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Being single is full of advantages. You can take spontaneous road trips, a bottle of wine lasts more than one night (usually), and you retain sole possession of the remote control. Independence is a beautiful thing and I love it! But tonight, as I sit on the couch chatting with my amazing friend from childhood Christine, we are uncovering a few areas where independence ain’t all that great.

Christine and I both come from large families and robust social circles. Siblings, parents, friends, nieces and nephews — there are always people to visit, gifts to buy and occasions to celebrate. And don’t get us wrong, we love doing all these things. We are (by popular vote) the “cool aunts.”

But there’s a Catch 22. As Spider-Man’s uncle once said, “With great independence comes great expectation.” (Or something like that.) Expectations for what, you ask? Well, as the “independent” and “free-spirited” ones (A.K.A. “single”), we feel the expectation to visit everyone and attend everything. After all, we don’t have to:

    • lug around a family
    • have a hot dinner on the table by 6pm
    • pay for private school
    • get a babysitter
    • celebrate our wedding anniversaries
    • keep the spark alive
    • schedule everything around the kids’ nap time
    • (insert random things married people deal with)

So naturally, we’ve got all the time, money and freedom in the world to just travel the globe and socialize. Which, now that we think about it, sounds like our dream job! Where do we apply? I’m reformatting my resume right now!

But it’s not that easy, is it, folks? We feel expected to do these things, but the reality is that we can’t. Yes, we’re single, but there are a few things holding us back from our dream job, such as:

    • paying rent
    • not getting fired from our real jobs
    • writing blogs
    • making dinner for one (singles still have to eat)
    • getting oil changes and pumping our own gas (we miss New Jersey!)
    • saving for retirement
    • perhaps, maybe, possibly finding the time to meet someone for ourselves

So there you have it: a list of very valid reasons why we can’t just up and board the nearest learjet to Timbuktu. But somehow, even with this sound reason in place, the guilt sets in.

First, there’s the guilt we feel. The guilt that creeps in when we see Facebook photos of our niece’s first day of school and we know we weren’t there. When a nephew’s birthday passes and we can only talk to him on the phone, not able to see his face light up when he blows out the candles. When our work schedules make it impossible to go home for Thanksgiving, but no one sees the tears we cry while heating up a frozen turkey dinner at home alone.

And if the guilt we impose on ourselves isn’t bad enough, there’s the guilt others make us feel — perhaps not intentionally, but it happens nonetheless. They graciously invite us to event after event, sometimes begging us to come, but we sadly must turn them down. They ask us to be part of their weddings and special occasions, which we absolutely want to do, but simply cannot. They lay the “kid guilt” on thick, saying things like, “Little Johnny hasn’t seen Aunt Ruthie in forever! He wants you to come over!”

Sigh.

So here’s the deal. The point of this blog post isn’t to complain about being single or to gripe about how married people treat us. The chat Christine and I are having this evening is much more introspective than that. We’re grappling with why we feel guilty in the first place.

    • Who places these expectations on us?
    • Are we any less of a friend, sister, aunt, daughter if we can’t meet these expectations?
    • How do we still express how much these loved ones mean to us when we constantly feel like we’re letting them down?

So to all you fellow singles out there, we’re wondering if you feel the same.

And beyond that, we find ourselves asking, “Do married people feel the same guilt in this area?” We’re not blind to the reality that lugging three kids through airport security isn’t exactly fun. Or paying for plane tickets for a family of five doesn’t always fit in the family budget. Or using time off to spend with your spouse is, indeed, important. We get it. It makes sense. But do married folks and parents feel the same guilt because these obstacles keep them from seeing the ones they love? Can my married readers chime in?

Just some thoughts from two single gals who are missing their families and friends, feeling a bit guilty about it, yet trying to keep their own lives together at the same time.

And the balancing act goes on…

~Ruth

P.S. A huge thanks to Christine, who (surprise, surprise!) has been hiding the fact that she is a great writer! Your thoughts make me think, and when I think about it, your thoughts are something special.