Quiverfull and Motherhood

I love it when people post comments because they end up helping me think more on a topic I’ve posted about.  I only scratched the surface in my last post on Quiverfull and I consider that one as providing the background and context for future discussions of Quiverfull.  Or to put it simply: Part One.

So this is Part Two.

I received a comment on the previous post and my response included issues that I hasn’t covered in that post. I felt another post was necessary. I am going to use the Duggars as my example here, largely due to the fact that people are familiar with Jim and Michele Duggar and their 19 children as a result of their following Quiverfull beliefs.  Though people many not know that the Duggars are Quiverfull, Gothard followers, follow Patriarchy (which is another damaging belief system that basically comes down to men are superior and women are inferior so they need men to rule and protect them using Ephesians 5:22 as justification), use courtship instead of dating, homeschool using Gothard’s material, and home church.

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Photo courtesy of US Weekly (because that was the only photo I could download and not have it end up opposite of what I wanted)

Michele Duggar likes to be pregnant and has said so in interviews.  Pregnancy is about her and her status as a child bearer.  For her, being pregnant makes her feel good.  Being pregnant keeps her in the spotlight and actually attracted the spotlight in the first place.  She is famous for giving birth to 19 children.

Pay attention to that last sentence.  There are two important words that highly illustrate the mentality of Quiverfull: giving birth.  That’s it.  These women get pregnant and give birth and then their job as mother is done.  Michele nurses and cares for a baby for the first six months of it’s life and then hands it off to a daughter to raise from there on out.  And then Michele gets pregnant again and the cycle starts all over. 

To Michele and many other women who follow Quiverfull beliefs, the mother only has to get pregnant and give birth, maybe take care of the baby for a few months or a year before an older siblings, almost always a daughter, is drafted into motherhood to raise her sibling.  Michele only gives birth.  She doesn’t nurture or raise this new child in any way except maybe homeschooling, at least nothing beyond those first six months.  Michele likes babies but her actions say that she doesn’t much care for children beyond how they make her appear to others.  And in Quiverfull, appearances matter.

Many women behave in the same way.  They get pregnant, give birth, and at some point an older daughter is drafted into motherhood to raise their younger siblings. Remember, Quiverfull emphasizes having as many babies as possible.  And the focus is on babies. 

Children are seen as a rebelling, disobedient, demon possessed spawn of satan stage between baby and marriage.  Childhood and adolescence don’t exist or are ignored.  

For many Quiverfull women, having children is a selfish act, not a selfless one. 

The Catholic Church teaches that marital sex is for two intertwined purposes: unity and procreation.  Or more colloquially: bonding and babies. 

You can’t divorce one from the other.  Marital sex cannot be just for pleasure and it cannot be just for babies.  By making marital sex about sex or babies, you make marital sex a selfish act where one spouse uses the other for their own gratification.  That’s not healthy marital sex.  Marital sex that embraces both bonding and babies is selfless because it becomes an act of complete self-giving to each other.  Marital sex is intimately vulnerable self-giving.  Your spouse becomes more important than you.

In Quiverfull, it’s all about the babies.  The mothers are treated as if they are broodmares.  Many mothers treat themselves this way which is truly horrific.  Babies and children become a commodity, not individuals made in the image and likeness of God who need a mother and father to nurture and love them and disciple them into adulthood.  Quiverfull is all about numbers not people.

So the child bearers abdicate mothering their children, at least after a daughter is considered old enough to be thrust into raising her siblings.  It’s justified as practice for raising her own children in the future. 

Michele gives birth to Baby.  She nurses Baby for six months before she picks Sister to raise Baby.  Sister in now Baby’s mother and will do all the diaper changing, potty training, getting dressed and fed, putting Baby to bed, teaching how to Baby how to tie his shoes, comforts Baby after a bad dream or a fight, teaches Baby to read and write, teaches Baby not to write on walls and how to get along with others, disciplines and corrects Baby, and how to play. 

A thirteen year old girl is now a mother to her baby brother.  And many times she is also mother to a toddler, a five year old, a six year old, and an eight year old while also having to clean most of the house, cook for ten people, complete her own homeschooling work on top of teaching a few of her younger siblings while also making sure she dressed in a pure and modest manner, read and memorize passages of the Bible, and obeying her parents while trying to avoid being spanked and/or other punishments for real or imagined infractions.

Quiverfull not only damages adults but also children, especially the girls thrust into adult parenting responsibilities that they should not be forced into.  A thirteen year old girl is expected to behave as an adult but gets punished as a child.  She rarely gets to have friends outside her siblings and what few friends she may have are chosen by her parents as long as they believe and act the way the parents want.

So Quiverfull:
-Emphasizes huge families
-Family planning is forbidden for any reason (health, finances, ability to care for other children)
-Women are expected to give birth to as many children as possible and their health doesn’t matter
-Babies are seen as a commodity
-Children are forced into parental roles to keep the cycle of permanent pregnancy going
-Women are only valued for their ability to get pregnant and give birth, not to be an actual mother
-Girls are expected to follow in their mothers footsteps by getting married and having large families after first having raised many of their own siblings
-Quiverfull is justified through the misinterpretation of Scripture verses

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