Debt-Free Duggars ~ Pt. 1: How Quiverfull Couples Support All Those Kids!

Debt-Free Duggars ~ Pt. 1: How Quiverfull Couples Support All Those Kids! August 27, 2010

by Hopewell

The Duggar Income Stream [minus TLC]

Before TLC and their reality TV show offer came on the scene, Jim-Bob and Michelle Duggar were already on their way to financial security—a situation not normally found in homes with no college-educated adult. But, like the people profiled in the book the Millionaire Next Door, Jim-Bob and Michelle have always lived BELOW their means and have always had common sense about purchases.

They also share a vision for the type of family life they wanted to lead. While Jim-Bob did hold a job, and a mortgage, at the time they married he soon realized this was not a sensible way to live. His love of buying cars, fixing them up himself, and reselling them for a profit was the first step to a secure future. Although he acknowledges that the used car business is not looked on with much respect, he decided to set up a car lot and run it in a Christian manner. Soon he was making enough off used cars to quit his day job. Eventually, they rented out the mortgaged house and moved into a tiny house on the car lot to increase their income. Along the way, he made a few good decisions [and a few bad ones]. (Duggar,  chapters 1 & 2 and “17 Kids and Counting: Cheaper by the Duggars”).

One good decision was to buy a tow truck. While the first model he bought wasn’t worth the money, unlike many college-grads he knew enough about cars and other equipment to buy the towing equipment and winch off another tow truck, hold on to it, save up for a truck to put it on and eventually he had an excellent tow  truck and no loan. The towing business grew fast and he had to hire help. Finally the collateral supplied by the car lot inventory, a bent for strong and creative negotiations and the savings from their income allowed the Duggars to enter the true source of their security: REAL ESTATE. (Duggar, chapters 2 & 3).

Jim-Bob’s parents were in real estate and soon Jim-Bob and Michelle also got realtors licenses. Jim-Bob discovered he had an eye for investment properties and the stomach for deal making. After saving up $65,000 to pay cash for the home they would still be living in when they filmed their first TV special, the Duggars went on to make several profitable real estate deals. One deal, which cost about the same amount as the house, netted them a profit of nearly $200,000 after Jim-Bob put in a few hours on a backhoe clearing the site. They also bought a 20-acre parcel of land with an old chicken hatchery on it. They converted the building into commercial rental space and used part of the land for their dream home. The rent collected from the rental properties was their main income for several years. In their show (“17 Kids and Counting: Cheaper by the Duggars”) he shows viewers the property he owns and leases to a cell phone company for their transmission tower. In addition to the real estate deals, Jim-Bob often buys and sells other items. While building their home, he acquired and resold a bucket-lift truck and a scissor-lift among other equipment (Duggars 20 and Counting and elsewhere).

Jim-Bob figured out how to efficiently provide for his family by being observant, staying debt-free and having assets that could be quickly liquefied to provide cash for new ventures and by using all his negotiating skills to get great deals when he did buy big ticket items. Without a high-paying white collar profession, Jim-Bob would have been routinely away from his family for 80 or more hours a week to try to earn the income they needed. Instead, he found a way to provide a level of income for the family God would send him and still be at home to help with that family as much as possible.

Along the way, Jim-Bob met with a group of business men who introduced him to the Jim Sammons Financial Freedom Seminars. This taught a Biblical perspective on managing family finances and stressed the debt-free mantra. Jim-Bob would later host such seminars in his own home and would promote Sammon’s message on their TV show (“18 Kids and Counting: Big Family in Big Sandy” see also:

Another way the Duggars have always provided for their family is thru their motto of “buy used and save the difference.” Jim-Bob grew up in a family known for economic hardship. While his parents were both excellent salespeople, his father simply could not manage money. In fact Jim-Bob remembers his Mom cooking rice that had been in a decorative jar for years because it was all the food left in the house! (Duggar, p. 11). Frugal living and a very tight budget were natural to Jim-Bob. Michelle, however, had grown up with much more financial security and disposable income. She had to work hard to overcome the “ick” factor involved in buying and wearing used clothing! Today the Duggar’s are probably the world’s best known thrift-store shoppers—and for years bought nearly all clothing not only at thrift stores, but on 50% off days.

The Duggars also use their sales skills in reverse—negotiating a great deal on items they must buy new. For example, Jim-Bob taught viewers how to negotiate for a bus tire (“18 Kids and Counting: Duggars in Dixie”), to look for businesses that can haggle on the price (“18 Kids and Counting: Duggars on a Deadline”) and always to ask for a discount (“18 Kids and Counting: Duggars on a Diet” & (“18 Kids and Counting: Duggars in Dixie”).

“Do it yourself” is a way of life to the Duggars. From making their own laundry detergent to cutting and styling their own hair, to cutting their own firewood, to fixing their own cars to hiring skilled people to teach them to build their home, the Duggars never pay to have someone do something they can do themselves. (“18 Kids and Counting: Cheaper by the Duggars,” (“18 Kids and Counting: Duggars New Additions,” “16 Kids and Moving In,” Duggar web site, and Duggar, Chapter 8).

In spite of their thrifty ways, in spite of all the “many hands” to make “light work,” the Duggars do not really garden or raise any animals for meat, eggs or milk. Nor have they been seen to hunt and butcher for venison—a common money saver among conservative Midwestern and Southern families. The girls sewed their own clothes for years—and still do so when they want to. They also rely on a lot of convenience foods—understandable with that many children, but not healthy or economical. Inexplicably, they seem to ignore the great deal they got on a commercial dishwasher—preferring to waste money on an endless stream of paper plates, cups and bowls. Again, understandable with the numbers they feed at each meal, but if “many hands” do in fact “make light work” [a favorite Duggar saying] and “buy used and save the difference” is the family rule, then it would seem reusable dishes would be their only choice. Nor have they ever used cloth diapers, which would seem to be a very substantial savings with so many children, but would increase the laundry by a load or two per week.

