Friday, January 29, 2010

Part 4

You can read this on NLQ, here.


Disclaimer: With my father, I have to be careful of the details I give. His place in the movement is easily identifiable with a few key data points. I hope my readers can understand that even though I hate what was done to me, I hate what could be done to people I love even more. In which case, identifying my dad isn’t something I want to do. It’s also unnecessary for my purpose. Now that that’s out of the way -

After Joseph (boy 3) was born, my father was called into a particular ministry that demanded he travel most of the year. My mom said that this was the hardest, darkest period of her life. With three boys under four and my dad gone most of the time, she was the manager of the house and discplinarian.

The boys were a handful. One day, a downstairs neighbor called up and asked my mother if her washing machine was off balance because the neighbor kept hearing a very loud thumping noise. Mom said she didn’t have any laundry in the machine, but would check out the noise. As it turned out, Eli and Samuel were standing in the laundry room “fixing” the washer with hammers. One day, I asked my mom how she couldn’t hear them before the neighbor did and she told me that she’d been so exhausted that she must’ve “zoned out”. Now I wonder if she was just too tired to check it out or care.

She did have reason for her exhaustion, though. Apart from the three boys, she was pregnant with me. After the boy-girl discussion before Joseph, mom never again voiced her desire for a girl (and with subsequent pregnancies, refused to speculate about the sex or find out the sex by ultrasound). I’m told that she was delighted when I was born. She finally had reason to use those bows and ruffles that she’d meticulously sewn years earlier. Use them she did. From birth, there’s not one picture of me in gender neutral clothing. Long before the faux-pigtails sported by Jordyn Duggar, I rotated through the world’s largest assortment of scrunchy-bow-headbands. I was bald until I was two and those headbands, plus the frilly dresses, were the only way to publicly distinguish me from my brothers.

My birth brought my grandparents back for another visit. They hadn’t seen my mother in person since Eli’s birth. They were shocked by what they found. Their once stunning, energetic daughter looked tired and run-down. She had always been shy, but her shyness had been replaced by something darker. She had become completely submissive to the will of my father and it scared my grandparents. My mother tried reassuring them that she was happy, but they didn’t believe her. Once again, my grandfather made the mistake of confronting my dad about my mother’s appearance and demeanor. He, my grandfather, pleaded with my dad to allow them to hire help for my mother. His pleas were rejected.

One of the key components of ATI or Quiverful families is the idea that husbands can, and will, provide for all of their family’s needs. Accepting my grandfather’s offer of help would’ve, in my dad’s eyes, suggested tha the was unable to fulfil his responsibilties as a man. In reality, my mom needed help!

This is where I have a fundamental issue with patriarchy. Men make the decisions about these issues with no consequences. Having help wouldn’t have changed the fact that my father did nothing to help my mother. To the contrary, it may have freed him up even more (if that’s possible). My father never changed a diaper. He never ran a load of laundry or a sink full of dishes. He never mopped a feverish brow. Yet, HE got to decide that accepting help for my mother was wrong. What he did do was finally move my mother out of the apartment and into a bigger home – which she then had to be responsible for, as well as her four children.


  1. I love it when men use their authority to deny because it doesn't impact them a bit. I had a friend growing up whose dad refused to let his mom's parents give her a dishwasher. He said it would take too much money (or work) to install it and that he had a great dishwasher (his wife). He knew that he wasn't going to use it so therefore why be inconvenience?

    The problem with submitting to anyone's authority is that some people are too stupid to cross the street without getting hit by a car. I don't follow stupid people. You know there are many QF men who can't cross the street. The idea that a smart woman denies her abilities to make money or use her brain is such an insult.

    Kind of like the bible throwing people out of eden for eating from the tree of knowledge. That was my jumping off point for Christianity. I kept asking my Sunday school teacher if God wanted us to be stupid.

    I feel for your mom. I can't imagine being trapped in a house with four kids that young. I was exhausted just reading about it.

    I know you are building a mystery here, but I'm dying to know if you speak with your grandparents.

  2. They died when I was nine/ten. Not at the same time of course. I did talk to them and I got to see them on limited occasions.

  3. I'm so sorry. I was a late in life baby and my grandparents were old when I was born and I really only had one grandparent for a bit in my life. My sisters, who are much older than me, have great stories about the other grandparents.

    I'm fairly sure they would be very proud of you and would have been a great support of your current situation. We should all be able to adopt grandparents.

  4. It seems the patriarchal model is a backlash against the women's movement in the past 100+ years.
    I feel bad that your parents got sucked into this mindset.
    I hope your siblings find your courage to walk away from this insanity.

  5. Just a quick word of warning, Ruth: eventually someone IS going to figure out who your father is and will draw attention to your blog. That's the nature of the Internet, unfortunately. I do NOT want to discourage you from posting, far from it. Your writing is terrific and you send a very powerful message, one that truly needs to be heard. Do be prepared, however, because it IS going to happen.

  6. i just found your blog.
    i wish i had lots of time to read it.
    i don't.
    But when I do, I will grieve and then rejoice and be glad in the truth of His love for us.
    Be careful.
    Be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove.
    From someone over 50 who fought her way through the scripture to find answers to these very questions.

  7. "It seems the patriarchal model is a backlash against the women's movement in the past 100+ years."

    No. This is skating close to the same old 'project blame onto the woman/victim' mentality.

    This is the same old patriarchy and misogny that has been around for thousands of years. It is a satanic deception that springs from satan's enmity against women, the the effects of the curse (which we are REDEEMED from).

    The hateful, narcissistic, dysfunctional misogyny of the Christian patriarchy deception is not a backlash to the 'women's movement' which has tried, with not much success, to achieve equality and justice for women on the basis that 'all PEOPLE are created equal' (not just 'all MEN'). No. Don't blame the women's movement, as if this where just a swing of the pendulum that needed to happen. This oppression and male entitlement is centuries old - re-packaged, re-labelled and re-marketed for a generation of men who have not given up their sense of entitlement and embraced justice any more than their forefathers did.

  8. I didn't see the poster's comment as blaming the women's movement. Societies do in fact go through periods of change, and then a backlash against said change. I agree with them that there has been a rise in sexist trends lately, and I do think it's part of the culture's reaction to the feminist movement being so prominent in the 60's through the 90's. Saying such a thing does not put the blame on the women's movement (where it absolutely does not belong); it is merely an observation.

  9. Its so weird. In Orthodox Jewish families nearly all, even the poor ones, have some form of hired help. If only to give Mom a break from washing the Shabbos dishes or to help get things tidy once in a while. Plus with new moms (and those who are harried) Doulas not only help out with births but with the first few days/weeks of the baby's arrival... they even cook and clean if need be. It is commanded that a a man make sure that his wife has a nice outfit and shoes for Shabbos as well as household help before he can spend money on his own clothing and needs. While I don't feel like I'd fit in with the Jewish "fundies" I have a new found respect for them as their version of patriarchy seems so liberal and progressive now. Its so sad that your mom had so much life sucked out of her. Your father's job as her husband was to look out for her best interests, not to fulfill some religious dictate. To think that your grandparents offered to hire a nanny (a dream for any mother!) and it was rejected.


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