Well, my husband doesn’t come to church either. I’m there on my own all the time.
Yes, that’s so the same as living on your own, and being pretty definitely single, isn’t it? Excuse me whilst I restrain myself from punching you for a thoughtless comment.
Also: I know that many married women work, raise kids, look after a household pretty much single-handed. And that is exhausting. Also, I know that there are growing numbers of women out there who bring their kids to church without their partner, for whatever reason. That’s another issue altogether. This particular rant is about me and since this is my blog, I think that’s OK. If I start ranting about me on *your* blog, then I would consider that out of order.
Very recently I was asked to help out with youth work at my church and I said no. Sunday evenings are frequently the only time in a week where I have downtime – me, Evensong, quiet night before the week ahead.
My church might describe itself as a family, but does it act like one? How deep does the unconditional welcome go? How often does it think about how people are unintentionally excluded? Families are about getting on with people you have no choice but to love; and being the place you call ‘home,’ regardless of where that actually might be or what the relationships might be like (same sex, blended, single parent – the actual make-up to me isn’t important). I have a lovely, if small Batts family who love, support, humour and tolerate me. Who understand how absolutely exhausting it is being on your own.
My train is late, what I really want is a relaxing bath. No-one to turn hot water on. I’ve worked hard, and I’m hungry; what’s for dinner? Whatever it is that I have shopped for, thought about, and prepared. The laundry needs doing, the flat needs cleaning, the car needs petrol, the cupboards are empty, shoes need cleaning and the ironing’s piling up, the bills need to be paid, the budget worked out, the landlord spoken to… every single thing that a household does, I do, and I do it by myself. Want to go out and meet friends? 95% of the time I organise that too, trying to fit around married couples’ commitments. Nothing social happens unless I am the one that makes it happen. I’m busy. Don’t forget the professional education and networking events to be attended. And did I mention the two trusteeships, the five committees (two of which are international), or the PhD, which I fit in? So yes, I’m busy. I have a limited backup team. In 6 years of commuting, I’ve once asked for a rescue from someone based at home (stuck at Marks Tey). There have been other incidents of unplanned overnights in London or Kent when I’ve just not been able to get home. Who on earth would I ask to come rescue me from Shenfield or Chelmsford, in the absence of a spare £50 for a cab fare? With whom do I discuss the joys and sorrows of life? With Twitter. Not quite the same as someone at home. And before you accuse me of creating a fictitious ideal marriage, remind me to tell you about the scar under my chin and why I know it’s not all roses.
Yes, you’re busy too, with your job, your household, your kids’ commitments and your church commitments. But you have a family – you chose that; you expect that when you have kids, right? It might be a shock just quite how little cash or life you do have left, but the compensation is that you’re a parent; and you have the joys and rewards of that to go with it.
I get none of that. I haven’t even been required as a godparent to any of the squads of kids friends have. I just get the relentlessness of it always being my turn to do everything. It’s exhausting and it’s bone-crushingly lonely.
You go home to someone. I go home to no-one. You should try being at a bouncy, happy, all-age family service then going home and having lunch by yourself, then not speaking to anyone for the rest of the day. You want me to feel part of your church family? It’s going to take more than chit-chat over a lukewarm coffee.
So yeah, when I show up to church on my own, and you don’t talk to me because you’re busy with your existing friends or sorting out your kids, when you assume I’m perhaps less busy than you as I don’t have a family to look after, when having to be in church by yourself is so difficult cos your family is at home, or your husband’s cross because you’re busy: it does irk, to the point of punchiness. It’s not the same thing. Please don’t try to pretend it is.