Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

What about the grandparents?


I just logged on my blog, feeling a bit uninspired, not knowing what to write but wanting to post when I read Mary’s great comment on my last post and suddenly felt all inspired to write about it!

Here’s what she wrote:

“Hi Lisa

There’s something I’ve been wondering about the fundamentalist / QF / patriarchal ‘movement’: there is obviously a strong emphasis on family but everything I’ve read seems to focus on courtship, marriage and having loads on kids. The emphasis always seems to be on the relationship between relatively young parents in their 20s and 30s and their young children to the exclusion of other family relationships. What particularly stands out for me is that they never seem to talk about older people and especially elderly grandparents. How do these couples with 10+ young children cope with ageing parents as well? Why don’t they talk about it? (or do they? Maybe it’s just my imagination). I imagine that in a family with 15 kids the parents are quite old when the youngest children are still in their teens – do they end up taking care of their parents? Or do their older, married siblings take on the responsibility for everyone? Do older relatives tend to live in nursing homes?

I guess the ultra-fundamentalist movement is still quite ‘young’ so families like the Duggars haven’t had to go through this phase of life yet (maybe?).”

You are right, the movement is quite young so some of the things I’m saying are more of a logical conclusion than something I have actually experienced.

Generally, you would first have to take a look at the family stance on medicine. Some don’t really “believe” in medicine, and I’m very sure those families would never give any family member away to be cared for my nurses or doctors. They would certainly keep them at home until they die, no matter the cost.

But those aren’t the general norm, so let’s talk about the ones who actually believe in medical care.

First off, yes, those families have many kids. But they also start young. Let’s take 22 for an average age here (of course, there are many exceptions!). If they had their first child by the age of 22, it would already be 20 when the parents have the last (or one of the last) kids. You’d have multiple kids at a “grown” age, say over 14, among them a number of daughters, who would be there to help with the younger, help with the house and so on. Maybe one or two would already be out of the house. Let’s just say the grandparents are 60-70 at that point and need someone to take care of them. Of course, they would be taken into the house, since there are enough oldest kids to help with the other chores.

Keep in mind that many grandparents aren’t members of the movement at this point. I’ve known families where the grandparents didn’t want much contact at all, thinking it was wrong to have that many kids. Others do have contact but don’t think they should go live with their kids when they are old and sick – they prefer nursing homes themselves. Others again feel like they’d be a burden and manage themselves. There simply aren’t that many grandparents yet.

Now let’s suppose you do have a pair of grandparents with 10+ grown and married kids, who have 10 kids themselves. How would they decide who’s to take care of them?

There isn’t “hard” biblical proof for that. But the first choice would be the family of their oldest son. This is mainly because once a daughter marries, she isn’t a member of her own family anymore but a member of the husband’s family. Sons would always be first choice because they are still “direct, real” family. Plus, the oldest daughter and her husband are first choice for her husband’s parents. Then, of course, they would look at the kid with the best possibilities to take care of them. Here, a daughter might actually be first choice because she has less kids than her siblings or her husband makes more money. But generally they would try to avoid a daughter. After all, he is to support his OWN family, and not the family of his wife. But it does happen (see Duggars. Grandma Duggar is Michelle’s Mom and I believe they take care of her). It wouldn’t be unheard of for the oldest son to volunteer, even insist he take care of his parents. Oldest sons have a sort of duty to do that.

Also, something you shouldn’t ignore, is the HUGE network that comes with a big family. You’ll have plenty of aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers (in law) and so on. Taking care of sick family members might be shared among a number of 20 people!

Generally it really depends a lot on the individual family… The more I think about it the more options come up in my mind. What would happen in the family was missioning, living in another far off country? I don’t think you’d move the grandparents there… I haven’t heard of such a case though.

