Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

Preparing for marriage and kids

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Much of the way girls are raised in the QF/P movements is to prepare them for married life. Of course, some families and communities support college for girls to ensure a well-rounded character (within the limits of that group or family, of course). You will typically see girls and young women taking online courses on things such as literature, culture, nursing and other medical classes, nutrition and so on. It’s easy to tell that all of this is things you can use at home, either to teach your own girls the beautiful girly things (literature), to be able to perform first aid and to cook a well-balanced meal. You’ll hardly ever see these girls taking classes like law, architecture or physics. It’s just not a useful thing to know as a wife and mother.

But among the most important preparations to be a wife is child-rearing. Of course there’s always children around. If the family doesn’t have enough children on their own the daughters will help other big families and perform ministries that prepare them for a lot of kids.

My family was lucky enough to have a big bunch of kids that I could prepare with. Except that I didn’t feel like I was being prepared at all. Don’t get me wrong, I love my siblings more than anything. I simply didn’t have the patience to take care of 4-6 kids at a time. If I had only one or two I was fine. That seemed easy to me. I was able to stay in relative control of the situation. But as soon as there were 3 or more, things got really messy. You know how kids are, they scream, run and tease each other. They fight. They might play nice for half an hour and suddenly one starts crying for one reason or another.

I had a completely different style of relating to my siblings than my mother did. My Mom was always a good Mom, but she was very much a hen. It started to upset me that she acted this way with the younger ones when I was in my teens, knowing that she would “ruin” what I had accomplished the day before. Whenever one of the kids got hurt – and you know they fall or hurt themselves a lot – she focused on the tiniest things. If one fell outside in the garden and barely even scratched his or her knee, she would swoon all over the little one, showering it with pity and hugs and kisses and sentences like “Oh it looks so bad. Does it hurt? My poor baby!”. I caught myself rolling my eyes more than once a day at that. It was barely a scratch! It didn’t bleed! She fell on the grass, it couldn’t possibly hurt that much! But no, my Mother had them sit on their lap for about 10 minutes, letting them cry, telling them how bad it is and so on. Whenever one fell when I was close, I grabbed them, sat them on the kitchen counter, checked their knees and cleaned them if necessary, told them it’s not bad at all and quickly changed to a cheerful conversation of what we had to do next. As long as Mom wasn’t close, they quickly forgot about their tiny hurts and started laughing again. But whenever Mom was in range, they’d scream my ears off and push me away so they could get Mom’s attention. I mean, I understand that this was partially because it meant individual time with Mom, but it upset me that I had to deal with a cranky little one for 30 minutes just because Mom had to put so much attention to tiny matters. Once the little one came back from Mom, it would stand a bit further away, hugging a teddy or a blanket, and when the other ones asked the little one to come back to play, they’d say something along the lines of “I can’t. I’m hurt badly.” Eye rolling from me.

On other occasions, I felt so overwhelmed by the sheer needs of the kids. I remember days where I had only 2 or 3 of them to watch, that wasn’t many kids at all! And yet I could be close to tears and feel so ashamed for being unable to deal with that little kids. I felt like I was going to make a terrible wife.

I remember one occasion where I had 2 of the boys and one of the smaller girls to watch. They played in the boy’s room while I was sorting through their closet. They jumped on the beds, played dragon and princess and screamed bloody hell. I was exhausted that day, I had gotten up even earlier than usual, got scolded by my parents for not doing some chores the day before (because I didn’t have time, just to add that) and had to those chores as well as the new ones. And the screaming of the kids made me incredibly angry. I stood there repeating over and over “Keep it down guys!” – “Be careful, don’t jump!” – “Don’t hit your sister with a stick!” – “Keep it DOWN!”. This went on for about 20 minutes and wouldn’t stop, so I turned around, grabbed them all by their arms, had them look at me and told them to either keep it down and play nice or to go outside. The oldest of the three, my brother, laughed at me and said “You can’t tell me what to do, you’re not Mom!”. I grabbed his arm a bit harder and said, very seriously: “Mom told me to watch you. I CAN tell you what to do!” He kept laughing and wriggled his arm free. He them took his “sword” and yelled: “LISA IS THE DRAGON! ATTACK!” and all three of them started whacking at me with their swords, my little sister grabbed one too even. The other two were too small to really get it. Oh wow was I angry. I was feeling tears in my eyes and an incredible urge to – excuse me – beat my brother with anything I could find. Instead, I took his sword away, grabbed him by the arms and held him, yelled at the two small ones to sit down RIGHT NOW, dragged my brother to the bathroom and sat him down on the toilet and told him to stay there until I called him back in. He screamed and screamed at me, face red, kicked at me, the full show. The other two started crying because I had yelled at them, my brother ran off and screamed and cried and left me sitting in the bathroom. I locked myself in for half an hour to calm down and cry some.

