Editor’s note: We’re pleased to bring you our newest contributor to “Faith, Hope & Love,” Emily Stimpson. Emily’s book “The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide For The Single Years” was recently published by Emmaus Road. The former CatholicMatch member carved time out of her busy schedule to field my questions about career planning and biological clocks. Tune in next Monday, March 12, for part two, when Emily breaks down physical boundaries in chaste dating.
Emily, why did you see a need for this book?
I always joke that I have Mommy blog envy. My married friends are struggling to live out this important witness to the beauty of marriage and the sanctity of family, but they have so much help in that struggle: the mommy blogs, the mommy books, and, of course, Church documents galore.
But single women have an important witness to give too: Our culture desperately needs to see beautiful, joyful single women witnessing to the truth about the Church’s teachings on chastity, femininity, suffering, and so much more. But there’s not a lot of help for us out there. This book is my small attempt to help change that.
What does your book provide that others like it do not?
Most singles books tend to be memoirs, sociological studies, or reflections on the joys of singlehood written by people not desiring or seeking marriage. I wanted to give women something different – a very relevant, concrete book that spells out Church teaching on various challenges single women face (understanding vocations and authentic femininity, chastity, careers, suffering, etc.), then applies that teaching in practical ways to everyday life.
Plus, I wanted to write a book specifically for women like myself, women who hope to be married, but aren’t married yet. Although some of us won’t marry, most of us will, and the way we live our single life now will have a profound effect on those marriages. Living the life God wants us to live today is key to having a happy, holy marriage tomorrow and a happy, holy life always.
Why are singles still such an under-served audience?
Well, for all sorts of reasons – most of them good – the Church tends to adjust slowly to new realities. And we singles are a very new reality. So many men and women delaying marriage until so late in life is culturally unprecedented. The Church never had to do much for singles, or even really think about how to explain singlehood, because the need just wasn’t there. Now it is. She’s adjusting, just slowly.
What kind of feedback have you received on the book so far? Any surprises?
This can and probably will change at any moment, but thus far the feedback has been great. Most of the women I’ve talked with tell me they like how realistic and honest the book is, while still being funny and hopeful. I don’t think all the pretty pictures hurt either.
As for surprising? Probably that the audience for the book is a lot bigger than I expected it to be. I wrote the book primarily for single, never been married Catholic women, but I’ve had mothers and fathers, Protestants and lapsed Catholics, even men tell me that they’re reading the book and enjoying it. The guy bit is especially throwing me. I mean, the book is pink and covered in tulips!
Have you been promoting the book in any mainstream media outlets? If so, how has that gone?
Kathryn Lopez did an interview with me, similar to this one, that ran at National Review Online. I received a lot of positive feedback from women, but also some really nasty stuff. In part, that’s probably because people misunderstood the purpose of the book: They were projecting agendas onto it that just aren’t there.
On a deeper level though, my book is a serious call for women to reject the culture’s expectations of them and become the women God is calling them to be – something that a lot of men and women don’t want to see happen and unfortunately feel judged by. It’s also honest about my own struggles with singleness – something a lot of women who’ve invested their lives in the feminist myth that a career is more essential to happiness than a family don’t want to hear.
Rather than engage the substance of the interview, they attacked me. It’s the easy way out. It was to be expected, but attitudes like that are why so many women are reluctant to come forward and talk about their own struggles with singleness. It hits them where it hurts.
Is “The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide” available at Barnes & Noble?
Your sidebars were so fun and interesting! I loved the six “authentically feminine” silver-screen characters you listed. Which one is closest to you?
I’m a bit saltier than most of those women, but maybe Babette from “Babette’s Feast.” Feeding people is almost a sacred act for me.
The topic of a loudly clicking biological clock is one we explore a lot on CatholicMatch, and it’s usually a complex, emotional discussion. As a 36-year-old who feels called to marriage and family life, how are you coping with the ticking of your clock? Are you afraid of never becoming a mom? How do you square away that fear?
You know, I’m pretty peaceful about this one. Sure, it’s really hard not to have children right now, and the hormones don’t help. But I’ve been blessed to know lots of women who had no problem getting pregnant past 35 or 40.
Plus, I have several friends who’ve adopted and being with them has taught me that the children a couple receives through adoption are every bit “their” children. God can give you the children you’re meant to have any number of ways – from your body, an airplane, a spouse’s previous marriage, etc.
If I end up getting married and have problems getting pregnant, I’d adopt whatever children I could in a heartbeat. In the meantime, there are lots of other little ones in my life for me to love, so I keep myself busy loving them.
I liked the tone of your chapter on career. It felt both contemporary and traditional – and you offered advice on how to approach career that I had never heard before. Can you summarize that for our readers?
Well, it seems to me that if we believe God is calling us to marriage, we should keep that call in mind as we plan our careers.
What do I mean by that? On one level, I mean we need to guard against devoting ourselves to our careers at the expense of our life. That makes for a great deal of unhappiness in the short term and can get in the way of the husband ever showing up in the long term. I also mean we should consider if there’s a way we can set ourselves up now for a career that’s family friendly if babies ever do come. Not all families can afford for the mom to stay at home, but increasingly there are lots of jobs that allow the mother to work from home or work on a schedule that allows her to be with her kids as much as possible – something almost all mothers want once those babies arrive. If our interests and abilities lie in a direction that can allow for that kind of job, it’s worth pursuing.
That being said, God’s will for our life always has to come first. He didn’t give us a mind and any number of gifts so we can stay trapped in a dead end job for fear of scaring off would-be husbands or pursue a career we have no interest in just because it’s family friendly. For women who hope a family will be in our future, pursuing any career will always be a balancing act that requires lots of prayer and discernment, and it’s important to recognize that and do our best to plan accordingly.
We appreciated the props you gave to CatholicMatch! So have you ever joined our site?
I met lots of nice guys and a few, um, interesting ones. I went on plenty of good dates, a handful of disastrous dates and had lots of engaging conversations with guys on the site. I also met one really wonderful man who became a very important friend. In many ways I couldn’t have written this book without him. At least, it would have been a very different book without him.
So I guess in a sense you could say I couldn’t have written this book without CatholicMatch. I’m no longer on the site for various reasons, but I still encourage people to give it a try.