Quivering Daughters: Hope and Healing for the Daughters of Patriarchy is the new book by "Quivering Daughters" blog author, Hillary McFarland. My copy arrived this weekend and I got started reading it right away! Over the next few days I'll be sharing some of my reading notes on this book. Hillary writes of her personal experience growing up "Quiverfull" in a large patriarchal, isolationist homeschooling rural Christian family--like the Duggars before they struck gold on tv. She provides poignant memories via her childhood journal. She also includes memories and thoughts of other Quiverfull daughters. It seems the exhaustion we've always seen on the Duggar girl's faces can be found on many eldest daughters of Quiverfull families.
Day 1's reading notes:
From Julia: [letter to her Mom and Dad] "You don't see how much it killed me to play 'Mommy Two'.... Come on, Mom--an eleven-year-old can't play mommy. Or a twelve- or thriteen- or fourteen-year-old. I was so young; you should have known better than to lean on me." (p. xxiv)
Hillary: "Until you have knelt for hours in a field like my mommy, scrubbing thousands of cloth diapers by hand....till you cry with guilt when someone buys you something new and you try to take it back to the store because you could use that money to buy groceries or pay a bill...till you school your children all day, bake twenty loaves of bread by hand..till you have no close friens; till you have experienced many pregnancies and still get in trouble about your weight--Until then you won't understand."(p. 30)
To me, who finds this book fascinating because it's the end-of-the-earth from where I was raised, these statements point out two important problems with Quiverfull: parents "working themselves out of the job" as parents by relying endlessly on the eldest daughter(s) to take up the slack while Mom is sick and pregnant or life-threateningly pregnant on a regular basis.
Then there's the debt-free mania. When you can't afford electricity or can't afford running water or can't afford to fix the toilet then you are living way too poor. This country has provision to help that type poverty, but No! That's right! Mom and Dad CHOOSE to live "this poor"? Why? to be 100% debt-free which is a GREAT idea, but taken to too great an extreme for the health and safety of their children. They make debt-free an IDOL. Many, like Hillary's parents, idealize the "old days" as somehow better--yet, were it possible, I dare them to find one "old timer" who would want to live that way in the face of the modern conveniences we now enjoy.
My great-grandmother started life when many Dads were Civil War vets and ended her life just before Richard Nixon resigned. She LOVED her fridge, her washer [she never saw the need for a drier, but did say it would be nice for when it was very cold or rained], loved supermarkets, loved tv [it "kept her company"] and loved not having to sew a dress unless she wanted to. You see, she also lived through the "other" old times: watching friends die in child birth (or soon after) from the infections that killed before anti-biotics; watching her second daughter die at age 3 from diptheria; watching children walk to school hungry and shoeless in the bitter weather of Indiana in January--because the parents had no money for a coat or shoes. She watched women die, too, from trying NOT to have another child that she had no time for, couldn't enjoy, couldn't love and had no say in bringing into the world. Pray for God to close their womb?? No--pray for Margaret Sanger to get the public to wake up. Yet she also was a faithrful Christian who loved to sing hymns and who made her eldest daughter help her by knitting so many rounds on her own and her little sister's socks before school each morning as she said her morning prayers.
If you are childless you can choose your own life. Live in a ditch--it doesn't matter. When you have children you have a responsibility--morally, socially, ethically, spiritually AND legally to provide a decent life for your children. Living without running water or electricity, only being able to flush once a day and having a diet that barely keeps body and soul together is not meeting this responsibility--at least not in 21st Century America. Nor is teaching only religious dogma and the Bible. But even more important than these--it is not OK to make your children raise their siblings except in totally extraordinary conditions and wanting to be debt-free does not qualify as "extraordinary." Nor does trusting God to close Mom's womb. While I am sure there are kids who, whether knowing the name for it or not, have prayed for Mom and Dad to become infertile--just to have a shot at some love and attention.
In addition to the very gut-wrenching and heart breaking pleas from daughters in Hillary's book, the currently popular video "Kid Farm" which spoofs the Duggars, hits the nail on the head when it shows how little time parents in mega families get to give to each child. The scene near the end, where the parents try to guess which child it really is that they are enjoying a little one-on-one time with is priceless. So is the early scene with Daddy giving his daughter a glass of tap water for her birthday--he was clueless that is WAS her birthday!
NOTE: contains brief obscene language
I will continue this discussion throughout this week as I read the rest of the book.
Meanwhile, you can learn more about the Quiverfull movement in general at my information-only blog, A Quiver Full of Information.
PART II of my notes can be found HERE.