Quoting Quiverfull: Give or it Will be Ripped From You?

Quoting Quiverfull: Give or it Will be Ripped From You? February 27, 2014

by Bambi from the blog In The Nursery of the Nation – Motherhood and the Paradox of Dying to Live

There are days of motherhood, long seasons even, that are quite laborious.  And if you are like me, motherhood brought about the first time you were ever really tested in this matter of laying down your life.  Took me a long time to realize that the things motherhood took from me while I was still resentful of it, was not true sacrifice. I would keep a mental tally of just how many bottoms I wiped, how many corrections I had given and just how long it took me to get school done that day. How many sermons I had missed at church, how much pregnancy changed my body, how I didn’t even get any sleep at night. I didn’tgive (sic) those things, they were taken from me.  They were not given freely and willfully.

Sometimes daily, I still have to intentionally hand over those things willingly, not have them ripped from my hands that want to cling to them with a death-grip.  I want to give them gently, lovingly and freely, not see them as stolen from me.  That is real sacrifice and the kind that bears fruit.

Comments open below
QUOTING QUIVERFULL is a regular feature of NLQ – we present the actual words of noted Quiverfull leaders and ask our readers: What do you think? Agree? Disagree? This is the place to state your opinion. Please, let’s keep it respectful – but at the same time, we encourage readers to examine the ideas of Quiverfull and Spiritual Abuse honestly and thoughtfully.

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


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  • I guess I don’t see this as particularly damaging – I see it more as a lesson in acceptance of the things you can’t change. Nothing short of surgery (and maybe not even that) will put my body back to a pre-baby state, for example. My acceptance of this is still a work in progress.

  • Saraquill

    It sounds like a way to make other parents feel inadequate while indirectly bragging about how awesome she thinks she is.

  • persephone


  • persephone

    I think that if you choose to be a parent, then this is good advice. The dying to live belief transferred to quiverfull results in women overwhelmed and children shortchanged, but taught that they are to ignore the miseries they rightfully feel.

  • Astrin Ymris

    It seems to me to be a lecture against questioning whether the Quiverfull ideal is truly worth what it costs women– because Heaven knows, they don’t want women thinking along THOSE lines!

  • KarenH

    If the Quiverful folks ever become curious as to why so many women reject their vision of womanhood so completely, they really ought to actually read some of the shit they write.

    I can’t think of anything that seems less emotionally healthy than their opinions on male/female relationships–except for their opinions on childraising.

  • Nea

    Those things ARE given freely and willfully when a woman is allowed to choose FOR HERSELF when she will get pregnant and knows what it will entail.

  • tulips

    What strikes me here is not so much the minutia she talks about and whether it’s hard to adjust to life changes…but that her focus is on whether it’s an acceptable ~sacrifice~ or not when the attitude isn’t in line. Sacrifice. Like, ritual sacrifice. Like, were we good girls who offered meat and blood as per requirement or did we try to sneak some produce in there.
    I’m a bit disturbed by how prolifically they refer to every complication or scheduling problem as death. Is this a death cult? Adapting to life changes isn’t the same as ~dying~ lady and if you perceive it that way…I’m not surprised at all you find the cost/benefit ratios dissatisfying. I’m not surprised you fight your real feelings of unhappiness and resentment 24/7.
    You know…man is mortal. My body will age no matter what. Child bearing creates some specific changes and can affect the timing of those changes but most of those changes are in the mail no matter what. Sorry to break the news 🙂
    I don’t resent my children *because* I don’t construct their existence to be an example of my death. I’m still clipping along…doing things I love, pursuing interests and goals, having a social life…being fully alive. This… is a sick dynamic that sets women up to be given nothing but sadistic choices and children up to be abused and hated and I reject it utterly.

  • Edie Moore McGee

    Classic bragging by complaining. Bleah. She’s not mature enough to raise children.

  • Edie Moore McGee

    Good points. So much of what she complains about — considers to be sacrificial — is stuff most mothers take in stride. From droopy abdominals (though I cannot blame motherhood-by-adoption for those) to poopy diapers, we deal and sometimes we even laugh. Maybe its because we have other things in our lives besides children?

  • Oh I see. So this is one of those things that’s good advice for most people but gets used as a club in destructive situations. And of course no one has the sense to throw a simple caveat up there.

  • tulips

    Agreed. I think part of the reason it’s so embellished is because they simply can’t deal with the reality that…yanno…most people manage to have lives outside of their prescribed “roles” and still eat food/wash clothes/pay bills/interact with their children and spouses every day. Most of them are also even capable of remembering their promises and responsibilities when it’s inconvenient. You just can’t ~have~ the boogie man if everyone else is like…demonstrably fine…and you are possibly even less fine because your entire life is consumed by what most people consider minor inconveniences. And yeah, that would kind of feel…if not like death…pretty damn depressing for sure.

