Everyone's favourite TV fundamentalists have another bun in the oven: but is it a wise choice?
Who'd be Michelle Duggar right now? The 45-year-old mom-of-many and star of 19 Kids and Counting
has just announced that she's expecting her 20th child.
In a Today Show appearance yesterday (naturally), Michelle, accompanied by husband Jim Bob and their children, as well as daughter-in-law Anna and grandchildren Mackynzie and Michael, dropped the bombshell fans and haters alike have been speculating over for over a year. The newest addition to the Duggar clan is set to make an appearance in April 2012.
Youngest daughter Josie turns two this December, meaning that until the latest Duggar was conceived, Michelle was enjoying the longest period in 20 years that she'd ever gone without being pregnant. She and Jim Bob caused controversy last year when they admitted they would not rule out more children, even after her last pregnancy resulted in severe health complications for both mother and baby, with Josie being born at just 25 weeks' gestation and spending most of the first year of her life in hospital.
Some people called it irresponsible; some expressed concern for their other children or for Michelle's health. Others just couldn't believe that anyone would be happy to have as many as 19 children, let alone think about having more - and questioned the extent to which the Duggars are "brainwashed" by the conservative Christian teachings they follow.
As far as I can see, Duggar critics usually fall into one of three categories. Firstly, we have those who simply see them as a big joke - they're Christian fundamentalists; they're from the South; they gives their kids names like "Jinger". "Clown car" jokes abound. Secondly, there's the ex-fans, the people who probably watched and enjoyed the first few series of their show but have now grown disillusioned with what they see as the family selling out, enjoying numerous holidays and perks courtesy of TLC, and relying more and more on their older daughters to look after younger siblings. And finally, there's those who have a lot of concern about the lifestyles and beliefs of families like the Duggars. It's some of these people who have managed to shed light on the darker side of it all.
In recent years there have been a number of exposes into the lives of fundamentalist Christians in the US - through books like Kathryn Joyce's "Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement" and interviews with women who have exited the belief system. Blogs have appeared - again, written by people who either grew up with the lifestyle or married into it, and have depressing tales of domineering husbands, poverty, obsession with childbearing, abusive churches and controlling parents to tell.
Inevitably, these stories have raised concern that this particular branch of conservative Christianity is very attractive to abusive men, who are drawn in by the movement's vocal rejection of gender equality, and the way it places fathers in complete control of their families. At the very least it's clear that it severely restricts the lifestyles of wives and daughters, for whom working outside the home, college, having close friendships with the opposite sex and even being able to drive could be out of the question.
Some people say it's not right to criticize the Duggars - they're not on welfare, they've chosen to have so many kids of their own free will, and they can afford their huge family thanks to their TV show. Personally I find it really saddening that they felt the miscarriage of their second pregnancy was something they needed to ask God's forgiveness for - because they were using birth control at the time, which they felt was the cause.
It led to their decision not to limit their family size and as a result, their children don't really have a choice about the sort of lifestyle they want to lead. They seem like a loving and close family, but it's well-known that many parents who share their beliefs have quickly cut off adult children who have chosen a less strict lifestyle or have disobeyed their wishes.
I can confidently state that I would never, ever choose to bear as many children as Michelle - and I don't agree with many of her beliefs. But I would never wish anything bad upon her. I just wonder how different her life might have been if she hadn't met Jim Bob. As her 20th pregnancy progresses, I just hope that she can remain in good health and not experience complications - which at her age is a big risk. Maybe she might admit it's finally time to hang up her maternity clothes after the newest Duggar is born.
Hannah Mudge writes about all things news and feminism-themed for BitchBuzz. You can also read her blog, We Mixed Our Drinks or follow her tweets as @boudledidge.
Image via TLC