My Single Life or Why I Love Women’s Day

A hairstylist I used to frequent once referred to Mother’s Day as “Complicated Day.” She did not have a particularly good relationship with her very controlling mother. “Complicated Day” really resonated with me, but I would go one step further: I hate Mother’s Day. My mother died of cancer when I was a teenager. Every year when Mother’s Day comes around it just unpacks all the pain and anguish of watching my mother die over two years; some years it feels like I spend weeks or months trying to pack it all away again.

The Pain of Mother’s Day

But beyond my own painful associations with it, I know women who dread Mother’s Day because they have battled infertility; or their mothers were abusive or abandoned them; or they chose not to have children; or they married too late in life to have their own biological children; or they were unable to have children due to a disability. This day is, at best, one in which they are excluded and, at worst, an excruciating reminder of the children they do not have or the loving mother they should have had but didn’t.

There is another category of women that are seldom considered on Mother’s Day: women like me who never married and whose time has almost run out. We never even had the option of our own biological children because we had hoped to get married first—it is a different kind of infertility but a painful one, nonetheless. Often, caring friends have pointed out that children are still a possibility for single women through adoption or foster care. While this is true, different ways of forming a family do not mitigate the losses of singleness.

It is for all these reasons and more that I can say unequivocally that I hate Mother’s Day. This is not to say that I begrudge others’ celebration of motherhood. I understand the desire to want to celebrate our own mothers. I also know that many women appreciate being celebrated and recognized for the hard work of parenting that they perform in long days of service to their families, in and outside the home. But there is a way for all these mothers to be celebrated and not exclude anyone.

International Women’s Day

The only escape I have had from Mother’s Day was when I lived in the Former Soviet Union. There is no such thing as Mother’s Day there. No. Such. Thing. In fact, upon learning about it in my American Culture class, my Russian and Kazakh students asked, “But what about all other women?” Excellent question, students. 

In many countries around the world, they celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8. Today! Notice that it is called “Women’s Day” and there is no mention of mothers, grandmothers or any other familial nomenclature. It is a day when all women are celebrated. When I lived in Kazakhstan I looked forward to Women’s Day like I do to warm chocolate chip cookies. It was a joy not just to be celebrated but to look around and see women of all ages and life situations celebrated.

It’s an official holiday in many countries in the former Soviet Union. Official. That means no school, no work, just celebrations all over town. I received so many flowers, candy packages, and thoughtful cards from friends and students that it felt like Valentine’s Day and my birthday all in one!

Naturally, I LOVED that. However, the real beauty of Women’s Day is that it is not just a day to give flowers and candy but to highlight the accomplishments of women and their history; to emphasize the vulnerabilities of women across the globe; and to commit to do the work needed to achieve gender equality everywhere. Women’s Day is a day to show love and appreciation to women but also to address how we can better empower and care for our female neighbors around the world. 

There is also a hidden but significant aspect of Women’s Day: it recognizes the humanity and value of women without objectifying them.

How often have we heard calls for men to respect all women because it is how they would want their mothers, daughters or wives to be treated? What I find troubling about this line of thinking is that it commodifies women. It turns us into objects that should be treated well because they belong to other people, namely men. We are reduced to roles. But women should be respected because they are human beings. The end.

God’s Value of Women

Christianity has its own version of this societal message. How many of us have sat in churches and heard pastors or leaders say that the highest calling a woman has is motherhood? Or that we will never understand love until we hold our own babies in our arms? These are lies that many of us accept as truth, when, in fact, discipleship is the highest calling of every Christian person. And the greatest and purest love that exists is the love of God that is accessible to all of us. 

As a single woman, I have spent years in the church watching engaged women, pregnant women, mothers, and brides be celebrated. No such celebrations are given in honor of single women, no matter what their accomplishments may be. There are no showers thrown for single women who finish writing that book or complete their Master’s degree or spend a decade of service on the mission field. The unintended consequences of failing to recognize and celebrate us is that we receive the not-so-subtle message that our lives are less valuable or fulfilled without marriage and motherhood.

