With apology in his eyes, he kissed my cheek and neck a little too warmly, and then told me how sorry he was for what he had done to me. He knew it was too late to change anything, but regret ached in his voice.
My new ex-husband was mourning the loss of his wife and baby already, as he watched us turn away, never again to live with us as a family.
I felt bad for him as I carried baby Casey to the car, where my mom, and my Relief Society President, were waiting to drive us to the airport. Life was about to be a whole lot different.
My emotions were clouded. For the last three and a half years, I had lived in charming Cedar City, Utah, attending school at SUU. For more than two years of that time, I had been married to Andrew Lewis. His family was my family, his church was my church, and his home was my home. We even had a child together, 11 months before the inconceivable day we would say goodbye.
We had been married two years when he announced firmly that he was done trying, and that we were going to get a divorce. I was shocked at the finality of it, but not necessarily heartbroken, since my love for him had already slowly evaporated.
I overzealously filled out the divorce papers, and commanded that I would be keeping Casey. Drew did not fight me.
On April 26, he walked into the apartment, opened the mail, and nonchalantly said, “We are divorced now.” Oh.
Ironically I was relieved at the news, and felt freer. I immediately was excited at the prospect of dating again.
The plane ride to North Carolina went quickly, and Casey was a good boy. I was sad to leave my ward, home, friends, and in-laws, but I was so grateful for my parents’ selfless sacrifice to help Casey and I start our new life.
It felt good to have a clean, happy place to live, and I hoped that as long as I focused on making friends, dating, and being the best mom I could, life would be okay.
Except it wasn’t.
I was sad and emotional all the time, rarely smiling or laughing. I was frustrated at how difficult it was to make a happy life in North Carolina, a place I had never before lived.
Here is what my life was like with:
I had a really hard time making friends. I admit I was ashamed of being divorced with a child, and I was always afraid to tell people about myself, for fear of judgment. Sometimes, it was a reality. Once I started bringing Casey to the Singles’ Ward with me, I noticed that several people stayed away from me, only speaking to me when they had to. I was different, and I stuck out like a sore thumb.
To make up for it, I worked to rekindle some of my friendships from Virginia. I did find some peace emailing good friends, and venting to them. It just didn’t fill the emptiness inside completely.
For months, I was “trying to make my life better than crappy,” and I longed for good friends to spend time with and talk to.
I wanted to date more that I could ever express to you. I knew that Casey needed a father, and that I needed a husband. That is the way God intended families to be. I couldn’t stand the idea of raising Casey alone.
Right after the divorce was finalized, I felt a huge impulse to reconnect with a young man I had really liked before I went to school. I drove up to Virginia once, and we had an awesome date. We talked all the time and had great chemistry. We were cherished friends. But…he didn’t want a relationship.
There was also a guy I met in my Singles’ Ward who I instantly connected with. I loved going dancing with him, and we hit it off swimmingly. We also had great chemistry. I was confused by how he treated me, though, and in the end, he said didn’t see a long-lasting relationship with me.
For months, those two dates were all I had. I ached for more dates, but I felt like an untouchable – undesirable, unattractive, and unconfident.
The only man who showed me that I was wonderful was someone who had loved me since I was 14 – someone who was on a mission, and ironically, someone I never had romantic feelings for. I broke his heart as I told him I would never love him, all the while I was alone with no prospects. It was a sad situation.
Being a good mom
Deciding how to be a good mom was not easy to figure out. My most passionate feelings were that I needed to be with Casey as much as possible – that I needed to be there to nurture him, teach him, and raise him in righteousness. But I knew I couldn’t just be a stay at home mom living in my parent’s house. No, I knew I had to work.
At that time, I felt comfortable working a part-time night job so I could be with my baby during the day, and then have my parents watch him at night. I remember the day I was immediately offered the job at Kerr Drug, my Dad shook his head with disappointment at how much I would be paid. He huffed, “That sucks!” He knew I could do so much better having a Bachelor’s Degree, but I was still confused at his reaction. I was Casey’s mother, and I needed to be the one to raise him.
I also felt dating and having a social life was essential to being a good mom. Casey deserved a father figure in his life, and that wouldn’t happen without me dating. But, it took a toll on my parents to watch him as I went to church activities.
Even though I hated the tension living at home was creating, I just couldn’t stand the idea of working full time. I did apply for other jobs, though, was offered an amazing full time writing position with the Mebane Enterprise. I turned it down when they wouldn’t let me work full time. Stupid decision? Maybe, but it wasn’t to me.
For a while, I placed all my faith in becoming a bus driver. It would be perfect – I could work full time, get good pay, keep my child with me, and have time for social things at night. I waited, followed up, and waited some more. I never got the job, and was crushed.