I was so ashamed of being such a terrible mother. I couldn’t even control 3, how should I ever managed 10 or more? And this is just one example. This happened so often, me trying to be nice and not use any violence and ending up with something like that – me defeated, the kids winning and laughing at me. I would never make a good mother.

And then again, there were situations were I got upset at my sisters for doing what they were supposed to do. I remember one occasion where one of my smaller sisters, she was 5 or 6 at that time, played with the real small ones of another family. The little girl was just starting to walk and wanted to explore, of course. My little sister kept holding her hand and helping her around. But she wanted to play doll with that little girl, so she kept sitting the little one on her lap. The little one struggled to get away from my sister to play with the other kids, who were playing and running around on the grass. My sister kept holding her. When the little one started to wail because she couldn’t get away from my sister, my sister started to “console” the crying little one, sang songs and rocked it back and forth. She didn’t get the little one didn’t want to stay. The others ran over and asked my sister to come play but she replied “I can’t. I have the baby and she’s crying.”. I watched the scene and felt anger rise up in me. Why was she so insistent to keep the baby? The little one cried more and more, my sister looking all serious, asking what’s wrong, shhhing it, singing and looking like a little Mom, while watching the others play. And that was the point where I lost my patience. I went over to her and told her that the baby didn’t want to sit on her lap. She answered “Yes she doesn, she’s crying can’t you see?”. I told her the baby was crying because she was holding it. She let it go then and the baby quickly got to her feet and started walking away, now happy again. I turned around to go away, after a few steps looking back at the scene just to see my sister off to catch the baby again, forcing it on her lap, doing the same thing. NOW I was angry. I stomped over to her, took the baby away and yelled at her:

“Stop it! Quit acting like you’re a grown up! You’re a kid, go play! YOU’RE NOT A GROWN UP! You’re not supposed to play baby’s Mom!”

I can’t explain where that came from. She was supposed to do exactly that. But seeing it made me so angry. She started crying and ran inside. I let the baby down, the baby just being happy to be finally free. But I felt so bad. Had I just yelled at my sister for doing what we were trying to teach her? She ran to my parents and told them about it, my Dad coming outside to yell at me what I was thinking, that I did the wrong thing and I should let her play with the baby. I went inside, excusing myself, to cry about my weird behaviour. I didn’t get why I said that. I didn’t get why it made me so angry. Once again I felt ashamed for being such a terrible mother.

You see, while all of that was supposed to prepare me for married life and kids, it instead scared me. It made me feel inadequate and stupid. Until this day I feel like the only thing it taught me was that I neither want nor am able to have more than two kids myself. I feel like I have already raised enough kids in my life and doing it again doesn’t seem like something I want to do any time soon. The fact that I love my siblings doesn’t change that I don’t feel suited to raise kids. I keep wondering, if I didn’t have this many siblings, our family would’ve been so different, I might have never left, and might have gotten married, and might have ended up with 10 myself. I’d be thrown into the cold water just to realize that I’m not made for that. I guess I’m glad I could at least learn that.

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15 thoughts on “Preparing for marriage and kids

  1. You have mentioned being introverted; perhaps that, rather than particular skills at keeping order, is why a group of children overwhelms you easily. Of my two children, one of them puts pressure on my introversion, and did from the time he was a day old. The other doesn’t; I can still recharge even if he’s in the room playing and talking.