But the Bible says in the poetic opening of Genesis that the first woman Eve was created as a full image-bearer of God, in God’s likeness. In the Garden of Eden, God-likeness alone is the basis for human dignity and worth. Eve does not have value because she is a wife or mother; she is neither of those things at the time of her creation. God alone bestows her with value and dignity long before she has any familial ties.

Women’s Day is meaningful for me because it recognizes my single, childless existence as whole just as my God does. I am valued for who I am, rather than reminded me of what I lack. Many single women like me long to be married and have children, and, in our longings, we need affirmation that we are valuable as we are—we are not incomplete halves that need to be made whole. Though not perfectly, Women’s Day reflects the value we have from our creator, regardless of our roles. I can think of no better way to honor women than to celebrate all of them.


Want to learn more about International Women’s Day? Check out the UN Commission on the Status of Women and Women’s Day 2017  

Image Credit: Frances Luke Art Gallery Creation of Woman after Michelangelo

Karen Gonzalez

Co-Host at Dovetail Podcast
Karen Gonzalez is an immigrant from Guatemala, raised in the US. She is a writer, baseball lover, and amateur theologian in Baltimore, MD.

Latest posts by Karen Gonzalez (see all)

  • I’m with you in having complicated feelings about Mother’s day. It does feel exclusive in a way that’s completely unhelpful. All women are impoverished if we tie our value to our marital status, our childbearing, or something external and un-universal. We’re worth so much even if we don’t check all the boxes that people deem essential.

    • Karen Gonzalez

      You have such a good way of putting things, Heather. I wish I knew how to fully internalize and live out the knowledge that we’re valuable and worthy just for being image bearers of God.

  • Shasta

    Karen, your last section about God’s value of women is very close to my experience as well. Last year I attended my church’s annual women’s conference. During the weekend, I was challenged, encouraged and moved like you’d expect one to be during that kind of event. By the end of the first day, I was eager to head out on a mission to the furthest reaches of the earth to bring the Love of Jesus to all the Unfortunates: just tell me where to sign and how much time I need to ask off at work. At the crescendo of the weekend, 2,000 women sat poised on the edge of our seats, conference t-shirts proudly displayed over bosoms heaving with the love of Jesus.

    “OK, ladies: those who are married, remain in the auditorium for a great panel on biblical marriage!” the weekend’s MC chirped. “Girls ages 18-29, you may exit and head to the breakout rooms for a session on Godly singlehood!”

    I’m not married. I’m 43 years old. I went to the bathroom, cried and then drove home to my two dogs, who don’t care that I haven’t brought them home a daddy.

    • Karen Gonzalez

      I am so sorry you had such a hurtful experience. Similar things have happened to me. I’m 44 and have felt the weight of what you’re feeling–the sense of there being no place for us in the broken church. I’m grateful that Jesus doesn’t see us that way–that he bestows us with value no matter what the church or culture at large says. Thank you for sharing with me. We need to tell these stories so that our churches become aware of the pain they inflict on us needlessly.

  • Melissa Arroyo

    This was a very interesting read and thank you so much for sharing. I am 40 something, divorced and the mother of two children. I was married, but that ended due to an affair. I gave birth to two children, surprisingly enough that I am raising on my own. Lastly, I have been single for the last 8 years while everyone else is getting engaged or hitched. I always felt strange and out of place because I never quite fit in..ya know, I’ve been there and done that. One sister cared to share with me (still I don’t know why to this day) that as a young, single attractive woman – I was a threat. As the church, we need to learn to address the needs of ALL members of the body of Christ.

    Over the last couple of years, I have learned to own my singleness and find peace and joy in Christ. It hasn’t been easy, but it eased the burden of loneliness and feelings of failure as a woman.

    Shasta – I’m so sorry for what you experience, I pray that you would continue to hold your head up high no matter what!

    I truly enjoyed your article, thanks again!

    Blessings,
    Melissa

    • Karen Gonzalez

      Thanks for sharing your story, Melissa. I love hearing from single women who have found peace and joy in Christ as you have. I still struggle but I’m learning to embrace the truth.

      • Melissa Arroyo

        Amen, I just love how all are stories can connect in one way or another. We are not alone, and Thank God that we not only can lean on Him for strength but also one another.