Often people have commented that TLC “rescued” the Duggar’s from their seemingly never-ending task of building their dream home. While TLC certainly did help out and did force the completion of the project, the Duggars would have finished it eventually and stayed debt-free. While TLC provided a lot of “goodies” like new furniture and a grand piano, the Duggars paid cash for their super-sized commercial kitchen by buying it at an auction when a KMART store closed for a fraction of the retail cost. (Duggar, p. 215). These are not people who would “abandon” a project or give up in any way! Like their friends, the Bates family, they would have lived amid continuing construction. In truth, even with TLC’s help, the family did without air conditioning for a year and without window coverings for longer than that (air conditioning, Duggar, p. 223; window coverings “18 Kids and Counting: Duggars and Dentists”). Throughout the process, they remained debt-free.

What about other Quiverfull Dads?

“Family business” is the ideal for members of Bill Gothard’s ATI/IBLP.  Families should be together as much as possible to ensure that fathers play a very prominent role in training their children. The Duggar’s discouraged son John from becoming a pilot because it would mean too much time away from his future family—a powerful illustration of how seriously this is taken. Other Quiverfull dad’s support their families in different ways, but normally with a family business of some sort. We’ll look at some of the Duggar’s friends and a few other Quiverfull fathers to see how they do it.

Gil Bates, a now frequent ATI/IBLP speaker who talks about supporting his 17 children with one income, has tried a number of ways to support his family without holding a regular job. Among those are window washing and lawn care before happening on tree work. (“18 Kids and Counting: Duggars’ Big Thaw). Today Gil and his three eldest sons (Zak 21, Lawson 17 and Nathan 16) work together in the family’s tree service company. Along the way Gil was “blessed” when a group of businessmen gave him a bucket truck.[In case you are curious, I could not verify if this was the same bucket truck Jim-Bob Duggar sold a few years back.] While the Bates family are certainly hard working, their income is such that they have publically stated they are eligible for federal assistance but do not accept it.

Clark Wilson and his sons own and run a construction company in Mississippi. The Arndt Family have a court reporting service [Arndt family] and several families are in full-time music ministry living off “love offerings” [and probably investments of some type in many cases] and cd sales (examples: or ).  Younger Quiverfull adults are finding opportunities with photography, web design and teaching music lessons.

“Family Business” and a love of practical work-related fellowship are among the ties that bind the ATI/IBLP families together. On “ 18/19 Kids and Counting” we’ve seen the Bates show up to help the Duggars clear the trees downed in an ice storm (“18 Kids and Counting: Duggars’ Big Thaw”) and we’ve seen Clark Wilson helping with the construction of the Duggar home (“16 Children and Moving In”). Recently we’ve seen the Duggar, Wilson, and Reith families all go to Tennessee to help build the Bates family a new, larger home (“18 Kids and Counting: Duggars and Bates Reloaded,” “18 Kids and Counting: Do it Yourself Duggars,” “18 Kids and Counting: Duggars on a Deadline.”) In fact John and Joseph stayed on with the Bates to continue working on the project. We’ve also seen the Wilson family come to help build a basketball court for the Duggars (“18 Kids and Counting: Duggars New Additions”).

ATI/IBLP stresses “hospitality,”  “fellowship” and “encouragement” of one member family for other families in the group. Huge houses help facilitate a greater level of hospitality. It’s no accident that as soon as the Bates new home addition [well, new home] was “livable,” the Bates were featured on the ATI/IBLP web site. Members have a directory to use to find nearby families when they are traveling. Obviously, it’s nice to have time with like-minded families—for even the Duggars have said their kids need to be with other such families to avoid feeling like the “only ones” who live this way (“18 Kids and Counting: Big Family in Big Sandy”)—but it also serves to keep ATI/IBLP members “in line.” You’d have a hard time hiding a big screen TV or your son’s R-rated posters if a bus full of fellow ATI-ers pulled up for the night on short notice. “Walking the Talk” is a 24/7 requirement.

The Duggars and other Quiverfull families inflate their incomes by using their children as unpaid labor. At very young ages both Josh and John Duggar were helping build the family home, running earth-moving equipment, using power tools and doing all kinds of things that by law normally require being a certain age—unless you are a family member. By not paying for that labor, the costs of a project decreases considerably. Ditto child care. Many Quiverfull Moms help with the family business, such as Anna Duggar who was show on TV making her first used car sale (“18 Kids and Counting: Duggars in the Driver’s Seat”) and her mother-in-law Michelle even towed cars on occasion back in the early days of her marriage! Some wives even run a home-based business on their own—with the husband’s approval of course. Who looks after all those little kids (often a larger number of children and infants than a licensed home day care could have), cooks the meals, does the homeschooling, sews matching dresses, does the laundry, or runs to the grocery store? The live-in unpaid servants: the teenage daughters [and in the Duggar’s case a family friend and Grandma] that’s who.

Sons and Daughters in Business

While Josh Duggar happily graduated from homeschool at 16, it’s doubtful that he was doing much school work by that age. He spent huge amounts of time helping with the house construction, working on political campaigns and taking care of younger siblings. The same is true with John Duggar and now younger brother, Joseph. They finished the state-mandated amount of schooling and were then at work—helping manage rental properties, repairing cars or making home repairs, managing a used car lot, starting a wrecker/towing service ( and  —all to build up enough money and life experience to be able to marry and start a family debt-free. While Josh Duggar and his wife, Anna, are living in a rental home owned by his Grandmother [he may have purchased it— it has not been mentioned], most young men need to own their home and be able to single-handedly support a family in order to marry (Veinot, pp 257-258  and example). Once married, Quiverfull sons and daughters abide by the rule “leave and cleave” as Michelle Duggar put it. The financial support from Mom and Dad is gone for good.

