Starting young

See what it’s like to grow up as a Quiverfull child.

I’m the oldest of 12. I was 13 when my baby sister Tess slept in my room. I was responsible for changing and feeding her in the middle of the night (she was 6 months plus…I don’t remember exactly). That was pretty much the beginning. (To be fair, she was one of two babies who was passed off so young, but still.)

My second sister (seven years younger than me) is mother to our second-youngest sister, Abby. I don’t say second mother. I say mother. After a high-risk pregnancy, mom had an emergency C-section, and Abby became Beth’s buddy. She couldn’t nurse, so she was purely bottle-fed. Beth did everything for her. Last I knew, Abby would come to Beth if she had a problem, before she would come to mom.

Beth and I shared a room for many years, and the younger girls’ room was right next door. When Tess had nightmares and hallucinations, most likely it was Beth or me (or both) who got up with her. When the little girls needed help going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, it was us again who helped (or the twins, when they got older).

It wasn’t that our parents’ room was across the house, either. It was across the hall from our rooms. They believed they deserved the right to sleep through the night while someone else took care of their kids. They believed they earned the right to sleep through the night while someone else took care of their kids.

Child labor laws would rule that out for unrelated children, but within the family it’s ok to make children do the night duty.


  1. Kevin Anthoney says

    See? I said it was just like the social insects. Before you know it they’ll be cultivating fungus to eat in the basement, and shortly after that enormous colonies of Driver Quiverfulls, ten million strong, will be sweeping across America devouring everything in their path.

  2. Richard Smith says

    I don’t think the Quiverfull folks would like to be compared to social insects. AFAIK, they’re all matriarchal. Even naked molerats are matriarchal. Eewww… naked Quiverfulls…

  3. Retired Prodigy Bill says

    The idea of shoving work off onto the children, particularly in larger families, isn’t restricted to Quiverfull. In my grandmother’s family, the three oldest were all girls, and cooking and cleaning and taking care of the younger children started at very early ages, certainly before puberty. (And I don’t mean chores, I mean full scale adult duties, which is probably why each of the three left home at or before the age of 18.) Of course, that was before WWII, the attitude of children as property/family servants might have, at least in the general population, been softened a bit since then.

  4. says

    It’s a terrible burden to expect children to shoulder the burden of caring for younger children, but sadly it happens, even in small families like my father’s. He was expected to care for his infant half-sister, who slept in his room from around age 13-14. He not only did night duty, but was expected to feed and change her early in the morning before going outside to tend the stables. His father and step-mother slept in.

    I wish that we were able to get some legislation preventing people from treating their children like labor, but I fear that would go nowhere.

  5. Alex SL says

    To be fair, isn’t that at least partially how it worked for the last few thousand years until about a few decades ago? No vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, washing machine. No contraceptives. One birth after the other until the woman dies in labour or reaches menopause. Well, obviously under those circumstances child #1 would at a minimum help caring for child #6, or perhaps watch over #4 while mom cares for #6.

    On the other hand, so would grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, etc., when most people were still living in the same village together, maybe even in the same farmhouse; and children #2, #3 and #5 probably died of some disease that is now easily treatable or vaccinatable before they were 2 years old, so that would have reduced the amount of child-raising work to be done, compared with today’s rabbits Quiverfullers…

  6. sceptinurse says

    I grew up in the ’60’s-’70’s. I started having to do all the dishes when I was 7 or so. I had to stand on a chair to reach everything. By the time I was 10 I was expected to clean the entire house every Saturday. By the time I was 12 I was pretty much totally responsible for my half siblings. Life sucked for most of my childhood, exacerbated by my abusive stepfather that beat the crap out of me if he didn’t like the job I did. Needless to say I did not raise my children like this.

  7. says

    My brothers and I had already taken over most of the housework when I was 8. (I didn’t start taking care of babies full-time until age 13 or so, in the scenario I described on my blog, though I helped out.) My brothers were 6, 5, and 3. I wasn’t a very big eight year old (I was fairly consistently 2 years behind in my growth), and I had to get IN to the washer and dryer to get the clothes out.

  8. says

    In the past, absolutely. My grandmother had to leave school at 14 when her mother killed herself. Someone had to take on all the care and housekeeping for her father and her 4 younger siblings.

    Why don’t people immediately get that this sort of thing MUST happen in the quiverfull movement? The slavery of elder daughters is essential to the system. What did they imagine was happening there? No woman can single-handedly care for 20 kids.

  9. says

    Nothing wrong with older kids helping out — I imagine it might actually be a healthy thing to do — but they should NOT be forced (or even asked) to take on full child-care duties.

  10. brettvk says

    Sadly, the best hope for the Duggar daughters is that Michelle will be so damaged by this latest pregnancy that she has to give up childbearing. At least the youngest girls will be able to grow up without being drafted into premature responsibilities of motherhood. I predict that, if they can escape the fundamentalist bell jar, at least some of these daughters will either limit their own childbearing or choose to forgo it altogether. An ex-partner of mine was the third of six children in a single-parent household, and she got her fill of child-rearing in that situation, even though it was not nearly as regimented and onerous as the Duggar compound.

  11. Godless Heathen says

    Nothing wrong with older kids helping out — I imagine it might actually be a healthy thing to do — but they should NOT be forced (or even asked) to take on full child-care duties.

    Agreed! Giving kids age-appropriate responsibilities is fine or letting them give their baby sister or brother a bottle once in a while, if they want, but, yeah, seriously, full-time child care responsibilities? Nope. That should be avoided as much as possible. (I say this knowing that there are always some circumstances where that can’t be avoided.)

  12. BethE says

    Pardon the derail, but I thought you might be interested in looking at the actions of a company called The Extra Reading Company.

    Current activity:

    Previous work:

    They may have also been stealing art from Deviant Art:

    But their website is currently conveniently down at the moment.

  13. Doc Dish says

    I wonder if any of the boys are expected to help with the rearing of younger children? Actually, I don’t wonder at all because I know what the answer will be.

    What upsets me most about this situation is that disturbed sleep will affect these girls’ ability to concentrate at school (assuming they go to school). I guess education for women is low on these people’s priorities too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *