“Where do you get your energy?!”
This is a question which is frequently asked of Quiverfull moms by amazed and admiring onlookers who cannot imagine being able to keep up with the exponential demands of “biblical womanhood” including: perpetual pregnancy, child-bearing, adopting sibling groups, breastfeeding, baby wearing, chronic sleep deprivation, raising half a dozen or more closely-spaced, “stair-step” children, homeschooling – year round through chronic illness, child-training, character training, tomato-staking, discipling children, homemaking, penny-pinching, organic gardening, baking from scratch, once-a-month cooking, homesteading, sewing modest clothing, showing hospitality, operating a “cottage” business, staying trim, fit and healthy, and of course, serving as loving helpmeet … all without the modern woman’s “village” of helpers: daycare, preschool, play dates, public school, the boob-tube babysitter, pre-packaged and frozen foods, day spas, “me time,” credit cards, government assistance, “allopathic” medicine, Sunday School, youth group, therapists, Ritalin for the kids, or Xanax for mom.
Even a cursory perusal of the above-linked Quiverfull blogs will leave a woman feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. “Where do you get your energy?” is the obvious and unavoidable question.
The most flippant, unprofitable, guilt-inducing, and insincere responses often sound the most spiritual:
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
“With God all things are possible.”
“He will not give us more than we can handle …”
or how about this “encouraging” little pep-talk: “Just like a battery charger, the Holy Spirit dwells in us–with unlimited power and energy!” Oh joy! Christian moms of many just need to get “plugged-in” … and there is a handy dandy list provided of even more things we need to do in order to get “connected.”
Thanks. That’s really helpful.
An important aspect of energy which I have never seen discussed in Quiverfull circles has to do with how our interaction with other people affects our energy levels. Specifically, the difference between introverts and extraverts is never addressed in relation to large-family dynamics.
While an extravert is energized by frequent social involvement, an introvert gains energy through quiet, private reflection. Being surrounded by people makes extraverts feel happy, enthusiastic, animated, and pumped full of optimism, but constant interaction drains the introvert’s energy and leaves them feeling tired, irritable, anxious and angry. It is absolutely essential to an introvert’s health and well-being to be able to get alone for significant periods of time in order to restore and recharge their own personal energy.
While it is popularly believed that introverts are shy while extraverts are out-going and sociable, there are many “social-butterfly” types who are in fact introverts because, even though they thoroughly enjoy the company of their friends and peers, when the party is over and the guests go home, the “life of the party” is wiped-out … sometimes for days afterward. Conversely, there are extraverted people who absolutely need to interact with others in order to gain energy and ward off deep depression, who unfortunately are socially awkward and have difficulty making friends.
Another important distinction is that extraverts tend to think as they talk which means that during conversations they are actually processing their thoughts, while introverts need to think everything through before they feel comfortable verbalizing their thoughts and ideas.
The difference between introverts and extroverts is not some modern psychobabble notion dreamed up by secular humanists to deter true believers from pursuing large families.
Think about it for a minute. Where do YOU get your energy? Do you feel energized after a pleasant chat with friends? If even congenial conversations which you very much enjoy leave you feeling drained of energy, you are probably an introvert. It’s not that you do not welcome the company of others, it is simply that you fill up your emotional energy reserves from within rather than drawing from other people.
With this concept in mind, consider for a moment: what if a person attempting to live the Quiverfull ideal tends to be naturally introverted?
What if all the socializing required for Dad’s job leaves him wrung-out like a wet rag by the end of the work day and desperately feeling the need to relax and breathe in the quiet seclusion of his own home?
In “A Full Quiver,” Rick Hess sloughs off the valid concern of “time” with this pious admonishment:
Worried if you will be able to stand the sacrifice of giving up your time? As one who has been there, let me reassure you that you will be rewarded many times over for giving more and more of yourself to your children.
What about moms like Michelle Duggar who, “spend more time together than the average family that may have two or three children just because we’re home day in and day out homeschooling and doing all our things that go along with that”? If Mom’s an introvert, how does she not go crazy from all of the non-stop interaction with her quiver full of children?
To these overextended women, Nancy Campbell offers a simple solution:
To be an encourager, you have to stop thinking about yourself and give some room in your mind and heart for others. I will never forget some words God spoke to me years ago. .”Nancy,” He said, “how can I reveal to you the needs of others if you are always thinking about yourself?” Oh how true this is.
As troublesome a problem as introversion is for Quiverfull parents, at least Mom and Dad have chosen this lifestyle. They are grown-ups with access to a broad range of coping strategies.
This is not simply a large-family issue, it is specifically a Quiverfull problem because not all large families are as excessively family-centered and discipline-oriented as homeschooling, homesteading, family-integrated, “dare-to-shelter” – type Quiverfull families. I spent a whole day digging through pro-Quiverfull books, publications, websites, and family blogs; all of which poo-pooed the idea that children might actually need their own space and prolonged alone time.
Amy at Raising Arrows acknowledges that having their own space is important for everyone, including children in large families, though she insists that her 13-year-old son likes sharing a room with his two little brothers, and by “giving them space” she means lock boxes for older children, personal shelves, several short “brain breaks” throughout the day for children afflicted with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), headphones, and random one-on-one time with Mom and Dad.
“However,” writes Amy, “we do not allow insurmountable amounts of time spent “alone.”
Children left to themselves are problematic. (Prov 29:15) Minds left to wander without boundaries and guidelines tend to gravitate toward foolish pursuits (Prov 22:15). And often there can become a craving for escape. They want more and more and more time alone, and pretty soon you find they are totally disconnected from the family.
I first learned about introversion from my daughter’s speech therapist. As it turns out, her speech impediment was a symptom of the frustration and extreme vexation she was feeling as a result of not getting adequate space from her siblings in order to recoup all the energy she expended on interacting with them day in and day out for weeks and months and years at a time. A simple explanation of her need for ample alone time was all her dad and I needed to motivate us to address the problem. We arranged for our daughter to “chill out” by herself and almost overnight, she was transformed as if by magic into a much more pleasant person. Her speech improved dramatically. She became more cooperative and personable. Her concentration and study skills improved. She developed a refreshingly positive outlook on life.
And it occurred to me that I am an introvert too. An introvert who was constantly surrounded by my extraverted husband and a passel of children and a martyr’s mentality which rejected and disdained the very concept of “me time.” No wonder I felt utterly frazzled, bone-weary, spiritless and despondent. When I felt it would be impossible to squeeze out one more drop of energy from my bankrupt inner being, I was “encouraged” by the Titus 2 women to persevere even while I was bed-ridden.
Given that those individuals who are prone to careful contemplation and thoughtful deliberation, as well as a significant majority of “gifted” persons, generally tend toward the introverted end of the extravert-introvert spectrum, it’s a sure bet that introverts actually predominate in Quiverfull homes. This may be a key reason why, when dynamic, industrious, enterprising, indefatigable Quiverfull believers finally snap, they crash and burn in the most spectacular manifestation of downright mania. Men abandon their families. Mothers drown their children. Kids cut themselves and attempt suicide. How much misery and destruction could be avoided if individual family members were simply allowed an adequate amount of personal solitude?
Discuss this post on the NLQ forum. Comments are also open below.
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce