Last night I was watching “18 Kids and Counting” – a TLC show about the Duggar family who have 18 children and are pregnant with their 19th. All of the children are from the same parents and appear to be healthy, normal, and happy. Their oldest son got married at 20 years old and he and his wife announced their own pregnancy within a few months. Their child was just born, a few months before Michelle’s 19th child is due. They are thrilled with all these children and believe they are a blessing from the Lord. They don’t believe in birth control of any kind and feel that if they leave it totally up to the Lord, He will give them the number of children they need and nothing more than they can handle.
When this show first came out, I watched it out of curiosity – judging them in my heart and feeling sorry for their poor children. I felt it was a ludicrous concept and that Michelle Duggar was endangering her own health and the well-being of her children. I was certain that many children would make it impossible for the parents to know each child and give the proper amount of attention to each one. And I can’t forget to mention that they home school their children, the girls all wear skirts or dresses, they don’t watch television, and they have a home church. I think all those things can make a family a little weird; however, every time I watched the show, something stirred in my heart and I found myself watching it the next week as well. I now record it every week so I don’t miss anything.
Surprisingly, I’ve found the Duggars to be one of the most sincere and healthy families I’ve ever encountered. I know it’s a television show and they can edit out whatever they don’t want shown, but this family truly appears to get along with one another, to be well-educated and entrepreneurial, hard-working, creative, and sincere in their love for the Lord and their study of His word. When asked to explain their unusual beliefs, they often say that this is the conviction of their family and not something they expect everyone else to do.
Jim Bob Duggar, the dad, made a comment on a question and answer show last night that stunned me. He said if he and Michelle end up having 20 children, and each of their children has 10 children, then there will be 200 grandchildren and the family will never be without young children toddling around. It seems ridiculous – 200 grandchildren!?
But then I think about how much I loved my younger brother when he was born. I was almost eleven years old and I had no idea that I was capable of so much love. He brought joy into our family in a way we never could have anticipated. I adored him and stayed close to home in college to be near him. And then our family had no babies for 21 years. Christmas morning became rather boring – adults sleeping in and sitting around opening presents we’d often picked out for ourselves. We played games and made everything look pretty, we went to movies, but we were working hard to amuse ourselves. Then my sister had a baby – a beautiful little girl who brought immediate joy and laughter to our lives again. She will be almost two years old this Christmas and we are all thrilled. We can’t wait to make Christmas special for her. She’s a constant subject of conversation and we can’t get enough of her. A six-hour drive home feels like nothing when I know I get to spend time with that little princess.
I wonder how much joy and laughter we have missed because we think we have to wait for the perfect time, the perfect economic situation, the perfect amount of energy to have babies. Michelle Duggar is in her early 40s and she isn’t slowing down one bit. She is healthy and happy. When she went on interviews early in her pregnancy and was asked how she felt, she joyfully said she was nauseous and that was a good sign because it meant the baby was healthy. When they announced the news to their children, there was joy; none of them groaned or acted like now they were going to get less attention from their parents.
Obviously not everyone can have 20 children. Michelle Duggar is an unusual woman who is physically capable of having babies without difficulty and stared very young. But I think there’s something to be said for the way they do things. We are such control freaks in our society. We want everything to be perfect and get out of sorts when we realize the inevitable –that life is messy. We want to be able to buy designer clothes for ourselves and our children (when the Duggars seem perfectly happy to shop at thrift stores for much of what they need). We want to fit nicely into a booth at a restaurant. We want to keep things small and contained and under control.
I find something beautiful in the lives of these people who have turned control over to God and trust Him to help them manage their humongous family. Michelle is a very organized woman and she has systems in place for everything. The older children help take care of the younger ones. Everyone has chores. They built their house themselves and made it an educational adventure. If they didn’t know how to do something, they brought in professionals who were willing to work alongside them and teach them how to do it. They are completely debt-free. Their house stays clean because each child has regular chores they are expected to do. They agreed to do a television show so they could be an encouragement to others, sharing the message that their faith sustains them and children are a blessing. Sure, they get paid to do the show, which is a huge incentive. They are creative in finding ways to sustain their large family and continue to be debt-free.
I’m not saying I plan to adopt their way of doing things, but I do think it’s an interesting and challenging point of view. They seem to be doing it well and are an inspiration. It definitely gives me something to think about. Don’t expect me to start walking around in ankle-length skirts and perming my hair though. And as for babies, there will need to be a husband first. I’m mature enough to realize that this yet-to-be-seen husband will have ideas and opinions of his own. But if that day ever comes and I’m married and pregnant, I promise to do my best to smile through my nausea and tell you joyfully that it means the pregnancy is going well.