by Aja Dorsey Jackson
Ahhh the Duggars. No other reality television family has the ability to make me both adore them and simultaneously think that they are 21 flavors of crazy. In case you don’t watch the show, Duggar parents Jim Bob and Michelle gave birth last week to a baby girl 3 months early, bringing their kid count up to 19. They are part of a religion called Quiverfulls, which condemns birth control and believes that God will bless you with the number of children that you are supposed to have. It also stresses a conservative lifestyle and somewhere along the line must require that all of its followers look like characters from Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. In the first episode that I saw, Michelle Duggar said that children are like flowers and you can never have too many. After that I continued to tune in to see what I believed would be a crazy train wreck ensue.
Despite the heavy criticism that they have received, and the fact that I once thought they were absolutely bonkers, and still do, there are things about the Duggar family that I like. At least in front of the cameras, Jim Bob and Michelle seem to have a loving relationship. Unlike many television families, they appear to genuinely enjoy each others company, treat each other with mutual respect, and after 19 babies and 20 plus years of marriage they still manage to heat it up enough to make another every year. They have well behaved, hard working kids and place the value of God and family above anything else. Plus, their crazy pales in comparison to the other supersized families cashing in on their large broods, i.e. Jon and Kate Gosselin and Octomom,
Yet there are problems that I have with their overall belief and the message that it may be sending. Recently I was looking at a message board full of women who, inspired by the Duggars, were opting to live a Quiverfull lifestyle, abandon birth control, and have as many kids as possible. While I believe that every child is a blessing, does believing that God will provide make having armies full of children a responsible act? Furthermore, the belief doesn’t take into account the physical condition of the mother or the baby. At age 43, doctors believe that complications leading to the baby’s premature birth were likely due to Michelle’s age and that she will likely have the same problem in future pregnancies. Shouldn’t knowing that a pregnancy could cause a dangerous situation for a mother and child lead you to take action to prevent it?
Still, having boatloads of children is not a new phenomenon. My grandmother is one of nine children which wasn’t an uncommon family size when she was born. My own great-great grandmother beat out even Michelle Duggar with 21 kids and somehow they made it. Truth be told, my own desire not to have any more than my own two children is probably somewhat selfish and materialistic. As much as I love being a mommy, I also love being able to pursue my career. I want to be able to provide my children with a nice home and nice things, family vacations, and a college education. And if I’m going to be 100 percent honest with you and myself, I have no desire to add any additional stretch marks to my body or have to take time to lose post-pregnancy weight.
Like Michelle said, children are like flowers. But to me that means that they need care, nurturing, and the right environment to grow.
Does my thinking that you can absolutely have too many make sense, or is it just another symptom of society’s selfishness? What factors have led you in your own family planning and family size?
Aja Dorsey Jackson is a freelance writer and marketing consultant in Baltimore, Maryland. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org