Over the weekend, I stumbled across the cover of the new issue of People on a library table:
19 kids…? My eyes wanted to bulge at the sight of that number, but they stopped doing that when the number hit double digits.
It’s just not a surprise anymore.
The question on the cover is “How Many Kids Are Too Many?” (Really, People magazine, it took you 19 kids to ask this question???)
It’s really easy to bash the Duggars for their reproductive fortitude. I know I’ve done it in the past — just because you can have so many children doesn’t mean you should have so many children — but I’m starting to change my mind.
I’ve heard people go after the Duggars for a number of reasons:
- They have too many kids.
- It’s unhealthy for the mom.
- It’s bad for the individual children.
- The media glare (from their TV show) is bad for the little kids.
- The overpopulation aspect — If other families did what they did, this world would go haywire in a matter of generations. It’s irresponsible of them to have so many children!
- They instill (brainwash) fundamentalist Christian values into the children.
- The children are forced to give up their own youth to care for their younger siblings. (Though none seem to mind.)
- They’re ruining the letter J for the rest of us.
- If my math is correct, in a few generations, all of us will have a Duggar in our family.
But the Duggars are not like the Octomom, who is trying to raise 14 children as a single mom while unemployed and on public assistance. They’re not desperately trying to hog the spotlight. (Really. I mean that. Despite their level of publicity, the Duggars don’t strike me as media-whores in the same way that Jon and Kate do.) The family’s health also seems to be pretty good overall (the most recent child was born premature, but I don’t think the age of the mother or the number of previous births has anything to do with that.)
There are some arguments to silence the critics:
- They’re not in debt. (No doubt their TV show helps with that.)
- As far as I can tell, they’re supporting themselves. (Jim Bob Duggar was a state representative in Arkansas for a couple years, and I’ve heard this entitles his family to free health care for life, but I can’t find a credible citation for this. Their house is paid for, too, partly because it was previously incorporated as a tax-exempt “church” — again, I can’t find a credible citation for this.)
- The kids seem to be good citizens, not getting into any trouble with the law.
- The parents seem to care for the children as much as you would want any parent to — it would be easy to find examples of one-child parents who don’t have the connection to their kid as much as the Duggars do to each of theirs.
- The Duggars are in a committed relationship (unlike this dude with 19 kids).
- While some Quiverfull women have left the movement, Michelle Duggar appears willing and able to be giving birth to so many kids.
So what’s the problem?
I doubt anyone would ever want our government instituting some law about how many kids a family should be allowed to have.
We argue that women should have the right to do as she wishes with their bodies… and this is a woman doing just that.
The best argument I’ve heard has to do with the older children having to give up their lives to take care of the younger children, but this doesn’t strike me as too awful. The kids are happy to be helping out their family in this way.
You can argue they’re giving up their individuality, or giving up a social life, but even with a couple kids, this isn’t too far off from what “regular” Christian homeschooling families do. Don’t like it? That’s an argument against Christian homeschooling, not this particular family.
Don’t like that they’re raising the kids with their particular brand of religion? That’s an argument against fundamentalist Christianity, not this particular family.
Is Michelle just brainwashed into doing all this? Again, it’s an argument against faith, not specific to just this family.
Maybe we should just salute the Duggars for (ironically) winning the game of evolution…
Incidentally, my interview with Kathryn Joyce, author of Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, can be found here. It describes the type of lifestyle the Duggars have chosen to follow.