This past year I went on a journey of sorts, trying to figure out just what it means to be a woman in the day and age that I live in. I really struggled with the stereotypes that I saw in our media, struggled with the injustices that so many woman face, struggled with where my place was in the church. It’s a subject that you could write books about, but these are just some thoughts I wrote down while I have been on this journey.
What does it mean to be a woman? In my own personal experience, a big part of being a woman has been having children. The joy of sharing my body with another person. The irritation of having to share my body with another person. The intense fear as I awaited my first delivery. The intense anticipation as I waited to meet my first child. Later, as I had more children it was the dread of the morning sickness that always put me in bed for about 4 months. It was the excitement of telling the kids they were going to have another brother or sister soon. It was the awkwardness of feeling judged by strangers because I had so many children and was visibly pregnant again. It was the feeling of vulnerability when I reached the last weeks of pregnancy and could hardly walk. It was the agonizing pain of giving birth, the intense mixture of agony and joy as I held my baby for the first time while my body still screamed in protest from what it had endured.
Being a woman for me has been about being a wife. Laughing at my husband’s antics. The feeling of completeness when he walks in the door after a long day at work. Looking up and realizing he’s been watching me. The laughter that bubbles when he grabs me up in his arms and spins me around. The frustration when we aren’t able to communicate with each other. The comfort of rolling over in the night and snuggling into his side.
Being a woman has been about having deep friendships with other women. Sitting around solving the world’s problems in our living rooms as our children play together in the yard. Sending funny texts to each other that cheer up a grumpy morning. Venting and ranting. Sharing recipes and ideas about potty training. Affirming and encouraging each other.
Being a woman has been about struggling with my looks. Battling the feeling of never being enough. Not thin enough, not pretty enough, not fashionable enough. Listening to my husband tell me he thinks I’m beautiful and looking in the mirror and feeling like he is lying. And finally, when I am almost 40 years old, looking in the mirror and smiling and saying, “It’s me, and I like what I see.”
Being a woman has been about confusion. Feeling looked down upon because I didn’t finish college and pursue a career. Finding out that my career friends feel looked down upon because they don’t stay home with their children. Feeling looked down upon because I married when I was only 20 years old. Finding out that my unmarried friends feel judged because they have not ever married. Feeling judged because I homeschool. Feeling judged because I don’t homeschool. And it’s not the men in our lives who make us feel judged. It’s other women.
Being a woman has been about spiritual confusion. Feeling loved by God. Special to him. And then reading about so many women in the Bible who were treated subpar. Why did God allow it?
And then, as I read deeper and deeper into the stories, still seeing a trace of God’s grace and love even in the worst examples of man’s inhumanity to man (or in this case, woman). .
Being a woman has also been about inclusion. Coming to the understanding that every woman has their own journey they’ve traveled. And so many of their journeys look nothing like mine. And yet we can still be friends. We can still support each other and encourage each other. Listen to each other. Without feeling the need to compare ourselves to each other.
I am thankful for who I am and the role that I fill in the lives around me. I am thankful for the women in my life who have lived their lives courageously and modeled what a full life looks like. I am thankful for the women in my life that have lifted me up and encouraged me. And I am especially thankful for the women who have allowed me to just be myself and share myself with them with no fear of judgement. My hope is that I can be that person, that woman, who is a safe place, free of judgement, ready to listen, ready to embrace my women friends as themselves. Perhaps we can keep each other company on this journey we are on.