Other Quiverfull sons may join the family business or may strike out on their own in business at least—if not in actually moving out of the family home, before marriage. Many get their start in Josh Duggar’s case putting up signs for political campaigns. The Maxwell sons have a few businesses and have also built one home, remodeled another and are working on a third as son Christopher prepares to marry.

As we have seen, John Duggar has his own towing business. Christopher Maxwell and two of the Staddon brothers have photography and web design businesses. Training in these careers is offered by ATI/IBLP. Many sons draw on their ALERT Cadet training and give-back to their communities as volunteer firefighters or EMTs. Recently, we were shown John Duggar responding to a fire as well as Zak, Michaela and Nathan Bates helping their local volunteer fire department (“18 Kids and Counting: Designing Duggars” and “19 Kids and Counting: Digesting Duggars”).

Daughters contribute to the family’s income mostly by keeping house and helping with the younger children without being paid. Like their brothers, they may earn a little money by doing odd jobs such as cleaning or babysitting for other families. Many daughters, though, play a role in their family’s business. The Maxwell girls pack orders and man sales booths at homeschooling and other conventions. Maxwell and Castleberry daughters write self-published chapter books for children marketed to like-minded families.

One of the Boyers’ daughters had a cleaning business and markets cds of her convention “talks” and other materials for homeschooling families. Many daughters, such as Erin Bates, teach piano, violin, harp or other music lessons. Training as a music instructor is another offering of ATI/IBLP. One family runs a retreat center for families (and found themselves featured on the successful TV show “World’s Strictist Parents”  in which their children play an integral part in running the business and taking care of guests

Selling the Dream

Steve Maxwell and his family produce and sell a number of specialty products aimed at large homeschooling families . Among these are the Chore Packs and the scheduling system, Managers of Their Homes, that the Duggars have mentioned in their book and on their show (Duggars, pp 118-119; “18 Kids and Counting: School Daze”).

They and many other families are really in MARKETING—selling the “dream” of the ideal Christian, Quiverfull family with Dad firmly in charge as the Patriarch of the family. The Maxwells help with selling the dream by producing a scheduling system and chore-reminder system that helps simplify the life of huge homeschooling families. The Boyers offer not only homeschooling materials—most chosen specifically for like-minded families, they also produce cd-s, flash cards and workbooks to aid in “child training” and scripture memorization. They sell cds of their message that a big family can have peace and that brothers and sisters not only CAN but MUST be each other’s best friends.  Finally,another Quiverfull family sells “wholesome wear” swimsuits of the kind worn by the Duggars, that encourage modesty and draw attention to the lady’s countenance in the ATI-approved manner.

While the “dream”  is of a blissfully happy family, sheltered from the world by a loving, homeschooling Mother who has endless time for training her children—the reality is often that Mom is a successful speaker, author or businesswoman. While other Moms diligently sew cloth diapers or modest clothing for sale on an Ebay site to help provide for their families or sell homemade goat-milk soap or ebooks on couponing or other small, part-time ebusinesses, top level Quiverfull families are very different.  Two such women are among the “Royalty” of the Quiverfull Moms—Nancy Campbell and Jennie Chancey. Few women have devoted themselves to furthering the Quiverfull lifestyle more than these two.

Nancy Campbell, the “Queen Mother” of the Quiverfull Movement, has built a speaking, retreating and writing empire that touches the lives of Quiverfull women on just about every continent (for Quiverfull is not merely an American movement). Her seminal book, Be Fruitful and Multiply, helped make the Quiverfull lifestyle popular. Her magazine, Above Rubies, was “created to:

  • Encourage and strengthen women in their high calling as wives, mothers and homemakers
  • To raise the standard of God’s Truth in the nations.

To make the magazine more widely available, subscriptions are free and issues are produced when enough donations have flowed in to cover the printing and shipping costs. Quiverfull wives can write and submit articles, too, detailing how they are blessed by the lifestyle.

Nancy Campbell’s commercial empire includes the sale of books [her own and others that encourage the lifestyle], dvds—such as her Family Meal Table,” music cds and, of course, recordings of Nancy’s encouraging talks.  Nancy also sells her husband’s Bible Study materials and writings and cds by her adult daughters, Serene and Evangeline. Women can also enroll in one of the Above Rubies retreats for encouragement and fellowship. Unlike ATI, however, Nancy Campbell encourages adoption and has produced and sells materials on the blessing of adoption. The Campbells are also behind the hugely successful (and very UN-ATI) Contemporary Christian Music group the Newsboys

While at Nancy’s stage of life, i.e. an empty-nester, it’s easier to understand how she can be selling the dream and still running her home and caring for her husband [not that NON QF moms don’t do this every day alongside a successful career], less explicable is the empire of Jennie Chancey—a mom with many young children. In addition to her vintage sewing pattern company, begun as a newlywed, Mrs. Chancey co-founded the iconic blog “Ladies Against Feminism.” Mrs Chancey is the author, with another of Quiverfull’s Royalty, Stacey McDonald, of the Christian Best-seller, Passionate Housewives, Desperate for God: Fresh Vision for the Hopeful Homemaker. She was also among the featured speakers in the “The Monstrous Regiment of Women” [LINK] In addition to all of this, Mrs. Chancey makes time to lead tours of Jane Austen’s England! With her husband Matt working full-time as a lawyer and speaker, it does make outsiders question just who is minding all those little children and overseeing their homeschool lesssons.

Another aspect of “Selling the Dream” of the Quiverfull Lifestyle is reaching the teenagers—especially the girls. This is handled by two sisters who have a virtual monopoly on the Quiverfull Daughter Market—Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin. These two specialize in the dream lifestyle of the Stay At Home Daughter. Their book, So Much More, and their dvd, Return of the Daughters, sell an idealized notion of the grown, homeschool-graduate daughter, serving as her father’s trainee helpmeet while waiting for her God-chosen and father approved husband to be presented to her.