    The fact that I will drop them both off at preschool/daycare on Monday morning keeps me sane.

    • Yes, that sounds about right! I’ve always been very quiet and not overly social. I enjoy being alone, always did. I don’t feel sad or bored when I’m all by myself, in fact I sometimes feel like I’m going to go nuts if I don’t get an hour all alone just doing whatever. It doesn’t even matter if it’s work around the house, cooking, reading. Just being alone feels good to me. Whenever I have too many people around me, I prefer to keep a low profile, maybe talk to one or two but I just don’t like being the one who talks over everybody else.
      And that’S why I’m terribly afraid that my kids might end up being very extrovert. I mean that’s great and good for them but I think I’d have a hard time dealing with it. I guess I’ll have to get rid of my fear of daycare!

      • I think both of my children are introverted themselves, but that the pressure one of them puts on me is some other aspect of personality. I also suspect that this type of conflict is something of a rarity – that many very introverted mothers are completely comfortable around their own children.

        Also guessing without much evidence, but I would imagine the spacing between children matters at least as much as the total number.

  2. “either to teach your own girls the beautiful girly things (literature)” Ah, literature is a dangerous thing! Hopefully the home school industry won’t figure that out, trying so hard to prove they are actually a literate and well-educated eilte.

    Literature is wonderful, beautiful, terrifying, challenging, engaging and most of all, life-changing. But it seeps in slowly, and sometimes it takes years before the effects are seen. Girly things, indeed. ;-)

    • Yes it can be, that’s why novels by Jane Austen and “Jane Eyre” (not all Bronte stuff!) are the only thing outside the bible you’ll ever teach your kids. You have -no – idea – how much I hate Jane Austen novels. Pride and Prejudice makes me gag….

  3. Oh, I think you’d be a wonderful mother. What you saw and did was exactly right. The problem with your brothers and sister was that you weren’t their mom. The little ones should be told that it’s not bad and they are all right. It will give them confidence to take chances in this life–which may be what your mother doesn’t want them to do. Or maybe she needed to be consoled herself. As for the jumping and dragon game–you aren’t their mother. Your mother should have made it clear that they were to do as you said while she was gone. What you were doing was exactly what should have been done. As for the incident with the baby–again, you were right. The baby should have been put down to play and explore and your sister should have been made to understand that.

    You may never have more than two children or any at all but I think with your inate love and respect for what really should be done, you would make an excellent mother of any number of children. Don’t sell yourself short–I see a better parent in you than in your own parents.

  4. No, your sister was not doing things right. She was parroting what she her mother do, and thought that’s what being a good caretaker was. You were being an actual good caretaker, in paying attention to the baby’s actual needs. The reason it ended badly is not because of incorrect instincts, but because what was being asked of you was improper for any 8,10,12, however old you were.

  5. Thank you for this insight, Lisa. As you know, I have only boys (no daughters), but the older ones do help some with the younger ones on occasion. I try to keep these times limited and make sure and set them up for success (like I tell them that if the little ones become unmanagable and no fun, call me and I will be right there to deal with it). I try to let them be more of an oler playmate rather than take on a parental role. I love the relationships I see growing between the bigs and the littles, but relationships are fragile things, and I do not want to do anything for my own convenience or out of ignorance that would sour them on one another.

    You have given a good picture of how NOT to ask older children to interact with younger siblings. Any good insight or tips on how to promote those relationships in a positive way? Like maybe the way you WISH it had been done in your home? I know we have only a fraction of the children in our family that you had, so that in itself must take away a lot of the issues, but still we have the big age differences, and I would love to learn from your experience. But only if you have time.

