Friday, January 29, 2010

19...isn't enough?

Really?  The Duggars are still leaving the size of their family "up to God," according to their interview in People magazine.  What possible justification could they have for this after 19 children, 2 cases of preeclampsia, 4 cesarean sections, a micropreemie whose future is still uncertain, and gallstones?  Oh, that they put their faith in God, of course!

In my previous post, I mentioned (okay, raved about) No Longer Qivering, a blog about the Quiverfull movement and patriarchy.  After reading so much insider information about the lifestyle and the destruction it causes, I can no longer just shrug and smile sadly about Michelle and Jim Bob's decisions regarding birth control.  It's not cute, or sweet or even adorably naive.  It's sad.  It's crazy.  It just goes to show how brainwashed they are by their extreme religion and the recommendations of some of the authors and pastors within it.

I once just figured that they were truly a "what you see is what you get" kind of family, but that was just wishful thinking on my part.  I love babies and for much of my life, all I could think about was having babies and becoming a mother.  I never imagined that my first baby would be born when I was 28.  My goddess, my own mother had 5 children by that age!  I'm 30 now, trying for #2, when my mom had #6 and was done adding to her family.  So I compulsively watched shows like A Baby Story, Maternity Ward, House of Babies, and later Kids by the Dozen and the Duggar family specials.  I was obsessed with the latter two.  Even though my conscious self never wanted more than 4 children, I watched these shows in envy.  I had wanted to have my first baby by 25, and some of these people had 4 by then.  They ran their homes like clockwork, had as many babies as they wanted, and seemed to have the family closeness that I had as a child and want for my own family.  It was more than addictive.  It was seductive.  The religion I rejected as a small child contained the possibility of so much that I wanted...and yet it was never enough for more than just a daydream.

I've said before that I would love the certainty of Christianity.  Knowing that the world is so black and white must be so reassuring.  And though I was raised Catholic (and not even strictly Catholic) rather than in a more conservative sect of Christianity, I knew even at 8 years old that the Christian religion demanded too much.  I saw it, even then, as unfair and too restrictive.  As soon as I found out what sex was I knew I wasn't waiting for marriage.  I had no intention of ever going to church again the moment I was no longer being forced to.  I thought the mythology was boring and that many of the lessons were ridiculous.  I hated the authoritative nature of it, and I scoffed at the idea of someone making a sacrifice for such ideology.  I thought you would have to be stupid to give up family life for service as a priest or a nun, and that only those who were gluttons for punishment would bother to "save themselves for marriage" or fast for Lent.  Why bother?  There was so much freedom to be had outside of religion, so much unrestricted fun to be had guilt-free.  So I willfully left, dragging my family with me, by the age of 15.  Mom just couldn't take the fighting about it anymore, since dad would ground me for a week for misbehaving in church.  I was supposed to "prove myself" the next Sunday by being a proper young lady during services.  Instead I was perpetually grounded.  Dad, being a big kid himself, hated grounding me that much, and mom started to feel like it wasn't worth the effort to drag all 6 kids (my minions who I'd turned against church, as well) through a boring hour of church where we all did our best to amuse ourselves to our parents' embarrassment.  It was dumb.  Mom was a real martyr for carrying it on as long as she did.

So why did I even think for two seconds that an even stricter version of this religion had any appeal?  That's crazy!  Well, it helped that I wasn't living it, so all I saw was the pretty package presented on TV of a large, close, happy family.  I had a boyfriend (now my husband) who wanted only two children and wouldn't let me start our family until we were done with college (which was taking forever) and married.  Through all of the ridiculousness, all I saw was a woman who was allowed to have as many children as she wanted, when she wanted them.  Ultimately, I think that's where my obsession stemmed from.

I have to wonder if, after I have my second child, would I even want any more children if my husband gave in and let me have as many babies as I want?  I don't know.  I'll probably never know, since he's pretty staunch about only wanting two.  I wish I could know in my heart if I'm just fighting him and clinging to my dream of having (what I think of as a) medium-sized family, or if I really truly won't feel complete until I have birthed a fourth child.

Either way, I'm happy that I'll never know the back-to-back pregnancies, multiple cesarean sections, complete exhaustion of keeping up with so many children, and submission to patriarchy that these women in the Quiverfull movement are subjected to.  The multitude of miscarriages that they often face toward the end of their childbearing years is heartbreaking, and the lack of support and empathy is horrific.

No, I can't be angry at the Duggars for their conviction of faith.  They are sheep.  They have been conditioned to blindly follow, without thought, where their religion leads.  Sheep are dumb creatures.  They'll walk off a cliff if that's where they're led.  And it's now clear to me that one doesn't just decide to become a sheep.  It's a slow process of taking away independent thought and chipping away at self-identity.  I can't be angry at them when they're doing only what they've been told is right and good.

Nope, it's the fundamentalist Christian religious movements that are so destructive.  It makes promises it can't deliver, sets impossible goals and ideals, demands more than one can give, and still makes good people determined to stick with it to their deaths.  Sad.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. What kills me about the Duggars is that Michelle and JimBob aren't conditioned sheep -- they actively *chose* this lifestyle. It's their children who worry me. They're being pigeonholed into these strict religious roles within the quiverful lifestyle, and eventually... someone's gonna snap.

    (Sorry about the double-commenting -- I deleted the first one because I had a dreadful misspelling that made me nuts just looking at it -- again, sorry!)

  3. I'm not saying that conditioning necessarily comes from being raised in this lifestyle. It can also come from other members surrounding them who influence them, pulling them in deeper and deeper. Friends, pastors, and the authors of the books they choose to read influence them and other people like them. Yes, they "chose" it, but they also chose birth control and TV and dating over courtship in the beginning. A pastor challenged them to give up TV for a year, they discovered courtship later in life as part of this super-fundamentalist culture, and I think they might not have questioned birth control (at least not so early on) if Michelle hadn't had a miscarriage so early in their marriage.

  4. I agree with what you're saying, absolutely. My thing is that at least they had the initial choice to enter this lifestyle. They had "normal" upbringings. They are culturally in-step with the memories of their peers when it comes to the pop culture of their youth and so forth.

    Their kids have none of that, and additionally they have the other influencers you mentioned for Michelle and JimBob. It's just not right, on so many levels. Sure I want to protect my kids, but in my experience it's necessary to also let them fly. The Duggar kids have all had their wings clipped.