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meet the duggars…

October 26, 2008

is this the great american family or the great american nightmare?

17 children with another one on the way. 17.

am i wrong for feeling physically sick when i watched this show on TLC? am i wrong for searching their faces for some hidden sadness?

8 children under the age of ten, six of which are high-energy boys. one very-pregnant mother who says she’s always sick the first 3 months. homeschooling. a church inside their house. vacations where they all dress the same for identification purposes. names that all start with ‘J’. 8 loads of laundry a day. one room for girls, and one for boys (think bunk-beds). the oldest child already married at age 20. $1500-2000 a month for groceries. four older daughters, always with a baby balanced on a hip. anti-gay beliefs. an aging mother whose health risks increase with every pregnancy.

i’m not trying to find something wrong because i’m one of those unhappy people who begrudges others of their happiness. i’m not implying that they beat or sexually abuse their children, that dad must be a controlling patriarch while mom’s just a baby-machine. i’m not saying any of that. in fact, i imagine they must be under a microscope just because of the specter of abuse they so obviously raise to neighbors and mercenary journalists. if mommy and daddy were into corporal punishment, the media would have run with it. in truth, from the tv show at least, the parents look like they’re still in love, the children look rosy and healthy, and financially things are good (although I’m not sure if their finances have been substantially supplemented by different television appearances, etc).

i’m giving them the benefit of the doubt: even if the parents are veritable saints on earth, EVEN if they somehow stay sane when six little boys run around screaming, two babies wail, it’s time load up the trough for dinner, and mother dearest has her time of the month (although admittedly rare since the woman has been pregnant sixteen times), EVEN if they really are the good, sweet people portrayed, can you really tell me that these kids don’t suffer from some form of neglect, albeit inadvertant?

can you tell me that each child gets quality time with each parent? that none of the children ever feel overlooked and overshadowed? that somehow the middle-child syndrome has managed to skip a family of 19? that as well-meaning and affectionate as the parents may be, they haven’t blanked on one of their kid’s names with the child right there looking up at them? that by kid ten, mom gave up on taking ten thousand baby pictures and making an album? children are so diverse. some are quiet, some won’t be quiet; yet common sense tells us that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. it’s just natural. and with this many squeaky wheels, my heart goes out to the quiet ones, the later ones, the not-as-cute ones.

can you tell me that some mental or developmental problem hasn’t been missed when you have 17 children telling you about their day and asking for help with homework? what if one of the kids is ADHD? dyslexic? gay?

can you tell me that living in smalltown arkansas coupled with being homeschooled doesn’t create a sense of isolation? yes, these children are never alone; they have each other, every day, hell every minute so it seems. but isolation has a tendency to magnify–beliefs, stress, conformity (and therefore resistance to the individual), and probably much more that a psychologist or sociologist would be more qualified to identify.

can you tell me that these children don’t separate naturally into older and younger, girls and boys? even in smaller families, the oldest take some responsibility for the youngest. with the duggars, the parents must be stretched so thin that the oldest kids shoulder a fair amout of the parental burden. and with all the household activities (ie, where the duggars actually BUILT their house), directing so many children in different tasks may innocently break into the “male” and “female” zones of responsibility. is this fair? is this conducive to a 21st century ideal of man- and womanhood? to female independence? are the girls unconsciously setting their standards lower, beautician rather than attorney? (and i mean in terms of unwittingly shortchanging their educational ability or position in life, not that a beautician or other career that doesn’t require a graduate degree is somehow deficient). will all the children feel pressured to marry and “let god determine” the number of children they have?

can the parents pay for a college education for those of their children who want it?

and morally, is this reponsible? what if they couldn’t have afforded as many children as a woman is biologically capable of supplying? do they judge others, and would they judge their own children, for constraining family growth for financial or other reasons? and with all the needy, abandoned children already present in the world, isn’t this somewhat selfish? if every child is to be cherished, why not cherish the ones who through no choice of their own are in the world yet without anyone to love them. what about overpopulation? conservation of energy (they have four washer and dryers, two of every appliance, god knows how much garbage, fuel usage for their huge trailer…)? what if mom’s eggs starting getting moldy but she still continues producing possibly genetically-flawed babies? or, what if mommy dies from some pregnancy or delivery-related problem and leaves dad with 18 or 19 kids?

i don’t know, i just feel sad watching this show. there are so many crazy important developmental milestones in children’s lives. i hate thinking that they’ll be overlooked or under-appreciated just because attention can only be divided so many ways.

here are a few other blogs/articles i found interesting, and who show the same amount of horrified preoccupation…

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5 comments

  1. I just wanted to tell you that I agree wholeheartedly! It pains me to watch those kids and think how much they miss out on. Aside from having to share time with their parents among their siblings, these kids have super strict rules about how to dress, wear their hair, and date. They can’t kiss before their wedding day, all dates are chaperoned…it truly saddens me. The oldest just got married at the age of 20. I’m 20 and can’t imagine getting married right now, especially if I’ve never even spent enough time with the person (dating, kissing, etc.) to know if I want to share my life with them. It just makes me so, so sad.


  2. I think you have hit the nail on the head. It depresses me to see these children so parentalized, and to think of what will happen when one of them (inevitably!) comes out of the closet.

    There are so many children in the world who need love, do these people really think that God thinks its more important that they keep making new babies?

    I can’t help but be creeped out by the whole thing. It’s like a baby farm.


  3. Thank you. I found your post on the Duggar forum, which I found to be most distressing. It is very refreshing to hear a voice of reason in such a confused world.

    Regards,
    ~d


  4. You know, the first time I watched a show with the Duggars, I assumed I would feel the same way as you. I’m a super liberal (AND super Christian lol) married woman in my late 20’s, no kids. I WANTED to dislike these people so much, but then I just couldn’t. I agree with very little that they do or believe, but they seem happy. Who am I to judge their life? I’m pro choice, and that has to go both ways.


  5. First off I must confess I don’t watch the show. That being said I think it’s incredible that any family would have this many children. The Earth is truly suffering from overpopulation. I’m 56 years old and the population has more than doubled in my lifetime and will probably do so again if I live long enough. It takes an unbelievable amount of resources to raise even one child much less the 19 they have now. Personally I think they must be insane and it angers me no end that they have somehow been idolized with their insanity. We must do everything possible to control our population or we will most certainly ruin this beautiful planet we call home if it’s not too late already. We need to teach our children from day one the evils of overpopulation. Contraceptives should be readily and freely available to all people from the age they are able to conceive. Surgical sterilization should also be free and performed no later than after the birth of a second child. This may sound harsh but I believe it’s necessary so as not to destroy our environment.



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