Friday, October 14, 2005

Children as Tally Marks

What kills me about Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar is not the fact that they have sixteen children all named with J names. Even Michelle's extreme-mullet hair doesn't bother me (too much) and Jim Bob can't really help that his name is Jim Bob, right?

I just can't get over the fact that she can appear on television a day or two after giving birth to her sixteenth baby while looking so incredibly chipper and awake. And her children, even the seven little in-a-row boys all sit quietly and literally smile when the camera pans by them.

She's a better woman than I. Put me in a line-up with her, ask someone to identify the superior mother and they'd pick her. No question.

If a camera panned my home, they'd see the dinner plates sticky with pancake syrup from last night's makeshift dinner. (My husband wasn't home for dinner again.) They'd see "Higgley-Town Heroes" on television and in the same room, a portable DVD player playing "Veggietales." My daughter is tossing Goldfish crackers to my son. School-at-home paperwork litters my desk. My Reluctant Student sits bleary-eyed at the kitchen table a full hour before he normally stumbles from his room. He's desperate to have at least part of the day off. (It's a Teacher In-Service day and my 7-year old has the day off.) Occasionally, he shouts out complaints that I've ruined his life by giving him too much work.

The "Quiverfull" folks add children to their families routinely, tallying up another mark of blessing from God. The problem I have with the whole "children are a blessing from God" party-line is the unspoken corollary, which is "those who do not have children have not been blessed by God." (And then there is the woman who calls herself "The Comic Mom," who doesn't think adoptions should be done. Ever.)

Believe me, in the days when I was trying to get pregnant without success, I did feel like God had turned His omnipotent back on me. My friends were conceiving while using birth control. I was like a fertility talisman--everyone in my sphere of influence became pregnant. Except me. I spent more days than I care to remember carefully wiping mascara from under my eyes, trying to look like I was not crying, when, in fact, I couldn't stop crying. All this angst because I was not a mother.

The question is, did God make me infertile becuase He loves me less? Or does He loves me less because I've only been pregnant twice? Are the arrival of babies the surest sign of God's blessing? Because that's the message I get from women like Michelle Duggar who blithely portray a perfect family crammed with smiling children who never appear on camera with so much as a runny-nose, let alone a foot-stomping fit. She runs a tight ship. No question about that.

But I am not inspired to do the same. In fact, I feel the tiniest bit enraged at this woman who seems to be living a life which she planned exactly, down to the matching pinafores on her daughters and the straight parts in her sons' hair. I mean, doesn't she ever wake up and think, Today I am too tired to be a mother. Does she ever do the math in her head to figure out when the last kid will be gone? Does she have any flaws (beyond that misguided hairstyle)? And how does she get those kids to sit still? Don't things ever happen in her family that cause her to shriek and say things she regrets like, "YOU ARE DRIVING ME CRAZY!"?

Kudos to Michelle and Jim Bob and their ever-expanding family rosy-cheeked children. I just wish they'd stop appearing on television looking as if they never break a sweat. Are their superior reproductive systems a sign of God's ultimate blessing? And if so, what did I do to forfeit a similar blessing? Or is it simply a matter of biology, nothing more?

And is shutting down the reproductive factory the same as telling God, "No thank you. No more blessings for me," as Jim Bob and Michelle would have us believe?

[Update: I did see the entire family appearing on a night-time news program and this time, the baby was screaming and the little boys were fidgeting and that made me feel OH SO MUCH BETTER about my inadequate mothering. Thank you, Michelle.]


Blogger Loud Static said...

you can't believe everything you see on TV. :)

Besides, I think having that many kids is just irresponsible. And I know plenty of people with 2 kids who have too much to handle, let alone 4.

Nobody's perfect.

And those who adopt are, in my opinion, better people in the long run. You make unwanted children feel loved, and that's an amazing accomplishment.

So what if there's dirty dishes in the sink? God was around way back before dishes were invented, wasn't he?

2:43 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

She probably gives the kids valium in their homemade oatmeal. ;)

3:19 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

Valium in the oatmeal!

Now why didn't I think of that?

Although, I would have put it in my oatmeal and let the kids run wild.

Excellent post, Mel. I was having similar thoughts myself.

3:42 PM  
Blogger Jack-on-the-Lake said...

I can't stop laughing! I also married into the family who believes that the blessings should keep coming until the mother is infertile, I guess. Anyway, the link to their family website was interesting - and if you haven't clicked on their favorite links page and viewed the site for modest swimwear, you must. While we all wish we could wear dresses at the beach, I think most of us realize how ridiculous we'd look. This site proves that theory!

5:25 PM  
Blogger Gem said...

