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:
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.