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The Duggar Family
Mom with a View

The Duggar Family

She's expecting her 20th child. Why all the vitriol?


I have been forced once again, by the outcry over the Duggar family pregnancy, to immerse myself in the murky world of Reality TV. I have never seen their show, 19 Kids and Counting, but I think I have gleaned the pertinent details. Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar have 19 children, one of whom is married with two children of his own.

Michelle recently said on The Today Show, while announcing her pregnancy to the national television audience, “There is always room for one more.” I respect and applaud this sentiment but I am apparently in the minority. Her revelation sparked so many hits (3,000,000) that they had to shut the site down briefly to prevent the server from crashing. There were 15,000 initial comments, most of them negative. The question is why?

To resolve this issue and try to understand why this family’s choices sparked such vitriol, The Today Show brought on one of their frequent commentators, Harriet Cole, as well as a licensed therapist, Hal Runkel. Their analysis was interesting and their responses were actually supportive of the Duggar family.

Is jealousy at the root of all the negativity?

Cole and Runkel suggested that perhaps jealousy is at the root of all the negativity. Here is a family that seems to be close. The parents appear to have a good marriage and there seems to be genuine affection among all the family members. The kids are well-dressed, well-mannered, they do their chores and they even play an instrument! On top of that, they are debt free (Jim Bob offered to make his financial secrets available to the current administration), and they home school their children (Okay, now I’m starting to hate her…).

Many people, posited the speakers, have only one or two children and aren’t doing a very good job of parenting them. Their family dynamic doesn’t come close to resembling the Duggar’s. They are frustrated and resentful and it’s always easier to attack than introspect.

Hal Runkel went on to reflect on the spoiled nature of children today. Their parents are obsessed with them, posting a picture on Facebook of every minor accomplishment and inadvertently creating a generation of self-centered, narcissistic children. The less intense focus that is the inevitable result of a large family actually leads to emotionally healthier children; kids that are more self-sufficient and have stronger self-esteem. They have a greater sense of responsibility and are unafraid of hard work.

Concerns were raised about forcing the older children into the position of raising their younger siblings. If this is what is occurring, then I share the concern. It is the parents’ choice to have more children and it is the parents’ job to raise them. But, if the expectation is, rather, just that the older children will help with the younger, will pitch in (in the Duggar system, even the smallest children have some chore), well, isn’t that what families do? Don’t we want our children involved in helping each other and giving to each other?

Harriet Cole asserted that’s the way families used to be. Is it perhaps a reflection of the breakdown of families and community that we no longer have these expectations, rather than a sign of progress?

What struck me was also the issue of choice. Isn’t that the most basic tenet of feminism – choosing whether to have your child or not, choosing whether to stay home or go to work? Many women recognize that for some, feminism has turned into careerism, embracing employment outside the home as the only acceptable “choice” and, subtly or not so subtly, sneering at those women who stay home or make having children and raising a family their career of choice.

The Torah praises giving when it is selfless. I think raising children is one of the most completely selfless acts you can do. It is not a project with a fixed beginning and end. You get no awards, plaques or raises. Your co-workers or underlings rarely applaud you! It requires a total subjugation of your own needs and desires in order to create the future. With no expectations (and certainly no guarantees!) of getting anything in return. I respect anyone who does this job well. And who, recognizing all the challenges involved, nevertheless proceeds to choose to parent over and over again. The ability to be a good parent and a good spouse while raising an extra-large family deserves our admiration, not our condemnation. If I was Oprah, I’d say “You go, girl!”

November 26, 2011

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 108

(79) Anonymous, July 30, 2014 9:36 PM

A show even frum people should watch

If you haven't seen this you should. This is an amazing beautiful family we can all learn from!!!

(78) Anonymous, June 4, 2014 6:49 PM

It appears that the older children does it all

(77) Katzenberg, October 9, 2012 8:37 AM

Love for Jewish People

This is a beautiful message the Duggar family posted not long ago: Message to the people of Israel: Hello everyone from the Jim Bob & Michelle Duggar Family of America’s TV show 19 Kids and Counting. We are looking forward to coming to Israel with our whole family, this has been a lifelong dream. We love the Jewish people. You have a heritage that goes back to Abraham being told by God that He would multiply his seed like the stars in the sky. Abraham and Sarah were supernaturally given a child in their old age. God has brought kings, world leaders, great scientists and millions of others into the world fulfilling His prophecy. You have been promised by God that through you all of the nations of the earth would be blessed. We are so excited about meeting many other families and getting to see first hand the places where the Creator of the universe has worked in such a mighty way. You each are special, fulfilling God’s plan where He stated He would bring back the descendants of Israel from the four corners of the earth and would give them their promised land. May God bless each one of you and your families as you seek to put Him first in your lives. Jim Bob & Michelle Duggar & Family

(76) DK, July 15, 2012 11:54 PM

Wake-Up Call For Haters

Hey, people. Stop criticizing and hating on the Duggars. Whatever they choose to do is THEIR business, not yours. If they would like to have another child or not is nothing you can decide. It is up to them and Gd. They have 19-20 children, yes. But they educate their children, make sure they are dressed and fed and have a roof over their heads. Isn't that what every parent needs to provide for their child/children? It doesn't matter if you approve or not of their family. Let them handle their family and take care of yours. And really, every family is different so why obsess about the parents and their 19 kids instead of the kids and other loved ones in your own home? The Duggars have unity within their family. That is what's important. So please, lay off the Haterade and let the Duggars be.

Eddie Smalls, March 3, 2015 6:50 PM

I agree: It's their business. Not ours. This is not child abuse.

The family dynamic is their in spades. Love, togetherness, education, excitement, and even more love. 19 to 20 times more. It's their family. They are debt-free. They are doing too many things right for anyone to have a valid negative point. Leave them be.

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