Friday, November 11, 2011

Half a Duggar

You knew I was going to have to talk about this sometime didn't you? 

As a mom of ten, I've heard the quips, the canards, the snipes, the snips, the ungenerous critiques and legitimate concerns about the Duggar family from the time they started making the news circuit with their 16th child with a name starting with the letter "J" long before they became part of the TLC lineup. I've been asked, "Trying to out do the Duggars? Trying to be like the Duggars? Ever watch them?"

Until this week, I hadn't and wouldn't be able to pick them out in a lineup but for the numbers. Being a mom of half a whole Duggar clan, I'm not so foolish as to not know that those uncharitable thinkings could easily be about me. I don't have a tv show, but I do have a blog and invite people to read about some of the stories of our lives by my words and thus open us to the searing scrutiny of anyone who decides we are worth their time.

So I made myself sit down and watch. Admittedly, some of my kids were fascinated.  Maybe because I'd had ten, my sense of proportion is skewed, but I did not feel overwhelmed by their lives.  I'd read all the "It's selfish! They're wrong and should be isolated/its child abuse rants" with the news of this new baby. I expected to feel the chaos and irritation.  I didn't. 

It seems that because the Duggars have a tv show, they are fodder and fair game for all armchair quarterbacking of their lives no matter how uncharitable, untruthful or ill tempered. They're a cult. They're publicity hounds. They're pimping out their kids. They're wierd. They're irresponsible to the Earth and their children. How can they raise all those children? They're just in it for the money. He's a repressive oppressive individual who keeps his wife and girls down. She's too submissive, too stupid, brainwashed...insert insult here. The kids will be warped for life...

Concern: The kids are being repressed.

One day, they'll find out how isolated they were and see how uneducated and stiffled in creativity they were.  I read this in multiple com boxes that followed articles about the Duggar's new addition.  The kids are uneducated and stiffled and will one day rebel and they can't reach their true potential..really? I saw kids doing their homework and playing the violin, engaged in public speaking to peers, playing a game with donuts, sports, being kids.   But maybe I needed to see a different episode.

Concern: It's wrong to make the older kids help with the younger ones.

In a world where we believe we are all entitled to be 24-7 self stimming, I can see how instilling the idea that you are your brother's keeper might clash with modern thinking. The show is edited so I don't know how much of what is said and shown is real reality. But I do have a question for those who bash the Duggars on this point. Why is arm chair parenting so vitriolic when it comes to the Duggars and accepting when it comes to people like Snookie from Jersey Shore. We want a world of Snookies? of self involved stupid opulent hedonists? as opposed to people who live debt free, care for each other and have basic skills --oil changing the car, carpentry and sewing, that most of us have long since abandoned or never learned.

Concern: It is unsafe for the mom.

Having had a few difficult pregnancies, I can understand the worry about the mom given her last go around. However most of the criticism on this point is couched in a sheer fury that the couple would allow themselves to become pregnant again painted in the veneer that she (the mom) could die and the child could be handicapped. These same people would be equally smug and self congratulatory if she does struggle and there are complications.  Call it preemptive rage.  They hated her before they had a reason. The newest baby just reminds them, they hated her. 

Presumably, her OBGYN will keep in mind her past history and make adjustments.  Morals and values don't change because life gets hard, they get abandoned because people want to stop trying.  To my way of thinking, they made a commitment to each other, to life, and to not using birth control methods that 90% of the population have decided is a necessity of adult life to prevent live children.  It seems to me, the Duggars are living that out.  If our society is really pro-choice, it shouldn't have a problem with this personal decision.  If our society is really pro-life, it should also, not have animosity towards this couple. It has gone from it's their choice to if you can afford them to how dare you?  In truth, it was always, how dare you!  I hope for all of them, that this is a healthy baby and the pregnancy goes well.

Concern: Overpopulation and Unfair use of the Earth's Resources:

7 Billion people...7 Billion. Begin screaming! Cry! Duck and Cover! Start canning the tomatoes...wait, we might need to ask someone to teach us how to can...start dying now so that the earth can survive! So...should we just tell every woman that discovers she's expecting that the Duggars used up the last slot on Earth and they're out of luck? Pro-choice for me but not for thee? Celebrate and promote war so we can decrease the surplus population to unburden Gaia? That was the gods' solution in the Trojan war, when mankind had grown too numerous.  The Duggars are not the end of civilization. 

Concern: Too Many to Love: 

In our contraceptive culture, our hearts are becoming ever smaller. We do not understand how one could love more, because we can scarcely tolerate ourselves. We cannot imagine loving a handicapped child. We cannot imagine a handicapped child being happy to exist.  We cannot imagine that children in a large family will be real, will be accomplished, will be normal, will feel loved.  It's an odd thing that we think so much of individuality as a society, but want so much to fit in to a larger group that loves us for who we are...isn't that the definition of family?  But on a practical note: if it takes a village to raise a child, then why would not supplying your own village in your own home be an effective manner of doing just this without the pesky need for ordinances or a commute?

Concern: It's Not Normal:

Being a mom of many, I've run across what I call whispers of joys remembered.  A teacher, almost in a hushed voice will tell me, she's one of 7 and so is her husband.  A chef who became a chef because his job was to cook, is one of 13.   It wasn't so beyond us as a people, as nations, when we didn't think of women's fertility as something to manage and repress.

