Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism


Preparing for marriage and kids

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.



Quiverful men and why they can’t leave

Libby Anne is starting to put the questions for her Raised Quiverful project together. And just now I realized that, though I read all blogs written by the people who participated, there’s one person whose answers I’m most curious about. And that person is Joe from Incongruous Circumspection. I don’t mean to insult the women who answered in any way, I dearly love reading their blogs as well and I’m curious about their answers too. I think I’m so curious to read Joe’s answers because he is the only man to answer.

It’s so rare to read about men who lived in the P/QF movements and left them. It seems as if they don’t exist! Now, you could certainly argue on a gender based foundation, saying that women simply feel more comfortable talking about such emotional topics, that they talk more anyway, and that it’s easier for them to word these things because they know their emotions better than men do.

I don’t think that’s the (only) reason. I’ve been thinking about it and this is what I came up with:

In the P/QF movements, men model Christ with all they do, and they’re supposed to possess qualities such as strength both physical and emotional, intelligence, discipline, leader skills, responsibility, self-sacrifice by working and providing and so on. Women on the other hand are submissive, meek and quiet, simple (-minded), following their husbands who, as I said, are like Christ to them. Men are leaders, women are followers.

When a woman breaks free of these structures, she certainly will face a lot of problems with the circles she’s leaving. She’ll be called rebellious, evil, sinful, worldly. But you can’t ignore what she’s doing at that point: From being a follower, she strives to be strong, self-governed, responsible. She tries to equalize herself with men and, ultimately, with Christ. While that’s negative within the P/QF communities, she’ll be respected in the ‘real’ world. She’ll probably experience a lot of positive feedback from the normal people she meets, who will tell her she was right and strong. A woman always breaks free of rather negative characteristics and adapts positive (manly) characteristics.

Do not forget that women are blamed for ‘feminine’ men. It’s not the men who give up their strength, it’s always women who take it away from them. The strong woman is feared in the movement. She is something you have to scream about, criticize and beat to show her her place in the world. It takes a lot of violence to make a woman submit – or at least try to do that.

Now, men are never blamed for a loss of their power. It’s always women who take it. Men are generally attributed all these positive characteristics and the second they reject any part of this system – watch out, this is where it gets interesting – they lose their Christ-likeness. They voluntary step down from their position of power to a lower position – namely that of a woman. They lessen themselves by rejecting the P/QF beliefs. They supposedly admit their weakness, their lack of responsibility and intelligence, their lack of leadership skills.

While a woman who leaves is strong (in the position that only men should have), a man is weak and scared, retreating into the passive position of a woman.

And while a woman who leaves gets all this positive affirmation from the normal world, what do men get? Even in the normal world, they might seem weak and emotionally unstable. Even for the normal world, he loses his position of a ‘man’. And that’s precisely what I think doesn’t only keep most men from talking about their experiences, it’s also what stops men from leaving those movements in the first place.

No matter how you turn it, a woman will always be in a positive, strong position, a man will always be in the weak position. I can fully understand every man who is afraid of losing his entire manliness because of this. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t leave to preserve this manliness. But I understand what makes it so much harder to show ‘rebellious’ characteristics as a man.


When adoption isn’t a choice

As most of you know, many fundamentalists are involved in missions around pregnancy crisis centers and anti-abortion centers. Many of them feel called to defend one of the most important quiverfull rule: Children are a gift. Now, I don’t want to go into the whole pro-life/pro-choice debate here; this isn’t about abortion. This is about adoption.

Adoption in itself is something wonderful that should have your full support. It includes a mother who takes the responsibility for her child by giving it away and gives it away convinced that this is the only right thing to do, a family who has the wish to adopt a child, and hopefully, a happy child and finally adult in the end. That’s the perfect scenario of how it should work.

But a lot of fundamentalists don’t see it that way. Once you approach those “counselors” who are actually fundamentalists (of course, not all pregnancy crisis workers are fundamentalists!), they will talk you out of abortion at any cost. That’s step one.

Step two is where my personal issue comes in. Step two is to convince the woman to give her child up for adoption. Of course they’d never admit that this is the ultimate goal of the entire fuzz.