I was fresh out of ideas, and life wasn’t getting any happier.
I confided to my missionary friend that “This lifestyle is not any better than my bad marriage. It’s just different, and slightly less damaging to my soul.”
What was I doing wrong? Why wasn’t life getting better?
The Family: A Proclamation to the World, has been a very special document to me. I remember hearing it read aloud for the first time when I was just 11 years old. I was entranced by it, and it helped me know the type of person I wanted to be, and what my priorities should be.
For the months following my divorce, I was determined to get to a point where I could follow the words of the Proclamation:
The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity…
By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.
These words were so important to me. I wanted to have this sacred ordinance of marriage again. I wanted my child to be reared by a mother and a father. I wanted to fulfill my responsibility as a mother by primarily nurturing my child.
I even used this phrase to remind my parents that they should be helping me: Extended families should lend support when needed.
What was I supposed to do, when my parents got to a point that they wanted Casey and me to move out? I couldn’t do those things in the Proclamation without my parents.
But wait…I believe it was my mother who pointed out a phrase I had forgotten in the Proclamation: Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.
Other circumstances included my circumstance. Rather than being obsessed with changing my life as quickly as possible, I should have been thinking about what was best for Casey and me at that stage in our lives.
My job at Kerr Drug wasn’t helping me use my education, or gain experience in the workforce. Being obsessed with dating and making friends was only causing me disappointment, pain, and impatience. Focusing on my needs at the expense of my parents was only harming our relationship.
I had been doing it all wrong. I also had forgotten this from the Proclamation:
All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.
For all these months, and even before that, as I was enduring the emotional abuse in my marriage, I had forgotten that I was a daughter of God, and that I had a divine nature and destiny. I had made myself believe that I only had true worth if I were married with the ideal life. No, I always had divine worth, and I always had a friend in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
I had been beating myself up for not being a worthy parent, but I had already been doing my best to fulfill these obligations outlined in the Proclamation: Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.
Pondering on these beautiful messages in the Proclamation helped make the inevitable finding of a full-time job, and putting my sweet son in daycare, more manageable.
It was scary to apply for, and eventually accept, a position at the AICPA in January 2007. Once I accepted the job, though, I felt it was the right thing to do, and I was excited.
The hardest part was finding childcare for my baby. I did, though, and it was my parents’ next door neighbor. I was so sad to leave Casey every day, but I knew in my heart that I was doing something good for us. By working, I would soon be able to support us and move us into our very own home.
Just a month after starting my job, I emailed this hopeful message to my friend:
Casey is so smart. He talks very well and picks up on things so quickly. His favorite activity is vacuuming. He has a toy vacuum at his day care. My next door neighbor is his child care provider and he loves her. It took him a while to get used to being away from me so much, but he learns a lot over there. It’s hard not being with Casey all day anymore, but it’s probably for the best. I have lost a lot of weight and feel much better about my looks. I have a lot of friends, and just recently met a guy…that I have sort of been dating… So, that’s my life right now. It’s pretty good; I haven’t felt this complete in a long time. I still have a lot of expanding to do in my life, but it’s definitely better than it was.
Life didn’t all of a sudden become perfect. Being a single mom was always hard, even after I started making more friends, dating more, and living on my own. I was exhausted trying to run a household, work full time, raise a child, and try to be a good friend and date. But, my hope came back. My confidence came back. Most importantly, my joy came back. I was back to being me, and not who I thought I had to be to matter.
For the four years I was single, I accepted my circumstances, until I met the right man, and married again.
The same Proclamation that helped me accept my circumstances, gave me the strength to leave my wonderful job at the AICPA to finally be able to concentrate on the nurture of [my] children.
From my experiences being a single mom, I gained a strong testimony that God loves each and every one of His children, and He will bless all of us as we do our very best, whatever our circumstances may be.
Hi, I’m Mandy. I live in Mebane, NC, with my wonderful husband and three boys. My family is the most important thing to me other than the gospel of Jesus Christ. I love to stay busy, and life is never boring. I have a Bachelor’s Degree from Southern Utah University in Interpersonal Communication, with a minor in English Literature. In addition to writing, I love to sing, act, play the piano, bake, cook, dance, and read. To learn more about me, and how I live my life, please visit http://mormon.org/me/5RNJ. You can also follow me on my blog, facebook, instagram, and Google +.
Be sure to visit We Talk of Christ and A Thing Called Love for more articles celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Family Proclamation! Don’t forget one easy way to share your testimony of the Proclamation and join the celebration is to share your photos on social media using the hashtag #ILovetheFamilyProclamation and explain why.