As I return once more to talk about matters of singleness, in particular the very real and pressing problem of delayed marriage and childbearing, I would like first of all to state that I am no expert on marriage or on how to avoid remaining single until later in life. It is only by G-d’s help that I got married at 22 and was a mother at 23, and for that I am infinitely grateful.
However, it seems to me that sometimes we hide behind saying things which are undoubtedly true, such as “G-d has a special plan for every person” and “you never know when you will meet your intended husband”. On an individual level this is of course true, but statistically, the age of marriage and childbearing has climbed up to alarming numbers, with an ever-increasing pool of older singles.
I have heard people (yes, even within the spectrum of Orthodox Judaism) offer all sorts of scandalous solutions, from sperm donation to polygamous marriages. Some claim there aren’t enough single Jewish men to go around, some say there are actually more men than women, and each side is ready to support its arguments with statistics. Well, I’m not an expert on numbers, but sound logic and first-hand observation tell me there are many single men and women, who all pay the price of loneliness, heartache, and on a larger scale, emotional and economical instability.
So what is to be done? In the first place, I believe that both men and women should put more thought into marriage, much, much earlier than is common these days. Planning and preparing for a future marriage must begin long before the actual search for a potential spouse. It has a lot to do with the choices we make early in life, in particular for young women. If a woman remains career-focused throughout her twenties, without a thought to spare for her personal life, she will in all likelihood see a most disappointing outcome of this in her thirties. By picturing marriage sometime in the distant future, she might miss many opportunities to meet good stable men who are willing to settle down, and waste her time on unworthy connections.
Second, young people should not be ashamed of letting others know they are seeking marriage. I’d like to know how many grieving and lonely hearts are hiding behind statements such as “sure, I would love to get married one day, but in the meantime I’m doing great as I am.” Of course we should always be content, single or married, but there is no shame in acknowledging something great is missing from our lives. Together with this, the relatives and friends of singles should always keep them in mind when it comes to prayer, support, and especially a potential introduction. The meddling Jewish mama might be a subject to countless jokes, but many marriages took place thanks to her.
Third, conscious effort must be made by singles to make time and opportunity for meeting someone suitable, just as time is made to pursue school, work, hobbies and other things which are ultimately not as important as starting a family. Suitable is the key word – no precious time should be wasted on those who are dawdling, aren’t sure whether they want to settle down yet, or are clearly incompatible.
Perhaps if such logical and simple steps are taken, we will be spared the frantic discussions on whether egg freezing is a good solution for single Jewish women in their late thirties. Of course our hearts should open up in grief and prayer for every such sad situation, but the fact that this matter comes up to public light hints that it’s becoming more and more prevalent, which is worrying.