This “vision” rarely, if ever, includes college. It can include extensive time working (unpaid) in her father’s business or it may center on doing the homemaking or homeschooling of younger siblings to relieve the Mother. The Botkins focus their vision of the Stay At Home Daughter on serving their father—running his errands, making his life easier in any way possible.  Example of the way the Botkins and others in Vision Forum-influenced, Patriarchal families view the father-daughter relationship are the father-daughter purity balls and a frequently cited “fun” activity at father/daughter camping events where the daughters must shave their father’s faces.  While totally UnBiblical, this message is finding an enthusiastic reception among Patriarchal, Quiverfull families—among whom the Botkin Sisters are superstar celebrities. If there was a Quiverfull version of People Magazine, the Botkin girls would be among its most frequent cover girls. Given the acknowledged headship of their father, Geoffrey Botkin, it is left for observers of the family to wonder if the girls earnings are given to their father, put into an account to fund dowries or if they even see any of the money they earn.

Among the dirty little secrets of this lifestyle is the economic exploitation of the entire family. While the Duggar’s TV show is the ultimate example of this, all Quiverfull families with a business use the wife and children as unpaid labor. In many cases such a business would just plain fail if hired help was necessary. Children, often too young for a work permit, are pressed into service in family business to cut costs. Wives take on roles in the business while daughters keep the home running and raise and educate the younger children. This part of the “dream’ is not shown in the Botkins books or dvds or in any other source for what it really is: exploitation and child labor. True, non-Quiverfull family businesses often do the same thing, but rarely are there so many children who need care in such families.

Calls to regulate the use of children in reality TV are the tip of the regulatory ice berg. Loopholes in labor laws—covering agricultural workers and family business, need to be closed to protect young children. This is not to say that all help by children in family business is wrong—far from it. It can truly be an outstanding learning experience. But children’s hours should be tightly regulated to ensure they are not overworked and undereducated. Similarly, the daughters’ hours of looking after younger siblings need to be carefully limited. And, children should be fairly compensated for their labor—they are not earning their room and board. While homeschooling, done well, can easily take less time than a public school day, until age 18 the laws are clear that school hours should outnumber work hours.

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  • Rosa

    Great article! Thank you for doing all this research and putting it together for us.

  • Synesthesia

    On one hand, I have to admire the Duggars hard work and industriusness. Which might not even be a word. But it is impressive.
    On the other hand…daughters shaving their fathers? Unpaid labour? I’m not sure if that culture is healthy…

  • Celestine

    I wonder how many of these families are not succeeding in business. How many are struggling to feed their kids and keep a roof over their heads, etc.? Any research into this?

  • Synesthesia

    I wonder that too… Especially if folks follow that wives stay home thing strictly. Lots of kids + one income family cannot equal joy and bliss, let alone enough food for everyone.
    These books I read about FLDS Polygamy come to mind.

  • smart princess

    This was well-written and I enjoyed reading it.

    I can see how the Duggars (sort of) made things work before TLC. But I think everyone is underplaying how important the TLC income really is. With all that’s happened in real estate, and other normally profitable investments in the past few years, I doubt the Duggars would be able to make it without TLC.

    I’m very curious about other fundie families, as well. Any information or ideas as to how they’re making it? It would seem that the sub-par educations many of these children receive would not prepare for them for a job in the real world.

    Again, thanks for writing this.

  • AG

    I think this article has good points. But, as I understand it, Jennie Chancey’s life is very different from what you wrote. Matthew Chancey isn’t a lawyer or speaker. (They speak at conferences/events, but very rarely.) Jennie wrote about “doing it all” on her pattern page (I like some of the patterns and am involved in historical sewing):
    The tours are one week long and are once a year (or every two years.)
    There’s also a chapter at the end of Passionate Housewives explaining that the book took 2 or 3 years to write because Stacy and Jennie were wives and mothers first and authors second.

    They seem to do most of their own writing and work at night after their children are asleep. I’ve noticed that many QF moms who blog post either late at night or earlier in the AM. I haven’t seen many posts between, say, 9 am and 6 pm (unless there are children who nap during the afternoon.)

    Anyway, just some thoughts. I think Nancy Campbell’s life is much more inexplicable. What happened to her adopted children? Why is at least one of her daughters living in poverty?? And then there’s the Pearls’ oldest daughter, Rebekah (sp?) Anast, whose husband quit his job so he could study the BIble full time. Yikes!!! It looks like they have no income at all. I really feel for the Anasts’ children. I can’t imagine growing up like that. It doesn’t look like Gabe and Debi Pearl help out at all.

    Thank you for sharing what you’ve compiled!

  • valsa

    That was a very good read and very well written. However, I have to wonder if it glances over a couple of things. While it does mention that the Duggars were able to give debt-free before TLC, it fails to mention to horrible conditions they, and many other QF families, lived in. They had, what, 16 kids when they moved into their new home? Their old house was 3 bedrooms. That’s about 18 people living in a home built to accomodate the average family. I’m surprised there’s nothing in the public health code about that many people in one house. And they were one of the lucky ones.

    Not to mention the fact that, as the article points out, JB already had experience with mechanics and real estate, which gave him an early advantage. Someone who isn’t able to learn those things from (I’m assuming) family would need to pay money to be taught those things,

  • I worked for my grandmother’s “home ministry” from age 12 on, but was always paid at least minimum wage (and tax free to boot.) The exploitation of children is heart-breaking. I never had a real childhood, and it’s made my years as an early adult much much harder than they should be.

    Too many years in isolationism can really make the “world” a scary place.