A lot of times, those women who approach these counselors are in a tough situation or at least not in the perfect situation. Maybe they’re young, or don’t have much money, maybe they’re in a tough personal situation due to death of a loved one or a breakup, due to sickness, you name it, it happens.

Instead of acknowledging the fact that these women are actual very responsible, smart people to seek help and counsel, they’ll be talked into believing that they are not being fit to raise the child. Whatever her issue is, it will be used against her. And not only that, heavy pressure will be put on her in case she actually wants to raise the child on her own as a single mom. She’ll be shown statistics of the devastating effects of growing up with only one parent, she’ll be shown exaggerated lists of monthly expenses, she’ll be shown pictures of “perfect” families looking to adopt – typically rich, fancy, happy movement families – and at times she might even be introduced to them without even agreeing to an adoption (yet). Or even worse, the counselor him/herself is looking to adopt and will make it out to be God’s guidance that they found each other.

Whatever it is, it’s a fact that the movement doesn’t believe in single parenting. And to avoid more single parents, adoption is the only – THE ONLY – way they feel like they accomplished their mission. Having a woman leave happily with her child is failure to them. A child raised by a single mom is like spreading the heroin directly on the kid’s breakfast toast. They won’t give up because they believe that God sends these women their way so they can talk them into adoption, have the baby adopted by a movement family and the outcome is yet another mighty warrior for God’s kingdom. Come to think of it, it’s almost like having as many babies as you can before you die from some cruel pregnancy-related issue. It’s like every single baby they deal off into the movement is their own baby, their own creation, their own addition to the kingdom.

I read a heartbreaking story on a fundamentalist blog. It was the story of a 20something year old who got pregnant and initially wanted to raise it herself. She went to see a counselor so she could find out how to do this, and this counselor – by God’s grace a member of a fundamentalist group – convinced her that her idea was stupid. She ended up giving the baby away, which, as she said, pains her much until this day, but “she knows this is what God wanted her to do”. Sounds like a line to me. I’m not saying it might not be true, but it just doesn’t feel right.

Not every woman who gives her child up for adoption is happy with it. Some realize that they should’ve kept it. For some, it would’ve been easier to raise it on their own than to give it up. For others, this isn’t true, and that’s perfectly ok.

I feel this is an issue that needs to be addressed much more. Whatever each individual woman choses must be her own decision, one that she herself can live with. The fact that she’s seeking help shows a great amount of responsibility and mature behaviour. If the ultimate decision is not to keep the baby and to give to a different family to be raised, she must know what she’s signing up for. All of that talk about how it’s going to have a great life and family and all the financial support it needs is just distraction from the real issue at hand: The empty birthdays, the lone mothers day, the guilt some women feel when they have a baby later on, one that they keep. All of those are facts that are withheld from these mothers in order to convince them. All they’ll hear are those great stories of young women who gave their babies to christian families, and how happy they are about it. You don’t hear about the tears, the pain, the longing. It’s so easy to convince people when all you tell them are the good things.

I guess the end of the story is that adoption is something that should be encouraged, but if a woman is doubtful and you have to show her 500 different papers about how bad keeping the child would end up being, it might not be the decision that’s right for her.


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.


Don’t waste your love!

Oh my dear readers! I’m having a tough day as I’m studying my brains out (I’m afraid it will melt, run out of my ears and end up on the floor!). Right now, I’m taking a small break with a cup of coffee and figured I’d post something on here.

I’ve been wondering – yet again! – about love. I’ll admit, it’s my favourite thing in the world.

I think it was Libby over at who wrote about how love doesn’t just run out when you give it away. See we’ve all been raised to believe that you will eventually have no more love to give to anybody if you “spend” it all on “unimportant” people. This is mainly used to argue pro waiting on God’s perfect man for you. After all, you can’t give your husband all your love if you loved a man before. And I think Libby too came up with this amazing way to prove that this might not be correct:

If you have a child, you love it. If you have another, you love it too. Do you love your second child less because you already gave your love to the first one (or vice versa)? I think every mother would laugh hysterically (or scream) if somebody supposed this idea to her!