  • Even when you choose to, say, be a parent – no one knows fully and completely what that will entail until it’s here. No one showed me a video of what my specific motherhood experience would be like for me to weigh in my cost-benefit analysis. I just kinda had to run with it and just decide to be okay with it after the fact.

    I suspect most people are in the same boat since no one that I know is clairvoyant. That’s why overall I think this was good advice in accepting things you can’t change right this second.

  • I don’t know if it’s that, per se. I think it’s more of a “look how special and Evangelical I am – I even speak the language!”

    Doesn’t make it any less annoying to listen to. I wish I could hand out pocket thesauruses the way they hand out pocket Bibles.

  • tulips

    Probably a combination of both. Their general rhetoric definitely includes the context that women *must* embrace these roles/rules even though a lot of them are unhappy and think it sucks beyond the telling of it. This woman is claiming special status because she found a way to dissociate from her former perspective of acknowledging how much she hated it by saying it’s not ~really~ sacrifice if you’re still resisting. She’s talking about internal resistance. They are unhappy because they are still holding out. Just like Michelle Duggar when she talks about praying for “a heart for children” translated “I don’t really like children but this falls outside the allowed parameters”. Stop resisting, everything will magically be fine. Failing that, I will at least have improved social status.

  • tulips

    I would say it’s…bad advice that has a shred of microscopic truth in it which makes it all the more dangerous and even that shred has been perverted. Not for human consumption.

  • tulips

    It’s true that no one really knows what it will be like to experience parenthood until it happens, but why jump into thinking we can’t change things we don’t like?

  • Because I’ve actually found it very helpful. There’s a lot about my life that I actually can’t do anything about – if they baby wakes up at 2 a.m. and I have to get up, I am much better off (and happier) putting my personal discomfort out of my mind.

    If my 10-year-old pukes all over the carpet and I have to clean it up, I am much better off (and happier) putting my personal discomfort out of my mind.

    The shape of my body is not what it was when I was 19. I am much better off embracing the new me than I would be mourning the loss of the old me.

    I could continue, but I trust you see the point.

  • tulips

    Not that you owe me an answer but I’m curious…why the dichotomy? Why is checking out the best or only answer? Why can’t interrupted sleep be a real and prioritized problem? Not much to be improved on for barf mop up but that’s generally a rare event, right? Not the sort of daily toleration that makes a chronic stressor. What’s wrong with mourning things you’ve lost if they mattered to you? Maybe allowing yourself to be honest about how much it matters helps set priorities with course corrected emotional outcomes? Just something to consider, not an attack. I’ve been there too. The advice in this article would have led to a lifetime of misery and missed opportunities.

  • Astrin Ymris

    Re: “…overall I think this was good advice in accepting things you can’t change right this second…”

    The problem is that women under Quiverfull are under intense psychological pressure not to think of making what changes they CAN– like using contraception to space children so that they can get the youngest toilet-trained before getting pregnant again, or sending the older ones to public school to reduce the drain on her energy or even saying “I’m done with childbearing.”

  • tulips

    Ding ding ding…
    And this article is all about that psych pressure start to finish. Invalidating people’s unhappiness by telling them that their sacrifice isn’t good enough because they are unhappy, neat trick.
    The list of things they CAN change is extremely long and widely varied, but they are actively conditioned against perceiving any of those options as viable.

  • Madame

    I see it in that light, Athena, and I agree with your posts.

  • Madame

    Yes, accepting the changes in your body is important, but it doesn’t mean you are selfish if you take time to exercise or prioritize your health just for YOU. Of course the same women will tell you to “tend to your body” (keep it looking good) for your husband.

  • No, that’s fine – I was trying to be brief so I didn’t ramble on –

    Of course you are correct that there are things I can change (and others, too, but since we’re using me as a specific example, I’ll just talk about me).

    If I don’t like the way my body looks and feels I can go to the gym. And I do. But if I expect to recreate that narrow-hipped, 6-pack ab’d 19-year-old, I will be disappointed. At the risk of repeating myself, I am better off if I accept that my new normal is whatever my body looks like when I am working out regularly. To borrow from the quote above, my 19-year-old body was “ripped from my hands” years ago. I can either accept that fact or not. Nothing wrong with mourning what’s lost, and I’ve done that, too, but at some point mourning has to end. It really does help to reframe it in your head as something “given” rather than something “taken.” Since you can’t do anything about it.

    As far as everything else – puke, sleep, whatever – virtually nothing is mine anymore. Not my time, not my money, not my house. Other little people claim it first. Now, I could sit here and stew about how much groceries are and how much clothes are and how it sucks that when I get home from work I am instantly accosted by 3 little people that want my attention. Or I could embrace it. With the caveat that I am allowed 15 minutes when I get home to at least take off my shoes, change clothes, and hang my coat up. And another caveat that after dinner (or some such), my husband and I get to go zone out with only the baby for company (unless we can bribe the older two to babysit). I am better off if I choose to see my time, money, house, energy, etc. as “freely given” or even “not really even mine anymore.”

    Interrupted sleep? What options do I have? Both my husband and I agree that we’re not doing sleep-training. My husband tried to help out at night but he doesn’t exactly spring lightly out of bed at a moment’s notice. I do, so night-time care is my job. That’s just how it is.

    Puke? Lol – my oldest has a pretty sensitive stomach so puke is more frequent than one might think.

    You asked about a dichotomy – I guess I don’t see another option. If you can’t change something, your best option is to accept it. Period. What other option is there?

    You also said, “I’ve been there too. The advice in this article would have led to a lifetime of misery and missed opportunities.” Of course you don’t owe me an answer either, but I am curious why you said that – would you be willing to share more detail?

  • I agree, and I suppose I should have clarified that. But it still takes a mental shift to see your healthy, fit-as-its-going-to-get, post-baby body as beautiful when compared to a pre-pregnancy state.

  • The more comments I read, the more clear it is that many of you are seeing a cultural subtext that really doesn’t come through to me from a plain meaning of the words.

  • tulips

    [I]”You also said, “I’ve been there too. The advice in this article would have led to a lifetime of misery and missed opportunities.” Of course you don’t owe me an answer either, but I am curious why you said that – would you be willing to share more detail?”[/I]
    I’m working on it, but having a hard time being concise because of course things are always complicated. So maybe I start small and elaborate in context as needed.
    I was groomed via abuse in family of origin to not recognize any options that had a cost attached if that makes sense. A lot of that abuse shares overlap with Quiverfull rhetoric although it was unrelated/not religious (but still authoritarian).
    So let me give an example…sleep deprivation. Oh boy, can I not deal with sleep loss over the long term. I can manage an episode of it. I think I even get a little SNS bump of extra energy in fact. Long term though…of the sort that children bring? Not so much. And here’s how my brain framed that. I can either…do without sleep or fail/be a selfish loser. Obviously this is a no win scenario. There are a lot of things that I theoretically could be doing during the hours my kids are asleep but none of them are realistic ~for me~. What I’ll most likely do is sit in an exhausted + depressed funk then go to bed a few hours later no better off by any measure but a little further in sleep deficit every day.
    Long story short, I gave myself permission to do a swan dive into bed at 7:59pm which could theoretically translate into a 12 hour sleep period if I needed it to (but it never does). I’m saying no to some theoretical possibilities by doing this, but I’m not exhausted anymore so my waking hours are far more productive and my mood is elevated. For me sleep is a priority. The chronic tolerations of being alive don’t go away just because I’m rested (and have other needs being met that I didn’t go into because space), but the impact seems substantially blunted because my mood and energy levels are elevated in general.
    The advice in this article is the opposite. It’s saying, if your exhausted and drained…suck it up and smile because your sacrifice isn’t worth anything otherwise.

  • tulips

    They would say that, but they’d say it without giving any viable way to make it happen. I wear the same size 0/2 depending on cut that I did in high school. That didn’t happen magically or by accident. I had to prioritize taking care of myself to make that happen. Using time, money, childcare…all sorts of things QF women don’t have access to.

  • “Why would someone consider them “true sacrifices” that “bear fruit”

    I said somewhere else that the Christianese bugs me, too. It’s annoying.

    “Why write about them at all”

    Because they want to, I suppose. Parenthood is a transformative experience, and the more people write about their experience, the sooner a wider variety of experiences will be normalized. I think it’s a mistake to say, “Because I wouldn’t write about this, nobody should need to.”

  • Edie Moore McGee

    Yes, that’s a good point. I’ve never given birth, but re-learning to appreciate my body as-is — that’s something I’ve had to do after cancer/surgical menopause, chemo, and radiation. At some point, you have to stop mourning the losses — loss of body organs and lingering side effects — embrace the new normal and move on.

  • tulips

    Probably. I can’t really say for sure because I wasn’t happy with my looks pre pregnancy either. I definitely felt the losses in a “now you look even WORSE!” sort of way even though objectively I was conventionally attractive pre preg. My headspace changed relatively in step with reclaiming my body so…I can’t really comment outside that experience.

  • But since this “Quoting Quiverfull” feature isn’t dedicated specifically to the Quiverfull movement, is it fair to attribute known tenets of Quiverfull philosophy to everything?