  • Staceyjw

    While the ability to run your own business, and teach your kids practical skills, is the only part of the movement I like, what happens when you aren’t blessed with a husband that can do those things? Not too many people can run a successful business, even with free labor, and even fewer have the right personality to figure out real estate and related self sufficient vocations. The familys mentioned, esp the Duggars, are the best case scenario, I doubt other families have it so good. Some people do best with a job where someone else takes the risks of owning the business, but these aren’t held up as examples of what to do. I can see a disaster when a family embarks on this lifestyle without the requisite skills or native intelligence to figure it out. I love my husband, but he could never pull off what the Duggars did, he is no sallesman!

    I also have no problem with kids learning practical skills instead of college. Unless you are going for something specific like engineering or accounting, college can be a huge waste of money that does not guarantee a job or any marketable skill. I did better with my electrical training than my 6 yrs of college!!! Unfortunatley, ATI kids are so lacking in education at it is a danger to society- a bunch of kids that really believe in the crap they teach and think evolution is false, and they VOTE, ugh…. They need college just to get them in touch with the real world, which is why threy will never go.

  • This was really interesting. Thanks!

  • anothermom

    I too enjoyed the article. I did not know the Dugars history pre-TLC.

    I have to agree with Valsa that TLC’s involvment in the Duggars life is down-played a bit and really should be magnified lest some naive person watching them in the wings thinks that all QF families live like the Duggars, or even the Bates.

    I remember one of the episodes of the Bates addition, JimBob was making a statement about how they were adding 4000sf and it only cost $400. I was angry and in disbelief that he was actually saying this. Non-celebrity QF families are not going to get the same deal and if they are lured into the lifestyle because they think everyone is just going to line up to help them for free they are going to be sorely disappointed.

    One question for Hopewell: You mention the Duggars professed belief of ‘leave and cleave’ for adult children when they marry. The sentence immediately preceeding that states that Josh and Anna live in one of his grandmother’s rental homes. How exactly is that making it on his own? I know we are not told whether or not they pay rent, but my guess is that they never have. You also mention how they may have purchased the home, we are not told. Even if they did purchase the home, how much do you really think they paid for it? Again, not the only people in America to be given something by their family, but I fail to see how this is ‘leave and cleave’ when their family is financially supporting them.

  • Celestine

    I think that Hopewell makes a great point about the families who “sell” the lifestyle. It is so similar to the way direct sales “businesses” are sold. There are a few hugely successful people who are held up like carrots for everyone else to follow, but nobody ever sees the statistics on how many people try the business, and fail miserably, or are unhappy as salespeople, or try multiple businesses, or….

    Not only does every one not succeed in business, but imagine a family that lives in a city? Where will they find the room for such a large family, even assuming one income can support them? Let’s face it, the Duggar’s kids live in dorms with, what, four kids to a room?

    The other side of that coin is that people who don’t succeed are told that they don’t have enough faith, or didn’t work hard enough or some drivel like that. Talk about kicking people when they are down.

    Accepting government aid for your family is nothing to brag about, but I know from experience that waiting to get assistance can make things SO MUCH worse. Boasting that your family doesn’t accept government aid just continues to stigmatize programs that can really help families in crisis.

    This is a good article, and I do wish there was more data on how “average” QF families live.

  • Grandparent “P”

    Most people are missing the point. They are only “offering” the lifestyle to those who are interested. Recent changes in the economy have forced us to re-define our needs vs. wants, and edit our spending accordingly – something they did as newlyweds. Probably like most of you, we raised our family while working in a megatropolis, but still admire much about the Dugger lifestyle. Our children always worked in the yard, in the kitchen, on the car, etc. Now they are college graduates who have thanked us repeatedly for not allowing them to grow up without those skills, and most grateful that they are not lazy. ALL of the Dugger children are bright and HAPPY. How many “enlightened” families with fewer children can make that claim? Considering the unemployed these days, blue collar skills have become paramount for survival – both at home and in the workforce.

    “Fancy” passtimes such as movies, concerts and dining out all cost and are somewhat addictive. Much of our population lacks the ability or talent to entertain itself by doing something constructive and satisfying. The Dugger lifestyle evolved as the family grew – they didn’t start out as a huge family, just as a couple in love trying to figure it all out. Along the way they have done a good job of preparing their children for independent lives away from them. Josh is great at cars, sales and personal interaction. John David knows electrical and has assisted his big brother and morphed that into his own business. The girls all cook, sew, and Jill appears to excel at teaching. All of their children are participants in something very successful, and acquiring talents and skills that they will take with them – most among those are their family values. There is always something to be learned from the Duggers, and much of it can translate even into my big city living. Any family considering a lifestyle change should use common sense to establish a pros and cons list and see if they are equipped to do so, and if not start making gradual changes toward that goal. It doesn’t need to be “all or nothing”.

    By the way, those families who don’t expect their children to help with household chores, construction or repair projects, etc. are missing opportunities to teach by example. The home is for the family unit – not just owned or rented by the parents with the children residing there like pampered guests. Unfortunately, America has protected it’s youth to the point of having raised some lazy generations. Maybe it’s the parents that were lazy because it takes longer when the kids help, at least in the beginning until they learn enough to move onto a more advanced task. A healthy work ethic must be taught in the home to the young, and then it becomes part of the grown and responsible adults. The Duggers have done that admirably. They have carried ethics and values from their home into other successful ventures. I wish them all well.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Sounds like the Duggars have good money sense — which is often lacking in general these days.

    I knew someone who came from a family with 20 children (6 bio, 14 adopted, some of those special-needs adoptions) and from my experience with him I have a mixed view of large families. There might be an optimum level of family size (varying from family to family), and both the one- or two-kid families and the Duggar-sized ones might be borrowing different kinds of trouble by being below or above that optimum size.

    However, the Botkin(?) types… Descriptions of “Father-daughter Purity Balls” and “Daughters shaving their fathers” have ALWAYS creeped me out — like some sort of creepy “incest-is-best” vibe.

