There are many parents who care for children in traditional families. These families, made of a husband and a wife who nurture and protect children, are the ideal.
“Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. …
“Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. … Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another [and] observe the commandments of God.”
(Source: Family Proclamation)
For many people, this is not the reality they have experienced. It is common in our world to be without a mother or father due to death, divorce or abandonment. This is not the ideal situation for children because it leaves them vulnerable when their parent or caregiver is not there.
In my experience, I was raised by a mother and a father. While my father was away earning money to support the family, my mother was at home protecting us. While we did not have the extra security of two incomes, we never came home to an empty house with no dinner ready to eat.
I married and we have created the same situation for our children. My husband works to provide and I stay at home. My children have never been unsupervised when they play. They have never wondered where their next meal was going to come from. They don’t have all the things that two incomes can buy, but they have a safe place to learn and grow in.
It wasn’t always this way in America. In the early 1800’s if a spouse died and the surviving spouse was unable to care for the children, they were given to other families to earn their keep and treated like servants or even slaves. (Source: Aunt Sylvia Lumbert’s story) The same thing sometimes happens today in other countries when a spouse dies. (Source: Joseph Ssengooba’s story)
Families in America today often blend step-children and natural children together into complicated families due to divorce and subsequent marriage. These types of families often experience tension between family members. When my mother was growing up her mother with six children married her step-father with six children to make a combined family of 12 children. Luckily some of these children had already grown up but the tension in this recombined family was so intense that my step-grandpa’s children all left home early to escape it. Instead of feeling supported by their new family situation, they experienced a less ideal version of family.
In an ideal family, we learn to trust each other. We learn to tell the truth, work hard together and communicate when differences arise. Each parent has a different approach to life and that shows children that there is more than one solution to a problem. The synergy of all the strengths of each family member combined is more than any one person can produce. This basic observation is what creates hope for a community to work together successfully. And communities that are strong make a strong nation.
For those who feel alone or left behind because they come from a broken or dysfunctional family, I encourage you to find and join a healthy community where you can experience the security of people who work together and help each other. My church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers this kind of environment based on the Lord’s ideal of the family. Other churches may also provide this to their members. I have sensed community among Red Cross volunteers and there are small towns across America whose inhabitants work together creating this type of supportive environment. Whatever your life experiences may be, you can choose to work towards the ideal. The future has not been decided. You get to write the ending to your story. Choose family.