In the same way, do you love multiple siblings less because the one that came first took all your love? Of course not.

Libby said that it seems that love grows more the more you give it away. It’s endless. It’s not a pool of water that will run empty eventually. It’s an endless source you can take from whenever need be.

I think that’s a beautiful way to say it. And it’s so true. Libby, I can’t tell you how much of a gift you gave me with that wonderful post of yours.

A while ago I was watching youtube videos (the internet is evil and does NOT want me to study!). Among them was a tag game and one of the questions was “Would you rather be loved and never love back, or love and not be loved back?”

I was surprised to hear my own answer: It’s the second option. I’d MUCH rather feel love for someone, even if he or she doesn’t love me back, than be the admired girl who is empty of love. I think my answer would’ve been completely different back when I was living with my family.

Since I left I started to feel all sorts of things, and love is one of them. I love the family I have here, but I don’t love my family in the US any less because of that. I love my friends. I love my life here.

Feeling that is so amazing. I am because I love and it doesn’t matter if that love is returned or not. The feeling of actually feeling something like that is enough to give me all I need. I wasn’t allowed to love people outside of my family this way. “Loving” your friends is discouraged. Now I can give away feely what I have and I realize that it really doesn’t grow less. Of course it’s all different ways, how you love certain people. But as the saying goes, love is always the same flowers, just sometimes the blossoms have a different color. And like a flower, it exists in me, just for me. I don’t need people to admire it, to help me tend it. I can do that very well on my own. It’s like a garden, growing bigger and bigger and more beautiful each day. So if I’m not loved back, if nobody comes to help me water my flowers and admire them, does it make them less pretty? Of course not. But obviously, it’s a great joy when others come to take a look anyway!