  • ellid

    And you know that the Duggar children are happy how? Are they ever shown as anything BUT happy on TV? Would any of them (especially the girls) even dare to express discontent, especially on camera? Has anyone asked THEM how they felt about sleeping six to a bedroom designed for one, or always wearing uniforms, or having to raise their younger siblings because their mother was pregnant for the umpteenth time?

    There is nothing precluding a small family from raising their children to know the practicalities of life, or a family that isn’t centered on a possibly unhistorical version of patriarchy. The Duggars may well be exactly what they appear to be on TV, but please remember that *we only see what they want us to see.* We haven’t the slightest idea what their off-camera life is like, and unless and until we do, holding them up as flawless examples is absurd.

  • ellid

    I would bet money that eventually at least one of the Botkin daughters breaks away and writes a memoir about her father’s emotional and sexual abuse. Washing your father’s feet, combing his hair, and trimming his beard are NOT normal, and the Botkins’ efforts to portray them as such are vile.

  • Mrs.W

    I am personally acquainted with Mrs. Chancey, and have been for over a decade. Mr. C has done a lot of legal work.

    The children spend a lot of time with people other than their mother. Mrs. C spends a lot of time on her businesses and websites, and doing what many could consider to be “socializing”. The tours are just a bit more frequent than yearly. There was an attempt at making them twice yearly, but filling up a full tour that often was too difficult. Many books takes years to write. The children are pleasant enough, but could use some more education.

    Like I said, I personally know Mrs. C and it takes a fair bit of willpower to not let he parenting choices influence things much.

  • Mrs.W

    “Leave and cleave” means not accepting money. As long as the green doesn’t exchange hands, it’s good.

  • Aria

    The kids all share 2 rooms.

    Unlike those direct-sale “businesses,” you can’t really back out of the QF “lifestyle” entirely. You’re still a parent.

  • Aria

    Signs of submission. People get creeped enough when I mention that I used to braid my dad’s hair. He was a biker, and before going on long rides, he’d ask me or my mom to put his long hair in a braid so it wouldn’t tangle in the wind. So much different than what the Botkin girls are doing it for. (LOL, Botkin is also a type of fly that burrows under the skin!)

  • Aria

    Thank you! I’ve said this before, and have been told, “Oh no, they were debt-fre before.” Sure, but they weren’t taking vacations left and right and wouldn’t have everything they have right this minute if it weren’t for the money the parents are paid. How much of that money do you think is set aside for the kids for their lives being sold?

  • Thanks so much for writing this. I don’t think anyone has anything against children helping out other members of the family. People need to do that when they live together, and some tasks are complicated or have shortcuts/tricks that are helpful to learn young.

    However, let’s face it, most of these tasks aren’t rocket science, and it absolutely is not necessary to be experience this level of servitude to learn practical skills or the value of hard work. Most chores that I perform as an adult I have NEVER performed as a child and I learned really quickly because, well, it’s easy.

    I have never been fond of the amount of work these kids do, because it’s obvious that their education is being shortchanged and some of the tasks the younger children do really make me nervous, i.e. operating power tools. If you can’t take care of your kids without turning your older kids into unpaid nannies, it’s proably not a good idea to have so many.

  • Donna

    Prior to TLC, the Duggars (like many “millionaires next door”) lived in a modest house. The “dream house” would have been completed “eventually”. It would have been completed when all the kids were grown and moved out because the rate at which they were moving along was about as fast as molasses flowing in January. Their dream home got the boost that was necessary to get it completed when the TLC income started flowing. Surprise, surprise.

    Yes, “Selling the Dream” is exactly what is is ALL about. As has been said many times before: “It’s a good job if you can get it.” I have no problem with these capitalists – it’s America! But, geez, at least be honest about it!

  • I grew up near the warnerbrother studios, disney and nbc many of my class mates work as extras and even some as actors for movies and disney plenty of them had parents that split or parents that would not know how to manage the money and ended up spending everythign in legal fees thats when the “divorce your parents” idea came along really sad what greed can do to pleople

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  • Lisa

    In the Duggar’s current book they state unequivocally that they are not nor have they ever been part of the “Quiverfull” movement. The things that the author of this blog is stating that she thinks is bad, is just hard to comprehend. The children growing up working in and around the home, running businesses, cooking, cleaning taking care of their younger siblings, learning to run a business, fix cars, operating equipment, etc. how is that bad? That’s called real life! Not sitting on a couch watching MTV or playing video games, eating junk food being selfish and ignorant…having no morals, being lazy. Many of us who are mothers might wish that we had known more about these things when we first had our children. Many of us might wish that we could do it all over again. But instead of hating those who’ve been graced by God to be good examples to others, why not at least try to appreciate the positive that the Duggars are doing and be grateful that God is being given the honor and glory and showing this broken world that there is hope for people who have faith.

  • Robert

    Overall a great article, very thorough, lots of good points. Enjoyed reading it.

    The only thing I take issue with is all the negative commentary on the supposed evil of these kids working hard and learning a lot of practical business skills. You can condemn it as “child labor” but I would call that a great preparation for real life in the adult world. I think your call for more government regulation in this area is scary.

    Ironically all this practical preparation actually seems to make Quiver-kids more capable of living independent of their parents as adults than the typical public school educated kid who then has to rely on Mom & Dad (or a bank) to fund their college and/or early “adult” life.

  • Kathy

    Enjoyed reading this article. At least the Duggars have money sense going for them.

    The proposal that government get involved in policing home businesses and farms is downright scary however. God forbid they invade our homes even more. Isn’t that what makes this country great?–Freedom? Unfortunately freedom means the people that we don’t like with beliefs we don’t agree with get to practice that belief in peace. There’s a fine line between keeping kids safe and government control of our private lives. I wouldn’t make my kids into free labor, but they have the right to raise their children as they see fit.

    The purity balls and shaving fathers and such….definitely creepy. That part we agree on.

