In many ways, every Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull couple has a different dynamic. What sort of a dynamic did your parents have? Was one more sold on the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideology than the other? Or, if you grew up in a broken family, how did this affect your experience?
When Mama discovered patriarchy, my parents were already divorced. My dad had attended an IBLP Basic seminar as a young college student. He brought the materials home to his dad who promptly threw it away and told him it was rubbish.
My grandfather was a wise man.
Then, when Mama swallowed the philosophy whole, sharp bones and all, my father did everything he could to keep us out of it. He succeeded in not allowing us to homeschool, which I am very grateful for. But my mother had a weird sort of twisted belief that she was the patriarch and became our supreme authority. Everything in our lives, from going potty to whom we would marry, had to go through her. It didn’t help that she was also very abusive.
In the interests of presenting a united front, my parents never discussed their marriage or decisions with us. However, from my observations, I believe that my mom really wanted to have the ideal CP family, including more children. She tried to play that submissive wife role as much as she could and hoped that my dad would become a more consistent and willing leader. However, it seems like her submission was more like a way of manipulating him into becoming the leader she wanted. In a way, they seemed to have a reverse power struggle dynamic as she pushed a lot of responsibility onto him that he didn’t want.
My experience was influenced by the fact that my father was generally a fairly quiet and reserved man while my mom was a very strong woman. So while they worked to fit themselves into the patriarchal ideals and truly believed in them, my mom was never simply a pushover or doormat, and could be quite adept at negotiating within the system. Of course, this also meant that their relationship could at times be stormy – after all, they both were trying to fit themselves into molds they weren’t necessarily perfectly suited for. Weirdly, my mom always seemed to take the lead on Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideals, with my father adopting them slightly later. But even with all that, my father was definitely the head of the family and he had the final call in decision making.
My parents turned to the QF theologies before I was born even, so I can’t really tell you. It’s just what I think, but I think my Mother was much stricter at first. I also think she kind of pushed my Dad into those very fundamentalist ideas. I mean, he wanted to be the provider, but not at all cost. My Mom kind of forced him into dominating her. That changed when I was young, my Mom seemed to realize what kind of monster she made of my Dad. But at that point, he had been completely consumed by the theologies and was obsessed with being a leader himself.
My parents consider themselves to be first-generations Christians. My dad’s parents were divorced, my mom’s dad was an alcoholic. Dad “got saved” in his senior year of high school, mom “got saved” her sophomore year of college. They joined a young church full of young marrieds with similar stories, and were introduced to Mary Pride, homeschooling, and the concept of courtship.
My parents have always been very united in their vision for what our family was to be like. They never questioned homeschooling or having more kids–in their minds it was a spiritual calling for them and for us as a family. It was an identity, and it was something to be proud of.
Eventually, their unity on this (and other things) got somewhat fragmented as my dad had to take a second job and grew more burdened with family stress and his own issues. Mom dealt with repeated postpartum depression and felt increasingly isolated socially as she kept having babies while most of her friends stopped. She reacted to the increased stress by being more emotional, and my dad reacted to the stress by withdrawing. My dad grew more ingrained with the programmatic elements of CP/QF teachings, and my mom started to question things a little and ask about putting some of us in private school. She’s never been too serious about that, though, and they instead focused their energies as a couple on church issues, and getting out of an abusive church situation. Leaving [that church] has since cleared up a lot of tensions and long-lasting issues between my parents and within the family as a whole.
In my memory, my dad was always very sure of “God’s will” and was serious about teaching it to each of us children. When I was elementary school aged, my parents fought some, I know that they had some disagreements about child-rearing and gender roles. When I was middle school aged and up through my teens, my mother began reading books on submission and taking it very seriously. After that I do not really remember my parents ever disagreeing. Sometimes my mom would say things about how before she knew her role as a woman their marriage had been very troubled and now it was better. When things were difficult, she would say something about how she could not change Dad, only God could do that, and he would if we were faithful. She always backed up whatever Dad was teaching or commanding.
My mom was the one who got our family into PF/QF stuff in the beginning, but my dad did not need too much convincing to jump on the bandwagon. He is a very authoritarian person and the teachings my mom showed him fell right into place with his personality. I know they used to fight a lot when I was very young, but mostly I just remember how much my dad loved my mom. He always doted on her and hugged and kissed her all the time. Whenever she was tired or sick or even just crabby, he would blame us for her feelings. “Your mother is tired! Why are you so lazy that you never help her around the house!” Or, “what did you do to upset your mother?” He would get so angry and mean with us when we failed to keep mom happy and healthy.
My parents’ dynamic was one of antagonist and martyr. My mother submitted to my father and he took full advantage. My church taught that wives of abusers could win them to Christ by refusing to fight back. Divorce was also considered invalid, because it could not dissolve an oath made before God. There was no way out.
My parents came from backgrounds where “traditional” marriages were the norm, so a dynamic like that emphasized in CP was present to some degree as their default. However, CP/QF had the unfortunate effect of enabling them to exalt their particular marital dynamic into a universally valid bit of religious dogma that they hoped to see replicated in the lives of all their descendants. I think my mom was less enamored with the teachers and trends of CP/QF than my dad was, but she didn’t have a doubt that her role as defined within the system was laid out by God himself. I assume that what she did was read the specifics of her cultural background and marital dynamic into the (highly controversial) biblical texts on marriage and perceived that this all lined up with the teachings of CP, and that is what made her feel okay with my father leading our family ever deeper into the subculture. I seriously doubt it would have appealed to her much otherwise had she been left to herself. As for my father, I think he was impressed by the speaking skills and apparent knowledge of Scripture displayed by some of the movement’s prominent teachers, and that he was rendered vulnerable to their ideas by his uncertainty about how else to raise his growing family in a Christian way.