It’s very hard to say and depends so much on the family that you can’t give a round explanation. But I do think that “abandoning” the grandparents to live in a nursery home is not an option for most movement families, unless the medical care the grandparents need is so intense that it’s simply not doable at home. If the grandparents are fit and healthy, I don’t see why they wouldn’t move in with one of their kids with an especially big number of kids who needs help. Or a kid that is struggling in some area (finances, health, etc) who could use an extra hand.

It’s true though, the issue isn’t very big right now and I don’t think it ever will be for one simple reason: The movement IS very “youth” oriented. By getting into a solid, “godly” marriage, one supposed that that’s the best foundation for the entire life of a person and if that one thing works out well, there won’t be an issue when it comes to looking after your own parents one day.


12 thoughts on “What about the grandparents?

  1. I hate to nitpick, but Grandma Duggar is Jim Bob’s mom. You might want to correct that 🙂 Michelle has 6 siblings and none of them seem to keen on her “lifestyle choice.”

  2. Mary Duggar is Jim bob’s mother. She and her husband, J.L. moved in with the Duggars when J.L. was diagnosed with a brain tumor and given a short time to live. Mary cared for him in the Duggars’ home with help when needed from the Duggars until his death. A doctor came for home visits to check on him regularly.

    Michelle’s father also lived with them for a while after he was in a serious car accident and needed help to do anything. He stayed until he was recovered enough to go back to Ohio.

    I have several friends that have many children and if anything, they are MORE likely to care for their aging parents than most people.

    One lady deliberately moved two states to live next door to her parents. Another lady bought the house next door to her inlaws, while providing a guest house for her mother, and then her own son has bought the house behind her, and the other the house down the block, while her daugther and son in law live across the street from HIS parents.

    • REALLY? Wow I must’ve completely ignored that. I saw this one episode about the death of the grandfather but I was completely sure it was Michelle’s Dad. I must’ve not payed attention. I knew the grandmother was his wife, but wow, that’s embaressing I payed so little attention. I have to watch it via internet now and I can only see it on youtube because TLC hasn’t given broadcasting permission in Germany (nobody bought the show here, it just wouldn’t attract viewers).

      I agree that many families with many children are more likely in general to care for other family members. Maybe it’s simply because they are more close knit and tend to live closer to each other…

      I personally would still care for my own parents if they ever need it, and I would love to be there for my in laws if I ever end up having any 🙂 I just think it’s so sad how lonely and abandoned some people are. They cared for us all their lives, why not take care of them?

  3. I think one of the few benefits of having a lot of children (and one of the reasons why it’s popular in parts of the world where social security is poor or nonexistent) is having lots of people to potentially look after you in your old age. In my own family (which has absolutely no Q/CP leanings), my grandparents on both sides had stay-at-home sons (partly because they were/are farmers), and this has definitely helped my aging grandparents stay in their homes—shared with a son, or with a son close at hand—longer than they might have if they did not have children living with them. On one side this is the oldest son, on the other, the youngest.

  4. This is something no one has probably really thought about much but many will probably soon be entering. My grandmother now lives with us & the funny thing is, the people relied on most to help are the 2 youngest kids. Pehaps because they are minors/dependent and have no choice. I sometimes will care for her for a week or so while my parents travel, and pay is offered me. Weird, b/c I had never been offered pay for baby sitting or working with the kids and/or house before.) and It’s MUCH easier than caring for kids since grandma mostly sleeps all day and pretty much just see that she gets 3 meals a day and snacks if she asks. ??? I don’t get it… Maybe it’s that most of us ARE now old enough to leave?

  5. Traditionally back in days gone by when there were no such places as nursing homes, etc., there was usually at least one child who didn’t marry. Usually it was a daughter but it could be a son. They were the ones who typically took care of the elders in the family and that may be what happens in the movement as the elders age and become in need of care. Where the elders end up may have to do as much with who is single and what kind of care they need as anything else.

