Tiffany Gee Lewis: The Perfect Family — Why we stick to the ideal

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  • cleancutmatt West Jordan, UT
    Nov. 18, 2011 6:01 p.m.


  • garybeac Chapel Hill, NC
    Nov. 16, 2011 10:10 p.m.

    "A house of learning" is often the missing standard when families struggle. Many kids who seem disadvantaged by learning and/or behavior problems are blessed with compensatory talents such as hyper-focusing on subjects in which they can find an interest. To try to force kids into one-size-fits-all activities and behavior will leave them feeling that their greatest gifts are sins. Take interesting books for them to look at during sacrament and Sunday school, because to seek knowledge is the only proper way for a kid to worship the Lord. Likewise family meetings should include rocket tours of the planets in the car, re-enactments of historical events, etc. We are only the salt of the earth if we learn when and how to apply ourselves. Kids who see their parents reading and watching intellectually stimulating books and shows will become the Lord's most useful servants, rather than unfulfilled sheep.

  • MormonDem Provo, UT
    Nov. 16, 2011 6:45 p.m.

    jenrmc: aw, thanks!

    Go Utes: Yes, we can hope for circumstances better than the ones we are in, but it seems that the "ideal" that we are pushing for is simply one that is not available to everyone, and one that really only ever existed briefly in developing countries in the post-WWII period: Dad with large income, Mom with no work outside the home, nice house in a safe suburb with good public schools. No matter what anyone does, that will never be a reality for anybody--in fact, it only is reality for a very few. Mom wants to say home because she feels she should for religious reasons? Fine, if dad makes six figures; otherwise, they have to buy a cheaper house in a less-nice neighborhood, with less-nice schools, which gives their kids less chances to get the kind of college education that will allow them to be dads with six-figures and moms who don't work.

    (And remember, folks--both Mr. and Mrs. Huxtable on the Cosby show worked full time, while on the other hand, one of the gay dads on Modern Family is a full-time stay-at-home parent!)

  • suzyk#1 Mount Pleasant, UT
    Nov. 16, 2011 6:43 p.m.

    These comments were very enlightening..some I had not thought about their particular situation but I do remember my Mother always hated Mother's Day because she never thought she was a good enough Mother to be remembered. I always thought that was sad and told her so but you could not convince her otherwise. My Mother was an incredibly talented and loving woman and Mother. Unfortunately, she passed away in January of 2000 from a massive stroke(she couldn't speak and was paralyzed on right side. Why are we as women so hard on ourselves. The Lord is the one to judge so I guess I have been wrong all these years of not liking Mother's Day because I was never blessed with children. I should appreciate it for what it is and the attention it does bring to these lovely Mothers, young and old and I hope they never stop remembering Mothers on Mother Day because it is important to many who believe they are good Mothers and deserve the recognition.

  • Go Utes Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 16, 2011 10:17 a.m.

    I agree with some posters that the author of the article seems a little sheltered, but I agree with her as to the value of teaching and shooting for the ideal. Perhaps no one can perfectly achieve the ideal. Some, through no fault of their own, are living in circumstances far from the ideal. But that is no reason to not teach the ideal. We all can have hope for a brighter day. I understand the need to be sensitive, but on the other hand, shouldn't church be a place where we feel a little uncomfortable and are motivated to reach for something higher? For some, reality may dictate that this reaching simply cannot take place for years or even in this life. But if we continue to teach the ideal, then I believe that more people will come closer to being able to achieve it in this life versus if we were to not teach it at all. Making church comfortable is a fine line of course. We want to feel welcome and loved, but what is the point of church if we aren't motivated to aim for a higher goal, however impossible it may now seem?

  • jenrmc Fort Worth, TX
    Nov. 16, 2011 9:35 a.m.


    Thanks for helping to shatter (at least put a crack in) a long-held opinion of mine that people living in Utah don't have a clue or the ability to sympathize with people who have less than ideal circumstances. I've always thought that living sequestered from the real world created these idealistic, holier than thou people but you have helped to show me it isn't a correct theory.

  • I M LDS 2 Provo, UT
    Nov. 16, 2011 9:26 a.m.

    The so-called "ideal" to which this author refers is as much a fiction as any comic book character. Persisting in shoving that fiction into people's faces under the illusory argument that "we must always strive for the ideal" is so much head-in-the-sand denial. It behooves us to critically examine that so-called "ideal" in its historical and social context to determine whether it is truly an ideal, or an historical and social anomaly appropriate only to industrialized North America during the last half of the 20th century.

