Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

Who is their mother?


Dear Mom,

You delivered every single one of my siblings. You had them.

But once they were born, you gave them to me.

You were training them.

I was kissing them.

You were spanking them.

I comforted them.

You were their home school teacher.

I answered the questions they didn’t dare to ask you.

You cooked dinner.

I spoon-fed them.

You were busy with the new babies.

I played with the older ones.

You had to sleep a lot because it was so exhausting.

I took care of them the many hours of the day you couldn’t.

You were changing the diapers of the babies, breastfeeding them, while talking to Dad.

Meanwhile, I read the bedtime stories, kissed them goodnight and tucked them in.

You were busy with other things, taking care of other families, baking for church meetings.

I made sure they were washed and dressed, made sure nobody got into a fight.

You sent them outside to play because it was too much for you.

I kissed their bloody knees better when they fell.

Dear Mom, you are many things. Trainer, teacher, chef, servant of the community, wife and many others. But there is one thing you are not: Their mother. Who is?

13 thoughts on “Who is their mother?

  1. This makes me very sad. It reminds me a lot of my friend, one of 18 children, who told me that all she knows how to be is a wife and mother, and that she sees how desperate for attention the children are, because they’re put down so soon in place of a new baby. You’re an excellent writer 🙂

    • Yes, I have heard so many times that oldest daughters (or one of the older daughers to be accurate) feel this way. Even if they don’t leave but just get married to a Christian, they still feel like they are disappointing their siblings and losing their children. It doesn’t matter really if you leave the family in a fight or with good feelings, you’ll always be missing them like your own kids.

  2. It’s something that’s always struck me about the QF movement – the inherent unfairness to older daughters.

    I realize that no one person can raise children along, even with two people, my husband and I sometimes struggle with our son. It’s a lot of work and, to be fair, children need more than two mentors in their lives and sometimes some things are just better for people who aren’t their parents to do.

    But that’s a far cry from tending to cute little babies and then passing them on to someone else as soon as they are out of their swaddles. How do these QF women view mothers who put their young children into the care of nannies? Or *gasp* of the public school system? How are older daughters any different?

    But it’s more than that because these daughters, in being saddled with the responsibility of being primary caregivers to so many children, have their own childhoods taken from them. How is that fair?

    The way I see it, parents need to take responsibility for their children. If they want to use a nanny, for the extra help, they can’t expect the nanny to do it for free. They cannot simply expect older children, grandparents, or community members to take the bulk of it. It’s irresponsible to have more children than you are able to be the primary caregiver for.

    • But that’s what daughters are for in their minds. God structured the family that way so older daughters can assist and be trained to be help-meets. Others go to college, we study motherhood. God made it so that older daughters can practice with younger siblings, and one day, when the older daughters get married and have children of their own, the daughter’s younger sisters will be trained with their nieces and nephews. That’s how they think God intended it. With nannies it’s just different simply and only because they aren’t blood relatives. I know it doesn’t make much sense to normal people, but there is a major difference for P/QF families.

  3. Oh, Lisa, I hurt for you because you are missing your children. And I know you are because my best friend was put in a similar situation. She is the oldest of six and when the fifth was born she was ten and her father became permanently disabled. He needed constant medical care which her mother could give him but only at the cost of passing the fifth and later the sixth (a bonified accident) on to the younger four. When the father died six years later, the mother took the children back which was her duty (and an emotional need) but my friend has always felt as though her children were stolen from her. Since she never married or had children of her own, those two now 30-year-olds are her babies and their chidren are more than her nieces–they are her grandchildren. I hope and pray you are able to rescue your children from the mess you have escaped from.

  4. On Mother’s Day I wrote Happy Mother’s Day to Us, the older daughters who were more mothers than our own mothers. I mothered my mom more than she ever mothered me. When we got old enough to take care of ourselves, we did. Then, she birthed the younger ones and maybe changed a few diapers, besides breastfeeding (the ones that breastfed), and I took care of them. Then my sister and I, when she got old enough, and then my two other sisters, when they implemented the “buddy system”.

    Once, and I have a record of it in my diary, I asked my mom sorta half-joking half-serious if one of the little boys wasn’t at least part mine, because besides birthing and breastfeeding, I took care of him. Mom looked at me with a funny look and was like, “Of course not!”

    One of my sisters is even more of a mother to one of the little girls than I was. She was born four weeks early by c-section, and couldn’t even breastfeed. My mom couldn’t take care of her, and that was when they did the buddy thing, and my sister bottle-fed her, changed all her diapers, everything. The little sister still goes to my big sister for comfort before going to mom.

    My baby sister was mostly mine. She hadn’t been given a buddy, so I sort of adopted her. She loved curling up on my lap and watching Celtic Thunder music videos. I listened to her when nobody else wanted to put up with her whining and crying because she couldn’t talk well. I hope she’s ok. It’s one of my biggest fears (and I have a lot of fears!) that she will forget me before I ever get to see her again! ;_;

    • Oh my I can totally relate to that pain and fear. One of my most feared scenarios is imagining the younger ones discussing where I went after I left. “Why did she leave? Doesn’t she love us? Did we make a mistake?” and many more. I don’t even want to get into that because it will just have me depressed for weeks…

      • Yeah…I don’t like to think about it too!! >< I know my parents have lied to them about me. They lied to everyone else about me…told them *I* cut myself off from him (which, in their logic, is, dad says "you leave, we will cut you off"…therefore since I left, knowing they would cut me off, I cut myself off). It's very depressing!!

        • “I know my parents have lied to them about me.”
          Of course they do, one of the younger ones might use their brain and realize what it’s all about. They have to lie to keep their house of cards standing. The only way to protect their way of life is by making others look as bad as possible, and if you screw with their system you certainly are one of the really bad guys.

  5. This is beyond tragic. Do you have any grown/married siblings that you have been able to stay in contact with who might take your side in this or who could give you info about your younger siblings who are still at home? I am so, so sorry your parents have done this to you. I can’t even imagine this kind of loss.

    • My aunt is in contact with my mother every few months, but my siblings are all minors to this point except for one (he’s 18), and he still lives at home. My aunt keeps me kind of updated but its not a lot really. They talk to each other on the phone once in 3 months and I doubt my mom would tell her anything negative, simply because she wants to prove her lifestyle to be working perfectly. My aunt is quite opposed to the whole fundamentalist mindset and they had some fights over it, so they avoid that type of conversation as much as they can.

  6. I am fascinated with your writing – brave, honest, beautiful!

  7. I too was made a “parent.” I was allowed to spank them, I was told to help potty train them (and sad to say, I believe I physically hurt them in this process. I pray they never remember), I had to feed them, I had to maintain the kitchen (which came first before homework), I had to (and until a short while ago, still had to) do my dad’s laundry “because he goes out and earns a living,” and of course, could not tell a soul about the stuff I put up with because “it’s not any of their business.”

    My grandma and aunt have been helping me tremendously with this. I praise God for them.

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