    And Michelle needs to accept that age and health play a big role in having children…and stop before even worse happens. I think if I had had one rough pregnancy and then miscarried the next one…that would be warning enough for me. I had my last at 39 with a difficult pregnancy and after consulting the dr. for his advice and searching my soul, I had my tubes tied. Wasn’t going to play the wheel and risk life or a precious child’s health just to say “I had another one”.

    Vyckie, I appreciate that you are trying to create a safe place for abused women to come and share. I hear a lot of anger and pain in the words typed on here. At some point I hope everyone can move past that pain and anger and find healing.

  • cherrie

    I would also like to point out. The Duggars have several grown children, but Josh is the only one currently supporting himself. I know some of them do odd jobs to earn money, but I am not sure that should be considered a good example for others. I also worry about the daughters who are raised to be compeltly reliant on the men. The girls have no ability to provide for themselves. I wonder what Anna would do if something happened to Josh. How would she provide for her family?

  • Shauna

    Anna has worked in the office of the car lot, so she has some knowledge and experience, but you’re right she would probably struggle just like any stay at home mom forced to go to work. John-David, the only other adult son, supports himself, but since he isn’t married he still lives at home.

  • Thanks for your post. I couldn’t imagine having 19 kids but I’m glad that the Duggars have found a way to make it work for them.

  • Priscilla Longworth

    I just happened upon this article. I’m afraid the writer needs to look into the facts a little deeper. I grew up in a homeschooled family with 9 children. I did LOTS of the housecleaning, cooking, and some homeschooling of my younger siblings. I did it because I loved it. I have always loved babies and homemaking, even as a little girl. And, no, I wasn’t “brainwashed” into liking it. I truly loved, and still love, that lifestyle! I was certainly not “exploited”! How ridiculous and uninformed to make such a statement! After leaving home, I spent 6 plus years on my own; first at college, and then working, before I married. I saw how “normal” people, with small families live. After comparing the two, I gladly chose to marry and raise, hopefully, a large family myself. There is no greater joy than embracing my femaleness in this way! Please ask those “exploited” childen how happy they are, before publishing ignorant information. After all, a true journalist carefully researches both sides of a story before presenting the facts. On the other hand, a storyteller, well, just tells stories.

  • Persephone

    That is your choice, and you were able to attend college and make an informed decision. That is not part of the belief system of the Duggars. They do not agree with children attending college, especially the girls, and the girls are only being taught what they need to become the next Michelle.

    Every person is different. I was not interested in having children. My sister adored them. We each made our choices.

  • Cherie

    While I find much of the article insightful, I disagree, at least partially with your conclusion about the horribleness of “free/slave” labor of wives and children. My grandpa was one of thirteen children raised by a widow on a farm. These types of families were the norm many years ago and for good reason. He learned everything from carpentry, to wiring electricity, as well as manual labor. Learning a trade or family business, even for nonfarming families has always been how people have learned. While the outgrowth of professional schools has benefits, with the postmodern culture we live in that is filled with gangs, drugs and violence, I think the “Old fashioned” way of apprenticeship in a family business is gaining more and more ground as our schools and society becomes more dangerous, illmannered and ill educated. By the way, my grandfather didn’t know everything, having only a third grade education, but he had a drive to learn and when he did move to the city, pushed himself forward and solved more problems for the company he worked at than the engineers. My aunts and uncles as well as their friends that left the farm followed a similar pattern. I would challenge if even a quarter of the kids in today’s schools could have that type of know how, motivation and desire to learn. Family business is a blessing not a curse.

  • Cherie

    Secondly, poverty of money, is not the worst of things in the world, look at David in the Bible, poor shephard boy, yet rich full of God. These families will survive and be happy because they are truly rich in the company of their families and humanity. That is sometimes hard for our culture to understand, we who only visit relatives on weekends and holidays, fill our days with electronics to numbing that feeling that something is missing. But try talking to a mission family working in Africa or people in the PeaceCorps, the joy of serving is overflowing from their spirits, even among wretched conditions like malaria and war, they glow with joy at what they are doing, well these large homeschooling families are on a mission to serve God the same way with their lives and that’s why a little struggle, a little shabby clothing, or having really simple meals doesn’t seem like such a big deal to them, compared to what they are gaining in fellowship.

  • BabyRaptor

    Yeah, yeah…Stow it. You don’t speak for everyone.

    I don’t have a feeling that something is missing. I lost that feeling when I finally left Christianity; because leaving Christianity allowed me to see myself as a whole person, a person of worth, not some sin-ridden, evil little demon who constantly needed fixing from an outside source.

    Further, get rid of the lie that everyone who isn’t devoting their life to your version of god is unhappy. And send with it your idea that nobody who doesn’t cow-toe to your bully in the sky has a happy family. I might actually have a family if it wasn’t for “god,” but no. Mine disowned me for my “stubborn refusal to give up sin;” my saying that I’m Bisexual and nothing is going to change that.

    Your god and his crap are NOT the key to happiness. He’s the key to rampant abuse, shaming, lies, stupidity and immorality. If some people happen to get an “oh, I’m super-special, LOOK AT ME!” ego boost from it, good for them. That doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t be happy while still not being godbots.

  • Lori Kempen

    I enjoyed this fairly even-handed article. For the most part, the way you describe the Duggars would be to inspire one to admire them. In today’s crazy financial bubble world, it is a refreshing change to see people live within their means.

