Sunday, August 10, 2014

Choices and Consequences - or, Why I Work


 

I was 37 years old when I married Brian Eddy.

In true LDS fashion, we did not have a reception the evening of our wedding (nudge, nudge, wink wink), but  held two receptions a week later, one in Modesto (my hometown) and one in Bakersfield (his hometown and our residence).

The Modesto reception took place in my old church building where I'd grown up. So many of my friends from times past showed up to celebrate with us. Two of my oldest friends, Christine and Susan, waved me over to their table to talk. "Are you going to ask her?" one said to the other. "Ask me what?" Christine looked at me and, with a smile on her face, asked, "Are you going to do it?"

Susan, me and Christine (and child)

I had been married a week already. They can't possibly mean THAT, I thought. Quick as a wink, I made a silly, slightly off-color remark that hinted it was too late to ask if THAT was what they were talking about. They laughed - "No! Are you going to have kids?"

It was a completely unexpected question. One of the basic tenets of the LDS faith is family and children. I'd always wanted kids and did a quick self-check to ascertain whether or not I'd implied anything to the contrary. "Of course! If I can..." It was one of my fondest hopes to have kids. At this point in my life, I was very aware of my diminishing chances.

During the desert years of my singleness, I'd given a lot of thought to my ideal husband and my future marriage situation. My dreams always were some form of being a stay-at-home mom with a ton of kids, a beautiful home and a perfect life. I wouldn't settle for less than The Ideal Mormon Family.

And then I was 37 years old and very aware of the old biological clock. My standards of 1) Must be a temple-worthy male, 2) Must want children and 3) Must be able to support me as a stay-at-home mom became more ... flexible.

I met Brian in person three weeks after we started writing. We'd agreed to meet halfway between our hometowns in Fresno. We'd go to the zoo and have a picnic lunch on the grounds. Very nice - totally public, very structured, all was good just in case he turned out to be a serial killer.

We had a picnic first - he'd brought sub sandwiches and we talked on a blanket on the grass. He was easy to talk to. At one point in the conversation, I asked him what books he was reading and, in a perfect Monty Python voice, he said, "I'm reading a book on William the BASTARD!" Right then I had the thought, Given the choice, I could marry this guy.

Then he kissed me outside the wolf enclosure at the zoo (fitting, no?) and I knew I'd never meet another man who kissed as well as he did. If he didn't marry me, I was doomed to a future with second-rate kissers.

I weighed the information I had: Brian was divorced (I figured that any guy around my age would have been married before anyway and I preferred that to having never been married). He did not have a college degree (but he was well-read, so that was sort of okay and he could always go to school later). He lived with his sister (well, family is okay). A hefty percentage of his income went towards child support. Uh oh.

Alex and Kenzie - Brian's kids - soon after we married

We talked and talked and emailed and emailed. There's not a ton you can learn about a person in only a few weeks, but there are things you can find out about what type of a person they are. Brian wanted to marry and be married. The divorce was not his choice, but it had been inevitable because of the volatile chemistry he'd had with his ex. I repeat, Brian wanted to be married and was willing to work for a marriage.

Life is all about choices. The weird thing is, they aren't necessarily choices between good and bad. Sometimes they are simply Choice A (with these trials) vs. Choice B (with these trials).  

Although I am dreamy and romantic, there is a solid core of practicality in my heart. I knew myself well enough to know that I wanted to get married and stay married. Divorce was only a last resort. I felt that Brian would be willing to make a marriage with me work. We may not have known each other well. We may have been caught up in the physical tornado that makes up the beginning of a relationship, but we were also two people who'd been hurt by others and were looking for someone we could trust. Because we'd both been so recently hurt, I think we were a little closer to God than we might have otherwise been, like a child who stays close to a parent after having recently been lost then reunited with them.


Only a few weeks later, Brian impulsively asked me to marry him. I answered as though I was listening to my voice from outside my body - yes. (He later made me a much more formal proposal so all was good. Judge him kindly.)

In the church, we are taught to pray about decisions. We are also taught how to recognize answers to our prayers - a stupor of thought if it is wrong and a peaceful feeling if it is right. I felt fine accepting Brian's proposal. That was it. Fine. I felt fine. There were no fireworks or burnings in my heart or spectacular manifestations that OH MY GOSH! HE IS THE ONE AND THIS IS ORDAINED OF GOD. I kind of worried that maybe God was tired of me constantly getting involved with one poor choice after another and was letting me make my proverbial bed and lie in it because He was done saving me from bad choices. I constantly checked for that peaceful feeling ALL THE TIME. I felt fine.

So I chose a man who was good and kind and willing to work towards eternal goals, but was not able to support me financially. 

As I looked at Brian across the altar on our wedding day, I told myself, "This is your last chance to get out of here - it would be dramatic, but it would be better to GET OUT if this is wrong rather than go through it and be miserable and have people say I told you so." Nope. I felt fine. I married Brian.

Nearly a year after our wedding, the little blue line showed up on the test. I was pregnant.

Two months pregnant - no morning sickness yet!
Already my dresses couldn't hold in the bosoms!

When we talked about After The Baby Came, the possible scenarios were grim. No matter what, I was going to have to go back to work. Someone else was going to take care of my little baby. Someone else was going to rock him to sleep and sing him lullabies and make him laugh and hear his first words and witness his first steps. I was going to work. I was not fine.

My father retired from the military when I was twelve years old. From that point on, our family endured years of financial difficulties in the form of unemployment and underemployment. My mother had to work and didn't like it. When I was in high school, my dad found A Good Job, but he had to commute four hours a day. As the eldest, I had a keen sense of the problems of money or the lack of it. Looking back now, I also recognize that our choices in how we cope with situations makes the biggest impact on family life.


I did not take going back to work well. It was not fair after everything else (I imagined) I'd suffered to make it to this point. My education was supposed to be in case of emergency, nothing else. Brian braved my emotions with strength and as much dignity as possible under the circumstances. I tried encouraging (you're a great man! You can find a better job!), cajoling (you'll be much happier if I'm at home), and finally, reminding him of the words of the prophets (wives and mothers should stay at home) - words imperfectly interpreted by a woman in spiritual  pain. I am not proud of how I acted. I hurt my husband with my worries and disappointments. I was not honoring the choices I had made.

The one thing we always have in life, no matter what else, is choice. Agency, the ability or right to choose, is a fundamental principle of the Gospel - one has a choice to either follow God or not follow Him. It's always that simple. I had a choice with marrying Brian: marry him and accept his financial situation or don't marry him and wait for another.

Regardless of the might have been, I DID choose to marry Brian and that meant nothing else mattered afterwards. Was I willing to hold up my end of the bargain with the marriage and work through the hard parts or was I going to make myself and my husband miserable with invective and bitterness?

Again, not all choices we are given are simply good choice vs. bad choice. Important to remember also is that one apparently ideal choice doesn't necessarily mean that life will be all rainbows and unicorns. Jobs can be lost, unexpected expenses can arise, spouses can become disabled, desert or *gulp*, die. YET - and this is a big yet, there is always something good which comes of everything. God makes things as easy for us as possible no matter our choices.

I was able to spend two glorious months with my new little baby, Kenneth Calvin George Eddy. Brian and I loved our little throwy-uppy baby. He was cute, he was funny, he was a joy to his brother and sister. He brought our family together - not just Brian and me, either. He united our extended families and strengthened the ties we had with brothers and sisters and friends and ... well, everyone.

I made the BEST thank you cards for baby gifts

While I hoped for a miracle, none came. On March 19th, 2007, I went back to work at the library, leaving my son with a woman friend who had terrible baby hunger. She told me that watching Kenneth would be the best thing for it as her husband was completely fine with the five children they already had. They lived right by the library and brought him in often.Small graces!

I had two memorable incidents at the library which added to my stress over not being home with my baby. One of my co-workers said, "I stayed home with my children after they were born." I pasted a smile on my face and said, "You were so fortunate! I wish I could be home with Kenneth, too. Unfortunately, our financial situation requires me to work." She continued, "Well, it took a lot of sacrifice for me to be home - we did without a LOT, but it was worth it/better for the kids/some other thing that made me feel awful." I just smiled publicly and cried privately. My co-worker wasn't even LDS and she knew the importance of staying home with her kids. And she knew I was Mormon and was working. Yay for hypocrisy. A second incident happened with a patron. She asked me where I'd been for the last few months. I told her I'd had a baby. She said, "Oh, you should be home with him."  **** you, I thought.

I'd never expected this situation in the choice I'd made to marry Brian. I raged against the Universe for the unfairness of it all. I'd lived a good life - I'd kept myself pure for marriage, I'd gotten an education so I'd be a good mom, I DESIRED to have children and raise them in the Gospel - and all for this? What did I have to show for my efforts?

Well...
Dang, he's good-looking. How'd I get so lucky?

I have a husband who is perfect for me in so many ways. There's no way to adequately explain why in this story. It's the sum of a hundred or a thousand little things. Some I can tell people, but some are too private (or incriminating). The feeling I had of peace when I decided to marry Brian has never, ever left me. Occasionally, it's been lost sight of in the mists of my anger or other negative emotion, but that is always my fault. Brian has never wavered and that's not an exaggeration, but rather an indictment of me. I'm very grateful for repentance and a forgiving spouse. 


I have a child who is a special soul. My sister in law has been kind enough to watch Kenneth for me since he was six months old. (My friend moved away) It is a blessing to have family care for your kid - they love him like one of their own and I never have once worried about him like I would have if he was with strangers. Kenneth has also never been clingy - he's out of the car like a shot (bye Mom!) when we pull up to his aunt's house. He even asks to go over there when I stay home with him for a day! Kenneth's personality makes it easy for me to do what I have to do - work to financially support my family.Again, small graces...

It took longer than I'm comfortable admitting, but I'm finally doing fine. My job schedule changed to earlier in the day (8-4:30pm instead of 10-7pm) and it made all the difference. I miss my kid while I'm away at work, but both Brian and I try very hard to make the most of our time together in the evenings and on weekends.  Heavenly Father made a difficult situation as easy on us as He could. It just took me a looooooooong time to see it.

How Brian uses his time with Kiff

So, to answer the question of why I'm a Working Mormon Mom, it's because I have to work, not because I want to. I'm not a martyr and I'm not a paragon. I'm just a person trying to make the best of a situation that has an inherent set of problems and trying to work them out the best I can. I am choosing to make the best of a situation. Fortunately, Heavenly Father is making it as easy as possible for me, too.

My marriage is the product of choices made by two people who made hundreds of other choices which brought them to the point where they asked each other, "Are we willing to make this marriage work?"

And the answer cannot be said loudly enough: yes.

2 comments:

  1. Keep telling the story. I'm hooked!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Such a sweet story. And I love that last picture! =)

    ReplyDelete