I don't think God is blessing you less if He give you fewer children, he's just blessing you in different ways. I don't think these women are saying that they are more blessed overall or that God only blesses through children. I am by no means of the quiver-full mindset, but I've been thinking it all over. If I truly believe that God sends each child, that He knows them in the womb before their bones are knitted, then I should (should being the operative word here) trust that each child I concieve has been sent by him. Now, we use prophylactic birth control, so that's why I say SHOULD in the above sentence. I do not follow through with what I say I believe (in God's placing each child with the parents He wants them to have). It's just too scary. I tell myself I am too old or my husband is too old for us to raise any more babies to adulthood (37 and 43, if you really want to know). But if I were to put my money where my mouth is, I would have to admit that while I say I trust God to give me the children He wants me to have, I just make it really, really hard for Him to do so. I am one of those fortunate women who have conceived while on the pill, while breastfeeding and using condoms, then our last was actually "planned". I was pregnant with him 2 weeks after we decided to stop using BC and have another child. God wanted me to have these kids, and I trust that if He wants me to have more, He'll make sure it happens! When I see the Duggans, I have two thoughts -- 1. That I had started having children younger and 2. That I trusted God that much. Oh, and 3. That I would go truly insane if He game me that many!!!

6:11 PM  
Blogger Vashti said...

To echo an above comment, I, too, think it's irresponsible to have that many children. 1) The planet is overpopulated. 2) I don't care who you are, you will never convince me that one woman has the emotional capacity to really mother all of those children. The older siblings are doing a fair amount of work with the younger ones (and resenting it, I bet). 3) I believe children are blessings, of course. However, I don't think God said "Please have as many babies as physically possible." I also don't believe that God equates your worth with how many children you have. It is more likely that he equates your worth with how you treat the one's you have, or if you don't have children, God probably hopes that you tried to make a difference in the life of a neice, nephew, or neighborhood child's life.

10:04 PM  
Blogger Edna B said...

Oh crikey. I had never heard of Jim-Bob and Michelle until now. Their life sounds like a regimented nightmare. I'm sure their oldest girl (14) loves cooking dinner, every single day, for 18 people, and the second eldest (13), loves COOKING lunch every single day, FOR 18 PEOPLE. Wow. I have trouble making school lunch for one and cooking for three.

2:53 AM  
Blogger Krystal A. Kelly said...

You know, Bear and I have five children. We've also had five miscarriage. We wanted a lot of childre and were lucky that way.

I don't understand, though, why so many responsible and loving couples can't get pregnant and so many crack head whores on the street can. Why do fourteen-year-old girls get pregnant, whild married women in their twenties or thirties with their own homes can't?

There is no way for me to assilimate the above info with my deep down belief that The Creator is involve with the creation of each new life.

I don't get it. And I plan to ask "why" one day when I get there.

Adoption is amazing! Anyone who thinks otherwise is a s**thead!!!

Pancakes for dinner is fair game.

Sticky plates are left out to feed the ants, which are also God's creatures. Leaving them is a sign of oneness with nature.

6:00 AM  
Blogger Judy said...


This woman NEVER has PMS!


Why, without that I could have had me a plethora of Judy-Bobs!

6:40 AM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I don't know the woman/family, and I'm not inclined to read up on them, but I do think it absolutely ridiculous to think that God has anything at all to do with sending children our way. It's biology, pure and simple. Do people really think that the divine has the time to hover over every act of sex and guide the sperms to the target ... or not? It's a ridiculous concept that demeans the God that they are so passionate about and makes themselves the centre of God's universe. And that's hubris.

Wait, are we in some sort of agreement here? :)

7:58 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great, if a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate...

1:35 PM  
Blogger HomeJewel said...

I highly suspect it is the media trying to portray that "perfect image" thing they have going on. When you read their site, it's clear that their kids have the normal attitude problems other children have and they struggle to keep the house in order and that is why they have adopted a strict schedule.

Frankly, I'm jealous. I've tried making a schedule to use for our family, but what is lacking MY discipline to stick with it. I'd rather sleep in. And my house looks like it!

Who cares about her hairstyle. I'm sure it's the last of her concerns.

3:22 PM  
Blogger Julana said...

I just have to say
I have two cousins who are QF. One has nine children, and named the ninth Nina. :-)
Of course, we have a great-aunt Nina. But still. :-)

5:54 PM  
Blogger Krisco said...

I don't think your worth with God is measured in how many children you have. Likewise not with how many "blessings" you have on earth.

Similarly, your worth cannot be ascertained by your lack of blessings, or any tragedies you may have to live through, while you're here.

That's why Christ came, right? To show He loved all of us. Regardless.

7:53 PM  
Blogger TBG said...

I posted about the duggars a couple of times. theyare quite scary!

9:49 PM  
Blogger Tina said...

I'll be curious to see if any of their children write about their lives when they are adults.

Only time can tell with any family how the "theories" prove out.

11:55 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Whoa sixteen?! I would die after number 3. I am going to have to agree with Dawn about the valium in the oatmeal. I have one seven year old son and I can barely contain him in most cases and I never can convince him that you just can't run around outside with boxer shorts with a sheet/cape on with a curtain rod.

1:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see why people have to get down on the Duggars for their choice. Granted, I wouldn't have 16 kids, but to imply that her children are just "automatons" is petty. Maybe you're just jealous because her kids are so well-behaved.

Emily Elizabeth

9:32 PM  
Blogger Mel said...

Dear Emily Elizabeth--of course I'm jealous of extremely fertile people. We infertile people tend to be bitter, you know. I'm also jealous of people who have children who can sit still for more than two minutes. The automaton comment was strictly in good-humor, a comment about how unnaturally well-behaved those kids were. I did see them on a different show later on and they were very squirmy, so I completely retract the "automaton" comment.

There. Are you happy now?

9:45 PM  

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