What if you are an older maiden, and you've discerned that your vocation is marriage?
It seems an easy road. Just wait for a guy to notice your talents and virtues, you get to know each other through a happy courtship, and then you marry and raise a dozen children. Even classic books and films seem to support this notion; often depicting girls being a little carefree, just living an ordinary life, but always waiting. And doing practically nothing.
It is true that the guy should do the pursuing - that is his nature to lead the relationship. But to say that a girl should do nothing while waiting for a guy is a false assumption.
Even fruit must ripen before it can be picked!
Even though I'm not married, or have never been courted, I know that marriage takes a lot of preparation and work - as much as I would love the sunshine and roses that it seems to be.
What do you do to prepare for it? What do you do while you wait for Prince Charming to come riding up on his white horse?
Learn the domestic arts
Well, that's kinda obvious....
Seriously, though, a lot of these skills take years to master.
Think of it this way: It's like getting advanced studies or a degree in Domestic Management. And if we consider that the man is the boss of a House who is looking a manager, wouldn't he look for someone who knows what she is doing?
Now, I would recommend courses in the following:
Cooking/Preserving from Scratch:
Microwave meals are all fine and dandy when it's just one person and they're working all the time. But there is nothing more comforting that a home cooked meal after a hard day's work. Plus, it is less expensive to buy raw ingredients than it is to buy a lot of processed food - plus it's much healthier for your body! Also, learning to preserve fresh food through drying, canning, and pickling also reduces food bills further down the road.
The skills required for cooking and preserving definitely don't come overnight. It requires lots of practice! I'd start by asking your mom if you can cook one night a week, if you don't already. I'm sure she would appreciate the break!
Even if you can't afford or don't have the talent to make clothes, learning how to mend and re-sew buttons is a skill that should be taught to any girl.
Handiwork (Knitting, Crochet, Crafting, Embroidery etc.):
Besides making practical things such as clothes and house linens, little decorations can be made with knitting, crocheting or even just crafting. Also, it's a great way to keep your hands busy.
Wives/mothers need to wear all sorts of hats. They need to learn how to fix little things like leaks and toliets, how to manage pests (the bug and rodent varieties...), and keep up with the cleaning. Also, it wouldn't hurt to learn a thing or two about money, taxes, and checkbooks....
I'm of the firm opinion that it is much better for our bodies and souls to gather, grow and produce our food than to travel to the grocery store every week. Now, I know that a full homestead isn't possible or desirable for every girl. But I would invest in at least a little flower garden - which will add beauty and refinement to the house!
While all are not strictly necessary (except the cooking) for survival, it will help deepen and refine the home life - strong examples of this are sorely lacking!
Create a "Hope Chest"
I started my hope chest when I was about 16-17 (though you can certainly start at any time!). At that point, I was "collecting" various items that I wanted to use in my future home (towels to embroider, crocheted hot pads, some small scrubbers, that sort of thing).
The ironic thing is that I didn't put it in a chest, but in a cardboard box. Even now, I don't have an actual chest. Over the years, the original box's since grown to 5 tubs and 2 cardboard boxes. I've put candles, a doily or two, a few dishes and crocheted rugs in there...as well as a few hundred other household items.
Should you ever start a hope chest, here's some suggestions on how to fill it:
1. Start at home! Look through the basements and attics of your family's homes to see if there are any useful articles that have been stored away. I got a lot of things that way.
2. Raid about 30 thrift stores, over a few states or so. I'm serious! Each thrift store has different items, and they are really good places to find old kitchen devices, dishes, and other little things. And the best part about it - is that everything is cheap! (Obviously, you have to watch the quality, but most stores inspect the items before they put them out to sell).
3. If you're a knitter, crocheter, or seamstress - try hand making things like towels, washcloths, tablecloths, and other linens.
4. Try to store all the items together if you can - and if you can't afford the old-fashioned cedar chest, go with the more contemporary cardboard box/plastic tub! And obviously, keep them away from water and other damaging things.
Get a job outside of the home
This does sound rather counter-intuitive. After all, the best way to learn how to manage a house is by working at home, right?
Let me tell you as someone who has lived on her own before - it is expensive to set up housekeeping. Sure, gifts do help immensely. As do yard sales, thrifts stores, and obliging relatives. But, there always will be something missing, or some emergency repair to the house or some other silly thing that will come up.
Also, it's best if a young woman comes into the marriage with some money of her own, or with her debts cleared. This helps immensely, as the man has to readjust his salary from supporting one to supporting two.
Working outside of the home can also increase virtue, especially in patience and obedience - two virtues that are in high demand from a wife and mother!
Socialize - yes, even in mixed company.
Sorry introverts - this is not some medieval fantasy where the knight goes to find the girl in the tower. You've got to get out so that they know a) you exist and b) what kind of a person you are!
Get involved at church in some fashion; whether it be through volunteering to clean, preparing for socials, or even joining a mixed choir!
The most effective way to socialize is join a circle/group of young adults at church. This is not the same as a singles group - this is open to young married couples as well. This arrangement eliminates a lot of the unnecessary pressure to impress others and forces the conversation to be more general - which tends to reveal more about people than you think!
Bonus: Grow in virtue and your spiritual life
You've heard this admonition 30 million times, I know. But seriously, make this a forefront! Curbing faults before marriage will help the sanctification process and will reduce problems in the future. Not to mention, make you a stronger example for your children!
Marriage may be a long way away for most of us. But it never hurts to start to ripen while we have the time and means of doing so.
In Cordis Mariae,