It was like leaving my own children

Reader Rebecca recently posted a comment I really identify with:

I always say that I was a homeschooler in the most steriotypical kind of way – the denim jumper-wearing, granola-eating, flour-grinding type. And then sometimes I clarify further by mentioning that my parents also didn’t believe in birth control. I dearly wish that, like Latebloomer, that I would come across as normal, but I’m pretty convinced by now, after years of striving to blend in, that I have have some kind of aura about me that smacks of my conservative upbringing – acquaintances are never surprised to find out about background, which bugs me so much! I dress normally, can relate the music and entertainment they discuss, had a boyfriend for a year, never brought up God at all – and yet I stood out. I hate that! Although I don’t think it has bothered others, my bizarre past.

I do remember particularly in college how little my roommates and close friends could relate to my constant anxiety about my family at home, my little siblings, my mother. Several of them were the oldest children, as well, and thought correctly that it was abnormal to fret over the kids like they were my own and be racked with guilt for leaving my mother with so much on her. It wasn’t until my senior year and I discovered the No Longer Quivering website and that there were other girls out there like me that I realized why I felt they way I did about the family. Family unity was the thing my parents cared most about after God, and we were so isolated that of course we siblings were close, and then there were the little brothers that we older girls raised – homeschooled them, dressed them, bathed them, read to them at night – how could we help but have tender maternal feelings towards them and worry now that we had left them?


When I left for college, I experienced a great deal of guilt for leaving my mother with extra work to do – I’d been her right hand, after all. Every time I would come home on work I would work extra hard to help out in order to make up for the guilt I felt at leaving my mother with so much more to do. A big paart of me wanted to stay home and just keep helping out, to spare her the extra work, and I did honestly consider doing so – and if my parents had been more hard core in their embrace of Christianity, this is what I would have done by default.

In addition, tearing myself away from my siblings, some of whom were still babies, was also excruciating. I felt like I was abandoning them. I still experience some guilt today for leaving my siblings, particularly for leaving the little sister I had kind of adopted as my own, caring for her like she was mine from infancy. I think the reason I feel guilt with regards to her is that, well, she felt abandoned. In fact, several years later she asked me flat out why I’d abandoned her, why I’d stopped loving her. I’ve never had the chance to explain to her – to explain that in the first place I had grown up and when people grow up they go out into the world to forge their own way, and in the second place when all the tension happened between me and my parents I didn’t really have much choice and I in part let her go in order not to hurt her by pulling her into the middle of it all. It clearly didn’t work, though.

Finally, my first year or two of college I talked about my siblings constantly, which I think came across as really weird to my knew just-plain-evangelical friends. The truth was, I’d never separated from my family the way normal kids do during their high school years. I only saw my friends two or three times a week, and since we siblings were essentially always together, we were naturally pretty close. The reality is that I went from completely integrated into my family and never away from my younger siblings for more than a couple hours at a time to living in a completely different city, without being able to visit home more than a couple times a semester. It’s not surprising that all I could talk about was my family, really.

And so, to everything Rebecca said up there? Spot on. Me to.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.