Training up this child – Part 20 – Hurt

(As some of you might have recognized I name many of my posts after songs or movies. I usually pick out a song that suits the mood of each post, usually googling “songs about XY” and then listening to my options. This time, I was torn between two song: Chris Isaak – Wicked game and Johnny Cash – Hurt. I ended up with Hurt because, well I think it sums up a lot of how I felt. I know that some of my readers are just as unworldly as me, so here’s a link to the song on youtube in case you don’t know the song.) Harry’s mother seemed a lot more excited than usual. She made compliments about how I looked, how nicely we decorated the house, how amazing the prepared food smelled. Everybody had a huge smile on their faces, a smile I immediately thought was… retarded. It felt as if the universe had shifted. I was no longer in the real world but in some weird dimension, full of retarded people who don’t even know that some sort of magical boss is shoving lies down their throats. I felt as if they looked at me like I was about to join their sect, go through a weird ritual where they’d take out parts of my brain to make me smile just as stupid as they did. I can’t recall much of this. I was in trance. I talked but it wasn’t me who talked. I heard myself speak and my voice was different, strange, not mine at all. My words didn’t come out of my brain – I didn’t know what I was saying and at the same time wondering how I came up with the things I said. Cold sweat was covering my entire body, my skin felt cold and tacky, but I still felt like that person wasn’t me. There must have been some sort of small talk, some sort of prayer, some words of encouragement but I memorized nothing at all. The only thing I can remember was looking at my shaky hands, covered in freezing sweat and desperately trying not to throw up all over the place. My insides were rotating and I was truly afraid my heart would stop beating any second out of sheer fear. I remember at some point Harry asked me to go outside with him, sit in the garden for a bit. I agreed, my face frozen in I don’t know what position and a very strong, sudden urge the really throw up. I think I held my hand in front of my mouth for a second, because my Dad gave me an encourage stroke on my head and opened the door to the garden for us. As soon as I was outside my mind started screaming: “RUN! Now’s the chance! Run away and don’t turn back!”. But I didn’t. Instead, I followed Harry to the bench in the garden and sat down. I was completely quiet and the sweat started to run down my neck and back. My hands were so wet, they sparkled in the evening sun as if they were powered with diamonds. Harry spoke up: “Do you like the flowers?” “Yes” I said, “Lilies are lovely. My favourite flower.” That was true. “I think so too. You know, you’re like a lily to me. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.” “That’s true” I said, not knowing how to react. “Lisa, you know, I have been watching you for such a long time. Years now. I can’t imagine that there is anybody more beautiful and lovely than you.” He said and took my hand, squeezing it, which embarrassed me because my hands were freezing cold and soaking wet. “I didn’t have to think much about if you were the one. I knew it all along. I would’ve done this so much earlier but I felt I needed to wait and be patient on you. I was doubting your feelings for such a long time but now I feel like it’s different. I feel like we’re made for each other.” Harry looked at me, but I just started into the grass next to my shoes. I hadn’t looked at him during this entire conversation and I couldn’t find the courage to look into his eyes now. He was silent for a few seconds, but then let go of my hand. He stood up, slowly. My stomach twisted, making me feel sicker every second, my heart skipped at least 10 beats. Harry stood in front of me. And then, he did it. He got on one knee, found a little box in his pocket, opened it with shaky hands and presented a lovely ring to me. I stared at the ring and the universe shifted yet some more, completely separating my body and my mind at this point. And as I stared at the ring with my body, and my mind stared at myself sitting there, not knowing what to do, Harry finally said it: “Lisa Franziska Bennet, will you marry me?” I didn’t say a thing. I stared at the ring in Harry’s wet shaky hands and almost heard my mind laughing. This is crazy, this is unreal. “Lisa?” he said after some time which could have been hours for all I know. And for the first time I looked into his eyes and what I saw there I will never forget. I don’t think one can describe the horror and fear I saw on his face that moment. I looked back at the ring, then back into Harry’s eyes. Terror. An entire world crashing down, hands shaking violently, tears starting to fill his eyes. My, a lot worse than I could’ve possibly imagined. I still hadn’t said a word but I felt the need to react somehow. I took the ring in my hand, not putting it on and looked at the pretty little diamond. I could almost feel Harry dying inside and wanted to hold on to him, to make sure he wouldn’t just stop breathing. I put my hand on his hand, then on his cheek, stroking through his hair and while I did that I just slightly shook my head. I was still a mute. “Does that mean no?” he asked and I nodded just as slightly. Harry now sat in front of me, on his knees, staring into nothingness. “Do you really mean no? Why not? What’s wrong? What did I do wrong? I can make it right, just tell me what I have to do, I’ll do it. I’ll do anything.” I shrugged, silent, just staring at Harry sitting there in the grass, at my feet, not knowing what he or I should do next. Finally I found some words somewhere in the back of my head: “I’m so sorry”. There were some tears on Harry’s face, but he wasn’t really crying. “Well, tell me why you’re saying no. I thought everything went well.” My cheeks were burning as I tried to explain. That I felt like I wasn’t ready for marriage, that I was doubting practices and beliefs in the movement, that I didn’t feel quite right about marrying him. He took a seat next to me again, thought about what I said for a bit and then asked me “Ok, so what do you want? I’ll give you anything you ask for if you marry me.” I told him how I wanted an education and maybe a job, how I was afraid of having so many kids, especially right now, and that I wanted a different life, not as set apart from the real world and other people. I wanted to have friends. I wanted to be normal. Harry was quick to answer. “You can have that. You can find yourself some friends once we settled down. You can go to school if we can afford it and you can work until we have kids.” I told him that by our beliefs, we’d have a kid within the next year. He told me that I couldn’t say that. God would time them. And if we did, God’s way would still be perfect. That he thought if I kept following God’s plan, I couldn’t possibly be happier. As he told me all that, the truth started sinking in, the truth Beth predicted: I couldn’t change his mind, I couldn’t make some sort of deal with him that our marriage would be different. He was too convinced of his beliefs. “This isn’t going to work” I finally said. “We’re too different in too many ways. You’re sure that your beliefs are right while I’m doubting everything. You can trust God while I can’t. You dream of a biblical family, I dread it. How can we possibly be happy together? It might just be a phase for me, but I don’t know that yet. If it is, and we are meant for each other, we will be together eventually. But if it isn’t, you’ll be stuck with a wife and family you’re too good for. Is that really what you want?” Harry was quiet, crying and so was I. “If that’s what you want, if that’s what you can deal with, I’ll marry you.” I hadn’t said that because I wanted it. I said that because at this point, I realized what I got myself into. Two families were waiting for a happy, engaged couple. They weren’t going to get one. I was very, very afraid of what waited for me back inside. I was clueless how to explain all of this. I think at some point I wished he’d agree and still want to marry me so that I could avoid what was sure to come: Anger, hate, disappointment, being kicked out of the house into a world I didn’t know, cut off from my family. I realized the extent of what I just had done and it was just as scary as my other option. I was trapped with no way out. “No, I think you might be right. You’re obviously not in the right state of mind to make a good wife. You need time.” Harry’s answer was partially a relief and partially the scariest situation I could imagine. I took his hand again and for whatever reason I said Thank you. I was emotionally broken down to bits and pieces and started crying violently. “What do I do now?” I asked him. “What will we say?”. Harry just shook his head. “I don’t know.” I cried even more at that and Harry must’ve felt sorry for me, because next thing I know was that he put his arm around my shoulders. I couldn’t resist and hugged him, crying harder, begging him “Please don’t let me do this alone, please help me, please do something, I can’t do it.” We sat there for a few more minutes, until I found a tissue in my pocket, cleaned up my face as well as I could. “We should go back in. I bet they’re wondering what’s going on.” Harry stood up, but I just couldn’t find the strength to do it. He took my hand again and pulled me off the bench. “Come on, we’re in this together.” He didn’t let go of my hand, which I’m deeply thankful in retrospective. We slowly walked over to the back door of our house. My mind was empty, fear struck me but somewhere deep inside I felt that I had done the right thing. Harry held the door open for me, and inside I went to wash away those stupid smiles off my parent’s faces.


