Exponent II Classics: Patti Perfect
retyped by EmilyCC
I thought I’d begin our newly formatted blog (thanks, Jana!) with one of the magazine’s most requested articles. Enjoy!
Margaret B. Black
Midge W. Nielsen
Vol. 10: No. 2 (Winter 1984)
Many LDS women unconsciously compete with an idealized image of the already-perfect wife and mother who successfully incorporates all the demands of family, church, and society into her life. Although we have never met such a woman, we persist in believing she’s out there somewhere. We can just imagine what she must accomplish in a day…
Patti gets up very early and says her personal prayers. She zips up her slim, vigorous body into her warm-up suit and tiptoes outside to run her usual five miles (on Saturday she does ten). Returning home all aglow, she showers and dresses for the day in a tailored skirt and freshly starched and ironed blouse. She settles down for quiet meditation and scripture reading before preparing the family breakfast. The morning’s menu calls for whole wheat pancakes, homemade syrup, freshly squeezed orange juice, and powdered milk (the whole family loves it).
With classical music wafting through the air, Patti awakens her husband and ten children. She spends a quiet moment with each and helps them plan a happy day. The children quickly dress in clothes that were laid out the night before. They cheerfully make their beds, clean their rooms, and do the individual chores assigned to them on the Family Work Wheel Chart. They assemble for breakfast the minute mother calls.
After family prayer and scripture study, the children all practice their different musical instruments. Father leaves for work on a happy note. All too soon it is time for the children to leave for school. Having brushed (and flossed) their teeth, the children pick up coats, books bags, and lunches that were prepared the night before and arrive at school five minutes early.
With things more quiet, Patti has story-time with her pre-schoolers and teaches them cognitive reading skills. She feeds, bathes, and rocks the baby before putting him down for his morning nap. With the baby sleeping peacefully and the three-year-old twins absorbed in creative play, Patti tackles the laundry and the housework. In less than an hour, everything is in order. Thanks to wise scheduling and children who are trained to work, her house never really gets dirty.
Proceeding to the kitchen, Patti sets out tonight’s dinner: frozen veal parmigiana that she made in quantity from her home-grown tomatoes and peppers. She then mixes and kneads twelve loaves of bread. While the bread rises, Patti dips a batch of candles to supplement her food storage. As the bread bakes, she writes in her personal journal and dashes off a few quick letters: one to her Congressman and a couple genealogy inquiries to distant cousins. Patti then prepares her mini-class lesson on organic gardening. She also inserts two pictures and a certificate in little Paul’s scrapbook, noting with satisfaction that all family albums are up-to-date. Check the mail, Patti sees that their income tax refund has arrived—a result of having filed in January. It is earmarked for mission and college savings accounts. Although Patti’s hardworking husband earns only a modest salary, her careful budgeting has kept the family debt-free.
After lunch, Patti drops the children off at Grandma’s for their weekly visit. Grandma enjoys babysitting and appreciates the warm loaf of bread. Making an extra call, Patti takes a second loaf to one of the sisters she is assigned to visit teach. A third loaf goes to the non-member neighbor on the corner.
Patti arrives at the elementary school where she directs a special education program. A clinical psychologist, Patti finds directing this program an excellent way to stay abreast of her field while raising her family. Before picking up her little ones, Patti finishes collecting for the charity fund drive.
Home again, Patti settles the children down for their afternoon naps. She spends some quiet time catching up on her reading and filing. As she mists her luxuriant house plants, the school children come through the door. Patti listens attentively to each one as they tell about their day. The children start right in on their homework, with mother supervising and encouraging them. When all the schoolwork is done, Patti and the children enjoy working on one of their family projects. Today they work on the quilt stretched on frames in a corner of the family room.
Dinnertime and father arrives, and it is a special hour for the whole family. They enjoy Patti’s well-balanced, tasty meal, along with stimulating conversation. After dinner, Father and Mom can relax. She enjoys listening to the sounds of laughter and affection that come from the kitchen.
With the teenaged children in charge at home, Mother and Father attend an evening session at the temple. During the return trip, they sit close together as n courting days. “Well, dear,” says Paul Perfect, “did you have a good day?” Patti reflectively answers, “Yes, I really did. But I feel I need more challenge in my life. I think I’ll contact our Family Organization and volunteer to head up a reunion for August.”
Does this idealized image still ring true almost 30 years later? How is it different? What would a Young Woman Patti Perfect or a single Patti Perfect or a Grandma Patti Perfect look like?