Patti Perfect

Patti gets up very early and says her personal prayers.

She zips 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 one 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, book bags, and lunches which 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 a cognitive reading skill.

She feeds, bathes, and rocks the baby before putting him down for his morning nap.

With baby sleeping peacefully and the three-year-old twins absorbed in creative play, Patti tackles the laundry and 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 of 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 attractive and up-to-date.

Checking 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 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 neighbors on the corner.

Patti arrives at the elementary school where she directs a special education program. A clinical psychologist, Patti finds this 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 her about their day.

The children start right in on their homework, with mother supervising and encouraging them.

When all school work is done, Patti and the children enjoy working on one of their 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 the children pitch in to clean up so mom can relax. She enjoys listening to the sounds of laughter and affection coming 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 in 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."

Now the Real Story

Patty dimly hears the children banging around in the kitchen, and with a start she wakes and looks at the clock.

Oh no! It's 7:00 am already! The baby had been up several times in the night. He was teething (again).

She wraps her tattered bathrobe around her saggy baggy body and rushes into the kitchen to make breakfast.

After making each child an egg and toast, (Judy's has to have the yolk broken and George wants his scrambled) she trots back into the bedroom to rescue the howling baby.

She snuggles him warmly despite the fact that he is drenched in urine.

She manages to get him changed into dry clothes and puts him in the arms of the oldest child while she slaps together some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in between frantic searches for shoes, homework and backpacks.

She writes a note on a brown paper sack to excuse one child from school a few days before when he was sick, and just as the bus pulls up calls everyone together for a quick family prayer.

She rescues the baby again from the dubious care of her three year old who was spooning dry chocolate milk mix into the delighted baby's mouth.

She gets the baby fed, and swabs at the highchair which little Mary has artistically daubed with egg yolk and toast bits.

Then she bundles all three of the youngest into the bathtub for a merry game of "Get Mommy Drenched."

That's okay though because since dear hubby left 10 minutes ago the chances of Patty getting a real shower are practically nil with five preschoolers around.

The phone rings and Patty gets the children out of the tub where they run around happily naked while she agrees to take little reminders for homemaking meeting around her neighborhood.

She interrupts little Jason and Jordan's peeing contest and finds Nancy dressing Mary and the baby up in toilet paper.

Finally having all the children dressed and herself dressed in sweats and her hair pulled back into a pony tail she loads all five children up in strollers, backpacks and leashes to take a walk around the neighborhood.

Jason and Jordan volunteer to tape the little messages onto the doors and Patty sincerely hopes that the sisters will see the flyers down at knee level.

Back at home she takes a few minutes to read a Book of Mormon story to the children. Jordan and Jason love this one. They like the part where Ammon whacks off the arms of the bad guys. They run shrieking around the room pretending to be Ammon. The baby watches fascinated and Mary and Nancy loudly cry.

Patty spends a few fruitless minutes picking up toys, baby socks and books while the children watch Barney. She finds herself mesmerized by the "I Love You" song.

She decides to bake cookies while the baby has his morning nap (which lasts for 20 minutes). The little ones have an entertaining time making many different sizes and shapes of chocolate chip cookies.

Now Mary needs another bath.

The door bell rings. It is Patty's visiting teachers. She had forgotten they were coming but figures they were here to see her and not her house.

She was mistaken but that's okay. They don't stay long.

By then it's time for the 3:00 panic when she realizes that in just a few hours 11 people are going to want dinner.

She frantically looks through the freezer to find that magical package that says, "Here I am cook me." It is missing, so instead she improvises and comes up with a dinner that for once everyone loves. Pity she didn't write it down.

After the dish washing war gets sorted out Patty escapes for a luxurious 10 minute bath only accompanied by one baby. It is heavenly.

As they have family scripture study after applying bungie cords to children ages 2 through 6 to keep them in the room, she gets misty eyed as she remembering the days when she had time to practice the cello and take a walk or exercise.

But as the warm and sleepy baby snuggles in her lap and all 9 of the others file by to wish her a good night and collect their hug and kiss, she decides it is a fair trade.

Her husband smiles and takes her hand just before he heads out the door for bishopric meeting. And she says a quiet prayer of gratitude and an appeal for strength to be the mom again tomorrow too!

The authors of Patti Perfect are
Margaret Black and Midge Nielsen.
It was originally published in
Exponent Vol. 10: No. 2 (Winter 1984)

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