    I do hesitate to buy the judgment against them for including the children in with their work, using inflammatory language such as “pressing” children into labor! It’s not like they are naked and starving, or lacking a decent education. In recent history, children learned responsibility because if everyone didn’t contribute, they starved. My own dad (now 80) had to drive a tractor when he was five to get the harvest in, and he did many other hugely responsible things which occasionally caused him an injury, from which he recovered. His tough and strong character has allowed him to be brave in dangerous circumstances, rise above other men in true servant leadership, and to bless literally thousands of people with medical, spiritual, and community development aid in troubled places in the world. The Duggars’ lifestyle of having children work to keep the family afloat would seem something that I would greatly admire! A few years ago, I passed a teen and his dad after a heavy snow fall. The teen was refusing the shovel his dad was offering him. The teen finally sassed, “How much ya gonna pay me???” The deep pain on the father’s face pierced my heart, as I trudged on with my own young children, a pain I hope never to experience, that a child I loved, fed, clothed, nurtured would angrily demand financial payment for taking part in the care of our shared home. Sadly, that teen never learned how to take part in a shared enterprise without thinking selfishly and ungratefully, or at least he didn’t exhibit it at that moment in time. It is inconceivable to me that the Duggar children would approach their parents that way, given the willing and vigorous and capable way they shoulder their responsibilities. I think among todays’ youth, people who are willing to work for the common shared goal are rare and highly employable and likely to succeed and be happy in life, and the Duggars’ children are to be envied for their life experience.

    As a married mom of three kids, I constantly am doing things I don’t feel like doing because it is good for our children and our whole family. It’s called unselfishness, and it’s called love, and it’s a habit, not an inborn trait. Ultimately, I am blessed by the fruit of my labors, but there are many days when the light seems far away. I think our society would be happier in general if we could practice genuine unselfish love from early ages, rather than pursue our own self-realization as a priority over the needs of others. With today’s philosophy of self-realization being more a priority than true, unconditional love, the fruit is in the pudding, and there are broken people everywhere, broken families, broken hearts. As a former public school teacher and youth worker, this was massively evident in my students, the brokenness spilled onto kids from their parents’ (normal) selfish lifestyles. My lifestyle is vastly different than the Duggars, but somewhat similar. We are Christian, we homeschool, we have three kids but have stopped trying for more. My husband is a prof at a major university, and I plan to have all our children take full academic AP classes starting 10th grade if they are capable, and having girls and boys attend university, and both boys and girls be able to cook, clean, sew, knit, play instruments, simple carpentry, and acquire any skills they show an aptitude/love for, that we can get for them, etc.

    I only hope that I can grow into running my home more smoothly as Michelle does, to be able to direct my children as peacefully and calmly as she does, and to have our children be able to cooperate so respectfully as theirs do. I admire them, and wish them every happiness in this world and the next.

    I also wish you every happiness in this world and the next, and thank you for your blog-post! (:

  • Anna Lopez

    Bleh, don’t even remind me about the Botkin daughters’ emotionally incestuous relationship with their weird, horrid father.

    Good articles showing that all is not as rosy and perfect as they work so hard to show that it is!

  • Anna Lopez

    I do agree with you some, I think it’s a shame that more families don’t operate this way… I am disgusted at the way society no longer encourages good solid values. But why does it have to be done in the name of uber-religious christianity? Used to be everyone had better values… all kids were expected to help out without pay or special privileges. Now to find support in trying to raise responsible kids, we get a bunch of extreme, legalistic, borderline cultish religious whack jobs as part of the deal. Wish there was more of a middle ground…

  • Anna Lopez

    Hey don’t judge Vyckie for her pain and anger either… she’s well entitled to it. It will heal in time and part of the healing surely comes through this website.

    Of all the whack jobs I’ve read about in my homeschool days, the Botkins creeped me out the worst. Can you say “emotional incest.”

    Good for you getting your tubes tied… the health risks some women take in the name of proving their sanctimoniousness by having another baby are not very wise or responsible.

  • Guest

    If you stop to consider just how much unpaid labor there is thanks to the Recession and loads of older people desperate for a job, helping your family out as a child instead of begging for another Xbox has a definite appeal.

  • Celeste Lawler

    As for their “decent education” did you miss where it said they met the minimum requirement for education? The 2 oldest boys were done @ 16. I believe that’s also the minimum age required to be a drop.out as well. Furthermore the homeschooling is Christian-based & they are taught only what they believe to be the truth according to the bible. Any additional training/education is received at or through ATI.

  • M Green

    The Duggars are big supporters of College Plus, and a few of her girls trained as midwives.

    Jill also plans to continue midwifery when she has her baby.

    One of the Bate’s daughters also attended college before she was married.

    Gil Bates just gave a talk on how being married is not the ultimate goal in life and that there are worse things in life than not being married, and that’s being married to the wrong person.

  • Lori Menser Vance

    I was in the movement 20 years….I had 4 daughters in it…..I stayed in the Duggar home…..believe me…not all quiverful groups or families are this intense or radical….but I use words like “escaped” and “slavery” for a very good reason when I wrote about it….I thought most of what she said here was mild compared to my experience. I had NO concept of real social skills outside of families or people in the movement….my children had no idea how to self-regulate or self advocate, I’m telling you….the deeper you repress, the more you withdraw, the more severe the damage…..I got out with a mal-nourished 11 year old who had no ability to read and could barely write and had emotional problems…..our family is now divided because of the shunning that is used by many more radical closed groups. My daughter is still there, still mentally ill, untreated, married 6 years and expecting my 6th grandbaby that I will never see. ATI is not ok. It creates an environment of secrecy and shame and no real help is given to the victim…I now have 2 college degrees, my dissertation for my Phd. WILL include an entire section on this movement. I do still support large families, responsible home schooling with some oversight, Christian values and the home being the major focus….but I categorically reject the notion of home being the only focus. And don’t kid yourselves, never once did I see a Duggar child open a book in three days we were there visiting. And I’m sorry, in the larger families, that is very common….they do enough paperwork to slide by the state’s rules and no more! I promise you! Because in an ATI or similar home, character training is more important than any academics and family time trumps everything else. even to the neglect of a child’s right to an education. I still love them, and I miss them very much….but that does not mean that I agree with everything they have chosen for their children.