Quiverfull: Birthing New ‘Helpers’ Into the World 

The three oldest Gerencser children with their Down Syndrome sister, 1990

The three oldest Gerencser children with their Down Syndrome sister, 1990

Quiverfull advocate Nancy Campbell recently encouraged young Christian women to obey God and continue having babies until God closes their womb. Evidently, some Quiverfull mothers are giving up and not letting God have his way with their womb. Can’t have that, so Campbell reminds mothers that the more children they have the easier it becomes:

…However, there is another fact that many young mothers don’t yet realize because they haven’t yet experienced it. And that is that it gets easier to have another child when you have older children. It’s not the mothers of six, seven, or more children who feel so overwhelmed.

What happens is your little children grow, and as you train them, they become such wonderful helpers. When a new baby comes into the home, instead of this little one adding a burden to the home, they bring more joy and blessing, not only to you, but the whole family. When you have children who are growing older, you have so many hands on deck to help–to hold the baby, to goo and gah at the baby and keep your baby smiling and laughing, to bring this and that to you while you are nursing, to help with the dishes and housework, to cook a meal, and to keep the home running smoothly. You are getting to the reward time of mothering…

Campbell reveals the dirty little secret of the Quiverfull movement, that having a large family requires older children to become surrogate mothers to younger siblings. Non-Quiverfull parents look at the Duggar family or the Bates family and ask, how does the mother properly care for all those children? She doesn’t. The real mothers are the older siblings who are tasked with everything from feeding their younger siblings and changing their diapers to educating their younger siblings and making sure they are dressed. While learning to care for younger children is not inherently bad, Quiverfull families often require older children to be full-time caregivers, robbing these children of the opportunity of enjoying childhood. Instead, their workload is viewed as preparing them for their future adult life as a Quiverfull family. From elementary age forward, these children are forced to take on roles meant for adults. Is it any surprise that some of them, as soon as they are old enough to do so, flee the Quiverfull cult?

Polly and I have six children, ages 36, 34, 31, 26, 24, and 22.  We have two distinct families, the three older boys and the two younger girls and boy. There is a five-year space between the two groups, at the end of which we adopted the Quiverfull belief concerning children. Devout Calvinists who believed God was sovereign over the womb, we determined to have as many children as God gave us. In rapid succession, the ever-fertile Polly popped out new little Gerencsers every 18-24 months. After the birth of our sixth child, the obstetrician told us that Polly should not have any more children. His words? She’s too pooped to pop. He warned that having another child could kill her.

When confronted with the reality of our theological beliefs, we decided to listen to the doctor and not have any more children. Polly had a tubal ligation and the Gerencser rabbit was killed. Did we betray our beliefs? Yes. Were we hypocritical? Yes. I had preached sermons that asked women who could no longer have children to pray that God would reverse their tubal ligation. I even implored them to come to the altar and cry out to God, asking him to open their womb so they could once again have the blessing of God on their life. I can only imagine the deep pain such sermons caused, a fact that haunts me to this day. Fortunately, God didn’t answer their prayers. Every closed womb stayed closed, all praise be to Jesus!

Our three oldest sons had to grow up in a hurry. While they have wonderful stories about childhood, about playing in the woods, riding bikes, and sword fights, they also have stories about being required to live in an adult world by the time they were ten. While they have accepted and come to terms with the why’s of their childhood, it doesn’t change the fact that they didn’t get to enjoy manying of the things non-Fundamentalist children get to enjoy. Not only were we part of the Quiverfull movement, we also home schooled and I was a pastor. All of our children, but especially our older children, were forced to live in an adult world much too soon. While it has made them mature and wise beyond their years and given them a strong work ethic, I can’t help but feel sorry for what they were deprived of growing up. No, they are not scarred for life, and all of them have grown up to be wonderful, productive adults, but nothing can change the fact that they missed out on a lot of normal childhood experiences because of their father’s job and their parent’s beliefs. I hope someday that several of them will put pen to paper or keyboard to screen and share how they view growing up in the home of Rev. Bruce and Polly Gerencser’s home.

If there is a silver lining for our family it is that Polly and I, along with our six children have escaped the cult and are now free to live our lives as we see fit. None of our children are Evangelical; most of them claim no religion, and those who do are live and let live Catholics. It’s refreshing to know that our ten grandchildren will not be raised under the curse of Evangelical Christianity and the various other beliefs that once enslaved our family. We’re pleased to watch our adult children allow their children to enjoy childhood, while at the same time teaching them the value of work and service to others. There’s nothing wrong with a teenager doing housework, cooking, or learning to change a diaper. After all, part of parenting is preparing children for adult life; and cleaning house, cooking dinner, and cleaning up a baby are all part of the “wonderful” adult experience. The difference now is that our adult children don’t expect their children to be stand-ins for them. Their is a balance that was not part of their life when Mom and Dad were lovers of Jesus, ardent home schoolers, and disciples of John Calvin.

Notes

If you are not familiar with the Quiverfull Movement, please read Vyckie Garrison’s article, What is Quiverfull?

print

Subscribe to the Daily Post Digest!

Sign up now and receive an email every day containing the new posts for that day.

I will never give away, trade or sell your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Powered by Optin Forms

2 Comments

  1. Karen the rock whisperer

    My mom was the third of 6. However, she got almost no domestic training at home. It was all well and good to want girls to be homebodies, but there was a farm to run — and children were the (un)-hired help. So my grandparents raised their four daughters to be farmers along with their sons.

    Mom had NO idea how to cook when she got married. She had very little idea of how to take care of a baby or raise a child. She learned as she went along. But she was a fairly quick study. I was ably taken care of, and Mom was generally a good cook (aside from a tendency to overcook veggies). Still, I remember her talking about feeling absolutely lost during the early years of her domestic life.

    She was determined that I not go through the same thing, so I learned to be more domestic than I wanted to be. But at least I didn’t have siblings to care for.

    Reply
  2. Marty

    I come from a catholic family of 9 kids, and I’m the oldest.

    It’s true that the older kids have to help raise the younger ones. I remember getting up in the middle of the night to change a sibling’s diaper or to feed them – and I was still in elementary school!

    It’s easy for people with no or few children to think of huge families as such fun and goodness, and a huge blessing from god. But when you have too many kids, life can be tougher for the whole family. Children do fall through the cracks and don’t have all of their needs met. There is no god to pick up the slack.

    My dad finally “took measures” to ensure he’d father no more kids. A priest told my dad he should get the vasectomy reversed in order to receive communion. That is pure insanity!

    Thanks Bruce for sharing your story. It’s the first time I’ve heard the “large family experience” from the parent’s perspective. You’ve validated how I feel about my experience!

    Reply

Leave a Comment

You have to agree to the comment policy.