    I have actually wondered, not about what would happen to the elders as they aged and needed care but where your grandparents are. You speak of your mother’s sister occasionally but never about your grandparents or if your father has any siblings and how those people view your parents’ lifestyle. Are they accepting of it, critical of it or just not in the picture?

    • Well my Dad’s parents were out of the picture as I’ve never met them, they died rather young. My mom’s grandparents, well it’s hard to answer really because I never asked them, I was too young to even think of asking them how they viewed our live. Or, I didn’t think they might have a different view than us. They accepted the life, I guess, because I can’t remember an incident were they had openly critized us (other than normal grandparent stuff like “don’t boil this to death” or “remove this stain with…”). Unfortunatly they passed away as well when I was rather young.

      My Dad has an older brother whom I’ve met one time I can recall. My Dad doesn’t, like, hate him, but he says he’s different and he also lives very far from where my parents live. He’s a career type of guy with a normal wife and family and they don’t have much contact at all. Actually I can’t remember anything other than some phone calls every few months and over the last, i don’T know, maybe 10 years, they talked like 8 times on the phone. I think he’s very critical of my Dad’s views. Their parents (my grandparents) were nonbelievers and “naturalists” as my dad says and so is his brother, I guess. I think it’s not like my dad wouldn’t have wanted contact with his brother but I suppose his critism got to him and he tried to avoid that as much as he could.

      When my mother’s parents passed away there was no chance for our family to actually take care of them. My grandfather died from a heart attack. I remember that because he was at our house and we were sitting in the living room playing, he and us kids, andm y mom was in the kitchen and grandma wasn’t there (I don’t remember where she was). Anyways, he stood up, excused himself to go to the bathroom and then the door closed and we heard a loud BANG like something hitting the door really hard, my mom called out to see what happened but he didn’t answer, so she opened the door and grandpa was just slumped together on the floor. Well end of the story, we called an ambulance but he had a heart attack and it was too late. In retrospective I think it was a “good” death. He was never sick or suffering and he died so quickly. Not everyone is as lucky as that.
      My grandma died two years latr of cancer, but that was also a rather fast death (for having cancer). They found out she had it, but she never felt sick. That was surprising cause it was everywhere already and they couldn’T release her from the hospital anymore. They tried for two months but then she died as well.
      So yeah, I can’t really speak from personal experience when it comes to taking care of family members.

  6. I think is vareys from family to family. If one has the means to help either financially or physically then they do. All my grandparents are dead. 2 were dead before I was born 1 died a month before I was 3 and the other died when I was 12. I am not sure what would have happened and they were still alive to this day. My mother was an only child, I suppose if her parents were around they might have come and lived with us, but who knows, we can’t change what never happened.

    I am currently dog sitting for a woman who has a elderly mother, she moved her from Tennessee to New Jersey so she could be closer to her. This woman was an only child and this is way it happened. However, her mother lives in an assistant living place and not at home with her.

    I am going to use a celebrity as an example the singer Celine Dion. She has 13 brothers and sisters and she is the youngest, her mother lives w/ her and her family because she WANTED her mother to come and live w/ them. She most deffently has the means to get anyone and everyone in her family help but she choise to have her mother live w/ them so she could be close by.

    PS. I have been read your blog for a while, you are a very gifted writer!! I feel really sorry for everything that you have gone through.

  7. Traditionally, it’s either the oldest son or the youngest who cares for the parents (the oldest because he’s the most established in the world, the youngest because he might still be at home). At least in Western societies…

  8. What about the parents themselves? Has it ever occurred to anyone that one day they may come to the place where they can no longer function well enough to make their own decisions? If letting ones children become adults who make their own decisions is painfull, then what of when, for their own safty, they need their children to make decisions for them? It is hard enough for an elderly person to loose independance, but with ideas of absolute authority over your child regardless of age being God’s design, rather then letting choices be made out of mutual trust, respect, and personal capability? I’d hate to see how it plays out when the responsibility of caring for an aging parent arrives. Seems like a recipe for disaster for both parties.

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