Posted by: Hannah | 11/08/2011

20 kids. TWENTY.

Just found out that the Duggars are expecting. Again. Their 20th child.

As they might have expected, haters gotta hate. And the haters are coming out in full force today as word of the announcement spreads.

Myself, I wish them well. I hope the pregnancy goes smoothly and they have a healthy, full term baby. Michelle Duggar had some significant problems last time; gall bladder issues and severe pre-eclampsia meant their 19th baby was delivered three months early, and stayed in the hospital for ages. (She’s fine now).

What alarms me is how many women are criticizing her choices. And the language they are using really, really bothers me. Crazy. Ridiculous. Selfish. Insane. Those are all words I found on just one Facebook post about the announcement this morning. These are women who I’d be willing to bet are pro-choice. And yet, they feel like they have the right to make value judgments about what this couple – a loving, close couple who have raised 19 respectful, well-behaved children – have decided to do with regards to their own family planning & fertility?

Nope. I call bullshit. Can’t have it both ways. Either society has the right to dictate your choices, or not.

I’ve seen several people comparing the Duggars to Nadia Suleman, the infamous Octomom. This is a false comparison. Suleman conceived through improperly-overseen IVF. She already had six children she couldn’t support financially or emotionally. She was not in a stable relationship with a partner that could support her choices. She seemed to have no bloody damn idea what she was going to do with 14 kids. She still doesn’t.

The Duggars have chosen, because of their faith, to eschew birth control. That’s it. Apparently she is one fertile lady. Good for her. They are debt free. They are fully able to financially support their huge brood and seem to be able to emotionally support them, too. This is their plan. It may not be my plan, or your plan, but they did not enter into this with their eyes shut. I’ve seen people accuse them of “exploitation” for having a TV show – forgetting for a moment that they already had sixteen children when they first appeared on TLC. It’s not like they had a passel o’ multiples and then starting whoring themselves out to every TV program and magazine they could find in the hopes that they could live a ‘celebrity’ lifestyle (Gosselins, I’m looking in your direction).

I don’t give the Duggars a free pass. I have serious questions about the ‘education’ the kids are getting. I saw one episode where they went to a fossil park to look for diamonds. The park interpreter was explaining about where fossils come from, and coal, and diamonds. The kids calmly accepted mom & dad’s word that none of it was true, because of course the God they believe in would not allow species to go extinct. (Also that it’s impossible the earth is 4 billion years old. Science, it does not have much meaning for these kids). Homeschooling them and only really allowing them to mingle with other mega-families who espouse similar beliefs troubles me, too. If they really believe they are following the right path, shouldn’t they be confident enough to expose their children to other points of view? Just my two cents.

All that said, though, I am really bothered by the invective today. It’s her uterus. It’s her choice. And we have no right or place to question another life coming into the world, a life planned for, welcomed, and loved.




  1. Hurrah!

  2. I kind of love the Duggars. They’re very different from my family, but yet I like how much love they obviously have for each other. My concern about a 20th child is sincere hope that everything will go much better this time around than it did with Josie. I don’t really see how having 20 is so much worse than 19, and frankly I don’t care. You’re right, they support their family and seem to be stable in that sense.

    The homeschooling concerns would be true if they had 2 kids or 20. Their beliefs are those of the hard-core Christians. I know many of them myself, and most of their kids go to public school – they still manage to convince their kids that evolution is impossible and the Earth is 6,000 years old.

    • I don’t know any hard-core Christians personally. I’m not sure how many of them live around here (not many, I don’t think). But yes, to me the big question surrounding this family – if it’s fair to have any big questions, freedom of religion and all that even though I happen to think their belief system is very extreme – has to do with the insulated community they live in, not how many children they have.

  3. Totally agree with you. I’d have a problem with anyone who homeschooled their kids in order to ‘protect’ them from scientific truths and expose them to what I consider to be senseless dogma. But I don’t care how many kids they do it to. I’ve never watched it, but I find the hating disturbing too.