    Taking someone's word, on blind faith, that an "ideal" is truly an authentic model and example of Christian life is risky. Prove all things. Hold fast that which is good. Where in scripture is this so-called "ideal" put forward? How many families throughout history, much less throughout scripture, have had the luxury of a husband working a 9 to 5 while the stay at home mom tends the perfectly groomed kiddies? "Fascinating Womahood" - what a joke!

    The last thing we need is to hold up false idols and images of what our lives SHOULD be.

    Get Real.

  • jenrmc Fort Worth, TX
    Nov. 16, 2011 9:12 a.m.


    You are correct in my ability to give an authoritative account of the loss of the dream. I can also give you the blessings. The strength and stability you fight for makes you a better person, gives you an ability to show compassion and acknowledge difficulties that you only get through trials and adversity. I have a relationship with my child that others dream of simply because I HAVE to communicate well.

    I hate church because you are surrounded by individuals that don't have a clue. The stress of trying to talk to people whose world is their kids, cooking every night and a loving spouse is exhausting. I would love to give a lesson in church about how the struggles of a single parent are extreme but so are the rewards. A single parent home might be missing a parent but it is full of teaching moments andlove. You grow together because you all depend on each other. What better way to show your child how to choose a partner than through age appropriate example? Dating is a great way to introduce your child to the world of relationships and give them tools to pick a partner.

  • MormonDem Provo, UT
    Nov. 16, 2011 8:28 a.m.

    jenrmc: I have a feeling you would have written a much more authoritative and sensitive article on this topic. Amen to everything you said.

    I shudder to think of how many teachers and leaders in the Church, who in their own lives have been spared from much real suffering and adversity, blithely alienate and discourage members and youth with their well-meaning but oblivious platitudes. A friend of mine, herself a single mom working to put herself through college, saw this article and was reminded of the recent comment made in a Relief Society meeting: a well-off woman with a large house and money for a housekeeper said she knew exactly what single moms were going through because her husband had to travel one weekend a month.


  • Murray1 SOUTH JORDAN, UT
    Nov. 16, 2011 7:36 a.m.

    What a GREAT article! Amen to it all!

  • jenrmc Fort Worth, TX
    Nov. 16, 2011 7:30 a.m.

    As someone who is divorced, had a temple marriage to a man who abused her and hoped for the ideal that is preached at church, let me just say that I am envious of having family home evenings as a problem that prevents me from having the ideal family. I am surrounded at church by people who want to be compassionate but by their lack of knowledge of what I am going through do more harm than good. I doubt there are very many people who start life out wanting to be a single parent/poor/abused/mentally ill/etc. Life throws you curve balls and getting through them is what matters. The best advice I can give is to leave out the family talk with someone who isn't in your same demographic. A good mother/father/family lesson would include acknowledging and having open discussions on the reality of the new family. Why it happens, what to do, how to cope and how to offer support. Avoid stating that you're praying someone will come into your parent's life to give them a temple marriage (happened to my child, she now hates that teacher's class). Embrace differences and learn.

  • Gracie Boise, ID
    Nov. 16, 2011 12:12 a.m.

    My fondest dreams growing up were of eventually populating a household as large as the famous Beasley family; as it turned out, my body wasn't up to the challenge--but I got two adorable daughters as prizes anyway. I hoped to inspire my family to be strong and valiant in the Church; I'm now divorced and one daughter left the Church--but my faith in the future of my fractured family burns where I can still see it. In the final analysis, I recognize that all the sadness I feel on special holidays and at being left out of the LDS version of a Rockwell painting will be made up in realms of light--but only if I continue to strive for my top-most goal and follow my Savior. I will certainly understand the ideal concept when I have solid celestial ground on which to nuture it.

  • Thanda Pretoria, South Africa
    Nov. 16, 2011 12:02 a.m.

    The only perfect parents I know of are our Heavenly Parents. One-third of their children rebelled against them and had to be kicked out of the "House". Many of Their children since mortality have been busy killing each other and hurting each other in so many ways. Many of the children would kill them(Heavenly Parents) if they had the chance and ability.

    And yet still that family continues to be the perfect Because the parents are doing everything perfectly right to give their children the best chance of a perfect life. Whether the children choose the perfect life offered to them is irrelevant. Happiness is based on what you do not what happens around you.

    This is why its so important for couples to make each other the most important thing in their lives. The partner MUST come first, before the children or anyone else on earth. Because when their children are all grown, their peace will come from knowing that together they did their best for their children no matter how they eventually turned out.

  • MormonDem Provo, UT
    Nov. 15, 2011 5:28 p.m.

    I'm not taking personal offense, I'm simply saying: if you think describing a rowdy family home evening allows you to speak with authority and as a "fellow sufferer" on the difficulty of single parenthood, physical or emotional abuse, addiction, dire poverty, chronic illness, or some of the other major problems that pull families away from the phony-balony cosmetic Cleaver ideal, you're incredibly oblivious, sheltered, and insensitive.

  • Bubble SLC, UT
    Nov. 15, 2011 4:38 p.m.

    @ ulvegaard: Who took offense?

  • Carole Knowles EAGLE, ID
    Nov. 15, 2011 4:29 p.m.

    Amen MormonDem.

  • ulvegaard Medical Lake, Washington
    Nov. 15, 2011 3:37 p.m.

    I thought the article was well written and inspiring.

    Granted, few if any of us have the "Leave it to Beaver" home life - myself included. But we never give up trying; because I am convinced it is a worthwhile goal. And even if we never achieve it completely, I am equally convinced that the journey will be worthwhile.

    It is unfortunate when people take offense when someone describes an ideal and expresses hope that we might come closer to it, eventually. I seriously doubt offense was intended, so lets not act as if it were. Life is to short to hold a grudge against someone who said "good morning" when we were in the midst of a bad day.

  • MormonDem Provo, UT
    Nov. 15, 2011 2:19 p.m.

    Using a rowdy family home evening as an example of how difficult your family life is is like Mitt Romney saying "I know how hard it is, folks--I'm unemployed too!"

  • CooginIN Southern, IN
    Nov. 15, 2011 1:36 p.m.

    Thank you for this lovely article about striving for the ideal family even when reality is far from it. I more clearly understand why teaching the ideal is important and why continuing to strive for the ideal is important. It is unfortunate that some feel negative pressure to live up to an ideal. I think it's a case where doing our best is more important than the outcome, and for every person, that is different. We need to be taught about the ideal family so we will strive for something better than what the world holds up as the ideal.

  • Bubble SLC, UT
    Nov. 15, 2011 11:02 a.m.

    We strive for the perfect family for the same reason we strive for the perfect body, the perfect haircut, the perfect job, the perfect life and the perfect anything else - society bombards us from every side with images of what we should be and sends a very clear message that anything other is less.

    There was a time when "Rubenesque" was considered the ideal for women - now such women are held in utter disdain.

    There was a time when it was honorable to work at jobs that required physical labor - now such jobs are only for "losers."

    The "ideal" family did not exist prior to 1950's television - and has only ever existed on television. Since that time anything else has been less and those living in less situations have been frowned upon, pitied, and treated as non-worthy members of society.

    We strive for the ideal because we are told that is what we must have in order to be loved and respected.

  • lds4gaymarriage Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 15, 2011 10:07 a.m.

    I remember discussing Mother's Day on an LDS message board 10+ years ago. I was surprised that most of the women there HATED Mother's Day and some even ditched out on going to Church that Sunday. Being a man, I was surprised at this and I asked why. I was told that they hated it when the speakers, usually men, would go on and on about their own mothers and how perfect they were. How they made a hot breakfast every morning and made homemade bread and were always there when the speaker got home from school. The sisters i spoke with usually had to work outside the home and their kids ate Captain Crunch for breakfast and mom often brought home happy meals on her way home from a hectic day at work.

    Mother's Day speakers made them feel inadequate. in the past few years, there have been fewer such talks.

    We have to be careful about extolling the ideal. many can't have it. The enemy of the good is not the bad. The enemy of the good is the ideal/perfect. No one should be made to feel inadequate because they aren't ideal.

  • Instereo Eureka, UT
    Nov. 15, 2011 8:06 a.m.

    Maybe the children will remember or maybe they won't remember a particular Mother's or Father's day when that parent is not there but I know it's hard for a person whose spouse has left them alone to celebrate. So while I believe it's important to strive for the ideal, I know many who refuse to go to church on those particular days because of the painful feelings they have. So it's a fine balance between the children's need for both parents and the parent who is left balancing the load with the added burden of knowing they are far from ideal in their situation.

  • Beowulf Portland, OR
    Nov. 15, 2011 7:31 a.m.

    Oh what memories you bring up.

    Back in 1986, I was looking forward to the approach of Mother's Day, because it would mark the first time my wife would be honored as such in our local ward. Much to my annoyance, the ward decided to skip the festivities that year, because the wife of a former Bishop (fed up with life as an ideal Mom, I suppose) had earlier in the year walked out on her husband and two little daughters (this is true!). The ward leaders decided that celebrating mothers would remind these two little girls that THEIR mother was not there, and so let the day pass in silence... (sigh) The sentiment I understand, just like your attempt to skip Father's Day in Miami Beach. But oh I wish I could have that year back, for my then-infant son.