The Image of P/QF and the Duggars

I have stated several times before that I think the Duggars are a very nice and sincere family and I have heard from people who know them personally that they don’t put on an act for the show – that they really are like that.

But I do see a general problem with the show and that’s the public image of the general P/QF movement. 19 kids and counting actually makes it look really good. I watch the show on a regular basis because it makes me feel a bit like… home. But I can’t stop myself from critizing the image of the typical P/QF family as shown in this show.

First off, the Duggars are a rich family. That’s a simple fact you can’t deny. I honestly believe that they practice their “buy used, save the difference” mantra and I believe that’s partially why they don’t have financial struggles, but let’s be honest here: That show makes them a lot of money, and so do their books, their meet-ups and their visits on multiple conferences each year. Did you realize that Jim Bob rarely ever seems to “go to work” in a traditional sense? He’s almost never really “busy”. He has lots of time to spend with his kids and wife. And this is why I believe that the family structure and the family relations are so much better within the Duggar family than they are in a normal QF family where the man of the house has to work all day, multiple jobs, to provide the basics for his large family.

Conclusion 1: The Duggars actually have time for their kids.

Let’s look at the way they dress: The Duggar girls aren’t dressed in an old-fashioned way. All of them wear pretty, modern clothes. I know that they say they buy only at thrift shops, but I think they’re talking about the upper-class thrift shop here. Not the ones with really outdated clothes for very little money, but the ones were you can find clothes from the latest seasons of fashion. Of course, this costs more. Not as much as new but this difference is a big deal for the normal QF family. The Duggars needn’t sew their own clothes or alter old clothes, they can buy fitting, modern stuff. Another point in the dressing issue is that not every QF girl is allowed to wear this type of stuff. I remember getting into a big discussion with my parents if jeans skirts and shirts were ok. In some families this isn’t possible, it’s too worldly. Jeans is considered men’s clothing in some families (forbidden in the bible). And on top of it all, the girls don’t always wear ankle-length skirts. Sometimes they just cover their knees. Dressing-wise, I’d consider them on the liberal end of the fundamentalist dress code.