  4. I’m only going to say one thing: OMG, think of her poor vagina.

    • Yup, she must do a LOT of Kegels.

  5. I don’t see a conflict between being pro-choice and using any number of adjectives to describe this family (or any other family) – I’d see a conflict only if someone were proposing that Michelle Duggar be forcibly sterilized. If we think it should be ILLEGAL for them to be having more children, that perspective is not compatible with being pro-choice. Even in this post, your support for the Duggar family is not primarily about freedom of choice – it’s based on the factors that make theirs a reasonable and even a responsible choice.

    I find the Duggar family to be a really interesting litmus test for our views about what is and is not good for children. I have a friend who often announces, “I don’t agree with that” in situations where I often feel that her agreement is not being sought or required. The Duggar family is a good example – she doesn’t agree with people choosing to have families that large. (Again, the word choice is so odd – I would agree or disagree with a statement or a belief, not an action!) Her reason is that she doesn’t think it’s fair to the children. The older children have to look after the younger ones, and this violates my friend’s understanding of what a normal and appropriate childhood should look like. I, on the other hand, am not convinced that it’s best for children to spend twenty years as takers – that’s certainly the norm, now, in Western culture, but the Duggar children have a role in the family that is probably far more “normal” in historical (and even geographical) terms.

    The discussion surrounding the Duggars also reminds me of a friend of mine in high school who felt it was wrong and unfair for missionary parents to take their children to remote parts of the world. I can sympathize with that point of view to a certain extent, especially if the children are being sent off to boarding school, but it has always seemed to me that there’s something wrong with the assumption that children have some kind of inborn right to the full set of first-world luxuries.

    • Yup, you’re right – I am hypocritical in this post. Guilty as charged. At least though I feel like I’m taking a position based on as many of the facts as I have available to me – whereas a lot of the sexist, obnoxious, and borderline abusive invective I saw online this morning was written by people who haven’t watched the show or taken the time to find out more about the Duggars’ reasons for doing what they do. Those were the kinds of comments I was responding to. It was, frankly, pissing me off (this all started because I stupidly clicked a link for the yummy mummy club and read some of the comments on their Facebook posting about the announcement. I should know better, really.) I felt – and still feel – that it’s important in the face of all the negative reaction to have dissenting voices from people like me who may not espouse the lifestyle or raise our children in any kind of faith.

  6. 1. I agree. It’s not up to use to decide how many kids she can have and at least their kids are well cared for.

    2. With regards to their education: As a global citizen it makes me cringe everytime I hear about kids being taught what I consider to be lies (various creationists myths, etc.), but, again, it comes to choices and religious freedoms. In the Duggars case, I choose to look for the silver lining: they’re not raising terrorists and their show doesn’t cram religious doctorine down our throats (though, that’s probably mostly a TLC decision).

    3. I think it’s really interesting how women at either extreme get called the same names. As a woman who has decided that she doesn’t want kids, I’ve had it all: you’re selfish, that’s ridiculous, you’ll regret it in the end, you’ll change your mind, etc. It’s a personal choice, whether you have 0 kids, 2 kids, or 20 kids.

    • A big old “huh, whadda ya know” to your third point. I truly had never thought of it that way… but you’re right. I have friends who are childless by choice and it stuns me how often other people try to coax? push? shame? them into reproducing. And you’re right – it is a lot of the same language. This is why I love blogging… different perspectives.

  7. The only thing that bothers me is that they are the kind of people who take the Bible literally – the one episode of it I ever watched they went to the Creationist museum – AND THEY’RE BREEDING.

    This isn’t a religious problem to me per se, so much as it just illustrates my point that the people who breed the most tend to be the uneducated, or the low IQ people.

    So really, it’s not that I feel that the Duggars should breed less, so much as I wish that the intelligent, highly educated people of the world would breed MORE.

  8. This is why the premise of the movie ‘Idiocracy’ is so pertinent. Look it up.

  9. @Michael – yes, I’ve seen that! I thought the movie itself was shite but the premise TOO TRUE.

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