My dad was one of nine. He and his brothers and sisters went to college and in many cases, beyond to earn secondary impressive degrees. One of my good friends was one of 11 and again, all are educated, survived childhood unscathed by the experience and live productive meaningful lives. A cousin's spouse was one of 18. They were all kind, college educated and each helped the next get their degree so that in a single generation, they all became part of the middle class and beyond.  It's possible, it simply requires that those involved, knuckle down to the business of doing --which they did.   To me, this is what the Duggars are doing.  They have learned how to market their existence into income without becoming excessively attached to wealth a'la John and Kate plus 8.

Based on the fact that this is apparently season 4, the Duggars consistently live this out well enough to get paid for it and make it look possible. In answer to "It's not normal." It is unusual. It is however historically, closer to normal than what now passes for normal.  And saying something isn't what everyone else is doing, isn't a criticism, it's a complaint, that they aren't doing what everyone else is doing.  

Concern: They Aren't Good Parents:

One or ten or twenty, it is never the number that determines if we are good parents. One dollar or 40 billion dollars, it is not money that determines if a family is whole and well. Consistency, discipline, love, attention, hearing and meeting their needs, challenging them, taking care of them: these are the hallmarks of a healthy parent child relationship.  CPS would be in there like white on rice if the show indicated abuse or neglect.  Cursory looks indicate happiness ergo, I'm going to say this one goes to the Duggars unless contrary evidence is revealed. 

Concern: Using show/kids to make money:

The Duggars had 16 before they had a show that made money.  They were debt free then.  Kind of undercuts the argument.  But then, I'd also say, given that studies indicate we can't afford children unless we've somehow won the lottery or been one of those Wallstreet fatcats that made money even when the stock market went down, wouldn't they be foolish not to agree to a show that would finance their family's needs. ***(Cue irony alert to those who think these folks are stupid)***

Besides, Americans have always loved their big family shows: Brady Bunch, Eight is Enough, The Partrige Family...the Cosby fantasy comedy shows about having large families is fine, but reality isn't okay?  They use the show to make money.  Granted I wouldn't want a camera in my family's face 24-7 but hey, I'd love to use this blog to make money.  I'd love to be paid to write. So it seems to me this is a jealousy argument, married to envy that it's hard to pitch a show that can top them if you're going for numbers. 

Concern: They Can't Afford This Many

19 was fine but 20....well....isn't that's why they have the show?

There are a lot of articles out there that indicate children cost more than a NASA start up program. 
With estimates ranging between a quarter and half a million dollars if your offspring are smart and/or talented and even more if they want advanced degrees, as the saying goes, if you have to ask, you can't afford it. 

The deeper and better the gene pool, the more income required apparently. So I've determined that my children are priceless beyond compare as two are in school while two sit here painting, two are napping, two playing video games and one reading and one writing a report on the computer. Yes, there isn't enough money in the world to finance their true potentials in all circumstances to become the burnished gold Olympic calibre intellects, creative minds and athletes they could be if only we were more responsible loving people. If money were the measure. 

Thank God it isn't.  As for the Duggars, I thought people were mad that they were getting rich off their kids.  Which is it? 

Am I Going to Watch the Show Now that I've Done My Duggar Apologist Best?

No.  Wasn't interested. My life is full enough and if I see someone with more kids who is organized and whose house is clean, it's going to depress or guilt me into folding. I don't watch TV to be nagged into working, I watch to escape the internal nag that follows me everywhere.  I wish them well.  

My ten will have to settle for being captured with words and humor as their stories tickle me.  And if someday I become famous and these vignettes become part of popular culture and people accuse me of using my kids stories to generate wealth...I'll tell them, "Yes, and I earned every penny."


Sue said...

Well said!! Cheers Sue

LindaF said...

I liked this - as a mom of 3, I was constantly looked at as weird - how could I have so many!

Funny, even with Catholics, that attitude prevailed. How quickly the notion of what constitutes a large family changed - when I was young, you had to go 6 or more to qualify. My aunt had 10, and I had the opportunity to see how organization helped, but also letting the older kids help out with the younger, and assigning household chores. Chores weren't just a nice idea that earned the kid money, they were essential to the running of the household.

I work at a high school, and am appalled by the kids who think nothing of calling up their mother to get food at McDonald's or Chik-Fil-A, because they don't want to eat the cafeteria food. They think their mother's whole existence is to cater to them.

Natalie said...

We have a friend who is from a family of 12 and they are NOT Catholic and NOT Morman. They're Baptists in fact and they loved growing up in a big family and I don't think their Mom was ever judged badly. I didn't like watching the Duggar's either. I want 6 kids, but then I think 8 or 10 wouldn't be bad either. We'll see where God takes our family.

Mary De Voe said...

The most magnificent gift parents can give their children are brothers and sisters.

munchesmom said...

All I can say is...AMEN!

Anonymous said...

The second concern on your list is that "[i]t's wrong to make the older kids help with the younger ones." Does anyone really believe that???

We have seven kids. I think our older ones *appreciate* it when we ask for their help, because we thereby acknowledge their maturity, their importance, and their ability to accomplish something. We *need* them!

Certainly there are times when our older ones would prefer to do other things, but isn't helping your parents part of, dare I say, *growing up*?

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