    • I’m sorry it took me so long to reply, but I took a bit time to think about it.
      Here’s what I came up with: I do think kids are able to handle the responsibility of watching their siblings for a period of time as long as they know there’s always someone around to help them out and who has the final authority. After all, they’re siblings and the smaller ones probably will never accept their older siblings in a role of authority over them. It’s natural that an older brother can’t keep his siblings under control all the time. Especially because he might be playing with them as well and might end up doing silly stuff as well, after all, they’re all kids.
      The major problem and what makes it so hard is an actual parental role – where you have to fulfill more than one chore at the same time. Say, your boy is supposed to clean his room AND watch over the siblings, that’s just not going to work. Neither task will have full attention and siblings might find it funny to interrupt chores of the older ones. Same goes for school/home work, things like unloading the dishwashers etc. If you know that your kids like doing chores together, that’s different, but delegating one to do a chore while watching over the kids will result in either the boy concentrating on the chore, not on his siblings, or the chore not getting done because he can’t concentrate. Of course that depends on age. A 14 year old is certainly able to unload the dishwasher while watching over his siblings doing their homework. But as soon as it comes to active play, things get tough. I think there should be clear play times where nobody has a chore, and clear chore times where everybody is doing what they’re supposed to do. That way, you won’t get into the conflict of one feeling responsible like a parent.
      I think the way you describe it sounds very reasonable and I don’t think your boys feel pressure to be a parents all day. That’s really what it boils down to. If you can’t be a kid because you have to parent others all day long. Plus, with “only” 5 kids you’re not really in danger ;) And I’m guessing the age difference isn’t huge, so you probably don’t have a 13 year old watching over 3 very small ones.

  6. Pingback: Worthwhile Reads: Older Quiverfull Daughters and Parenting

  7. It boggles my mind that a mother who explicitly endorses intentionally beating children bloody would get so fawning over a skinned knee…sublimated guilt, perhaps? Maybe that has something to do with why the kids would carry on for her like that–not just for the attention, but it seems like one of the few times when the kids could acknowledge being in pain and have it be validated by a parent.

    • Yeah now that you point it out, it is weird but it’s so normal. I’ve seen this in so many families.
      What struck me as the weirdest thing ever was parents who tell their kids not to beat others (kids), and to teach them this they will – you guessed it – beat the kids (probably explaining them that they can’t hit people during the beating). Happened in my family and I’m sure it happens in many many more.

      • You know, maybe this is why it makes sense to them when they say “Morality comes from God” even though the god in the Bible is totally okay with enslaving people, murdering babies, and committing genocides. The authority figure is allowed to disregard prescriptions of morality that they can impose on others, and it’s their authority that makes them a moral arbiter, not positive behavior modeling. It seems like it’s a strictly might-makes-right thing.

  8. I’ve met a few women who struggled with thoughts of inadequacy with child-rearing based on their experiences of dealing with other people’s children & siblings. But when they had their own they found it came much more naturally to them.

    That said, I am an aunt with 3 nieces and 3 nephews by my two brothers. While I enjoy playing with them from time to time, I find myself stressed, exhausted & irritable. In my case that is partly because I’m just not maternal. From birth I’ve never had the inclination to have children. My sister would love to have kids but has never met the right person to have them with. God calls us all to do different things. There’s no harm in waiting until you have developed more confidence in your parenting skills before you choose to have them.

  9. I had very similar experiences, as the eldest of 9, particularly with my Mom babying any of the littlest ones who got hurt. Also, I handled the insanity and chaos by beating and being mean to my siblings. I hit them like how my parents hit me. I wasn’t supposed to but didn’t know any other way. They still didn’t listen and I felt like a bad person and like I wasn’t any good at what I was supposed to do on top of that. I had no idea that the problem was I just should never have been made to live this way as a little girl. I know nobody ever told me they were happy with the job I did, only requested more, and when I rebelled as a teen I was told everyone, including God, was highly displeased and my parents made a big show of withdrawing any little signs of love or approval that were there.

    I stopped playing with my siblings around age 10 because I viewed them as a responsibility and liability instead of playmates. We have largely repaired the relationship but it still left it’s mark. I’m an extrovert and I love kids and people in general, but I’ve never had an urge to have my own babies. I think being raised like this may have ruined me on it.

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