Talking about the Duggar women, let’s look at Anna Duggar. Remember when Josh and Anna were courting/engaged? Anna never wore make-up. Her hair was long and didn’t look like she ever put much work into it. Her clothes were looser-fitting and plainer. Not that she looked bad, but she looked more like a typical QF girl. Look at her now: She cut her hair to shoulder length (VERY short for QF standards!), it’s always straightened and I believe she had some highlights and color put in (she was much more blond during engagement), her make up is noticeable and beautifully done, her clothes are much more modern, colorful and tighter. Her entire personality seems happier, bubblier, more outgoing (though this could be rooted in her shyness towards camera at first). She changed from this little wallflower into a blossoming, beautiful and seemingly strong woman. She is the walking image of how great the QF lifestyle is. I really like Anna Duggar, I think she was beautiful before and still is, that’s not the point. The point is that I get the feeling that she’s supposed to be a walking commercial for the P/QF lifestyle.

Conclusion 2: The girls don’t look crazy and weird, but worldly (though modest and nice). The show depicts women rather worldly looking, but happy and fulfilled in their traditional role.

And another thing about the Duggar girls: They don’t give this submissively oppressed vibe. The interviews with them are fun, they joke around, do funny faces. They seem to be running the place, have authority over decisions and their own opinions. They aren’t weird around others, they are open, talkative and funny. They have a great way to interact with people outside the movement. They never come across as judgemental and scared. This type of behaviour simply isn’t true for many girls who aren’t allowed to be so loud and outgoing. Many QF families see this as a problem in girls, that girls should be shy, quiet and meek.

Conclusion 3: The girls portrait QF as a fun, normal, fulfilling lifestyle for every girl.

The activities of the Duggars aren’t exactly boring either. They have a huge house with tons of options for the kids, a huge garden with fun activities. They go on trips all across the world, sometimes as family, sometimes just the parents or the kids. The boys and girls are members of the local volunteer fire department. They live in a world with lots of action and fun, while it is at the same time full of purpose and meaning. They put a heavy emphasis on learning through these journeys and activities. And that’s just not possible for many normal families, even secular ones. Plus, I think the fact that the girls too are members of the fire department is very strange. I don’t know any girl who would’ve been allowed to do such a thing. It’s men’s work. And that just doesn’t add up for me. I think it’s utterly unrealistic for the vast majority of P/QF families.

Conclusion 4: The show depicts meaning through fun, exciting activities and doesn’t show the boxes of men’s and women’s activities (like it would be the case in a normal P/QF family).

Probably the biggest minus of this show is that it doesn’t show actual problems and struggled in the matter of family and/or spousal relations. There are no glimpses of how the kids are “trained” or disciplined, neither are there fights between Jim Bob and Michelle. Everyone seems to be so close, so happy with each other, never getting into a serious fight. It’s not shown HOW the Duggars resolve conflict, between kids, kids and parents or between just the parents. Life looks peaceful and filled with joy and mutual respect and understanding. I don’t even believe there is much fighting in this family, after all they are well off with little worries for money, so not that much to fight about. The only struggle shown in the show was Michelle’s last pregnancy, and that was handled with almost inhuman strength and understanding from every member of the family. They make it look easy and natural when in reality that’s simply not true for most families. The show entirely ignores the struggles and fears of wife dealing with submission, child discipline, overwhelming amount of duties and so on. To the outsider, or to a person who’s playing with the thought of following the fundamentalist teachings, this show is extremely appealing.

Conclusion 5: The show doesn’t talk about struggles and problems with people in their “biblical” role and between people within the families. With God’s help, it seems, everything is easy and good.

Looking at this short and incomplete list of things that simply don’t appear in reality, I can no longer wonder why ex-P/QF people have such a hard time being accepted as abused. People have this beautiful image of the Duggars in mind and of course wonder “What was so bad about that lifestyle?”. They say things like “Get over it, let it go” because they don’t know how life REALLY is in the QF movement. I think the Duggars are to be seen as their very own version of QF and shouldn’t be used as example for all QF families, but that’s hard to understand for outsiders. I’m glad the Duggars seem to have found a way to get it to work more or less, but it makes us others, from families where nothing worked, look like whiney girls raving on about something that wasn’t as bad. And that, in my opinion, is an image in desperate need for a reality-check and some change.