Guest Post: The Price of Benevolent Patriarchy?
by Abigail T.
I know an LDS family — a very nice family. Salt of the earth, every child practicing LDS. Good, good people, every single one of them. There are 6 adult children, the mom has been a stay at home mom since her early 20’s, and the dad — the full time wage earner — has served in numerous bishoprics and stake presidencies over the last 40 years.
I’ve had several chances to observe this family intimately. And something I noticed, as well as something that the adult children have remarked upon, is that none of the children talk to the dad. Oh, they do the superficial ‘how’s it going?’ thing with him. They’ll ask about his church work for a few minutes. (He loves to talk about that.) But they don’t really communicate with him on any kind of level beyond the superficial. All real communication goes through the mom, who then tells the dad what’s going on in the lives of all their children.
It’s kind of sad. The dad is a good man who loves his kids and is willing to help them out when they need it. Yet there’s just no intimate communication. Only one or two of the sons will have any kind of extended conversation with him, since they are more willing to listen to his Church stories than the others.
I can’t help but wonder if this is a common dynamic among LDS families with fathers who have spent the children’s growing up years deeply entrenched in both work and church service. Is this the price that many LDS fathers have paid for all their service? Is this what has been sacrificed by many families for all that service — real relationship and intimate communication between father and children?
I don’t know how widespread a phenomenon this is. Maybe this is just a fluke dynamic that has arisen within this particular family. But I’d love to hear your experience with this. Do you see adult children communicating as openly and intimately with their fathers as they do with their mothers, particularly in families in which the father has been involved in intense church service?