore, serves as the horizon beyond which reproductive function is irreversibly lowered." This emphasis on age-related infertility is consistent with the research I've done for other Boundless articles as well as the book Steve and I wrote about starting a family.
What's encouraging about your letter is that you're stopping to ask these questions at age 30. Many women, like those featured in Sylvia Ann Hewlett's Creating a Life, wait until it's too late. What started out as a book about high-achieving career women turned into a series of heart-breaking stories of women who didn't think about having babies until they were past their fertility prime. For most of them, it was too late. (The few who did conceive and bear children did so at considerable financial and personal expense.) At 30, you still have time to set a course that will make marriage and motherhood more likely.
Which brings me to your other question: How do you put yourself out there? A good place to start is the article "Finding a Husband." It's a brief discussion of ways single women can be intentional about getting married, including avoiding behaviors that drive good men away, keeping sex in its proper context, having biblical expectations and getting help from mentors. I go into even more detail in Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen, outlining ways you can start "living like you're planning to marry."
I find it incredibly hopeful that you're giving thought to the range of desires you have for your life, not just in the area of career. It's countercultural to be sure. And praiseworthy. My prayer for you is that you will trust in the Lord and allow Him to guide your steps, making it clear which way you should go. He is faithful!
Copyright 2008 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.