    The author of the quote on her “About” page implies she’s reformed Baptist (whatever that means) and then later says she’s Calvinist. Complete disconnect aside, does Quiverfull ever masquerade as reformed Baptist or something normal-sounding?

  • Ha!

    Yeah I know that feeling. Wasted my pre-baby days feeling fat and ugly. It wasn’t until later on that I found a picture of myself at 19 in a bikini and I thought, “Wow! I looked so much better then. If I had only known what would happen in the future I would have appreciated myself more.”

  • tulips

    Well…it was sort of like the death of a fantasy if that makes sense. I had always thought you know…maybe if I just gained weight I’d have this completely different body structure/composition. Turns out…no. Same shape, but now my clothes don’t fit and all the things I didn’t like were exaggerated while the things I did were blurred. I must have had more riding on that notion than I expected because it was quite a shock! o-O

  • I guess I don’t see why some purposeful disassociation is so harmful. Why would I want to be actively present in a miserable moment?

    I can see how such a technique might enable a person to endure abuse, but if you’re in a healthy situation, why not?

  • tulips

    Yes, both. Baptists are Calvinist light (compared to say…Dutch Reformed) and a looooooooot of QF identify as Baptist.

  • Ah – I see. Thanks, that helps.

  • tulips

    Yes, this distinction exactly. Big difference imo between putting in my earbuds while I wash dishes or scrub toilets and checking out from *my entire life* in order to continue down an actively harmful path.

  • Oh I see – I grew up hearing Christianese grandiose language for the most mundane things, so I don’t necessarily read much into all that. Being on time was a “blessing.” Your shoelace coming untied was “carrying your cross.” If you show up to school happy, you “delight in” your role as a student.

    I guess I just saw all the Christianese above as speaking the dialect of her audience, with no more significance than if I busted out some Mandarin when meeting with a Chinese client.

  • tulips

    I would send you an internet ice cream hot fudge sunday with cherries on top if you did a christianese post.

  • Astrin Ymris

    *shrugs* I don’t even try to keep up with the internal doctrinal subtleties that distinguish one denomination of patriarchal Dominionists from another– it was posted under ‘Quoting Quiverfull’, and I went by that.

    As far as I’m concerned, if it lucks like a duck, quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck, and swims like a duck… then it’s a duck.

  • Nea

    Even never having been pregnant, I know quite a lot of the impact just by seeing friends have families. Does it prepare you for everything? No. Does it give you a clue of what to expect so you’re not surprised? Yes. The author makes it clear it was a surprise somehow, and an unpleasant one.

    I’ve read the rest of the thread and want to amend my comment… but only somewhat. Life itself by this definition is a sacrifice. I don’t have the body I had at 19 either… and after 30 I didn’t expect to, kids or not. There isn’t a thing I have or do that doesn’t have no unpleasant aspects, but dealing with that is a “sacrifice” that is just the background noise of life.

  • Not all conservative Christians are patriarchal Dominionists, though. I know I certainly don’t appreciate it when people make assumptions about me, so I do my best to return the courtesy.

  • “Life itself by this definition is a sacrifice.”

    Indeed. There’s a reason Buddhism caught on.

  • I see now. I think I understand why you see the sinister meaning in this quote. Thanks for sharing.

  • Allison the Great

    Too true. They make motherhood seem less appealing to me than it did before.

  • Astrin Ymris

    Um… that’s why I specified “patriarchal Dominionists” there.

    However, I admit I have used the term “Conservative Christians” before in other places as a synonym for Dominionists, primarily because Dominionists fuss about being called Dominionists. They want to called “Christians” taking sole ownership of the term: I refuse them that because I know too many sincere, open-minded Christians.

    When you say you are a “conservative Christian”, what does that mean to you?

    I’m open to suggestions about alternative terminology. ;-D

  • Oh I see – I think in my mind I was blending together what you were talking about and the broad range of Christianity that the Quoting Quiverfull feature taps from.

    For instance – Matt Walsh (a Catholic) is quoted here from time to time and he is definitely not Quiverfull. Although he gives lip service to the whole “man is the head of the house” thing, I doubt very much he sees his role as anything close to, say, Jim Bob Duggar or Michael Pearl. And although Mr. Walsh says some really objectionable and insensitive things (in my opinion), there’s really not much he has in common with the Quiverfull philosophy. But I see people here assuming that he thinks the same way as Quiverfull men and using those assumptions to read into what he says, which leads to some really intense reactions.

    Overall I was just trying to understand some of the reactions I see to various “Quoting Quiverfull” posts that seemed like extreme reactions to me.

    And I would never call myself a “conservative Christian.” Too many bad memories from my non-denominational Christian middle school (where, apparently, Catholics don’t count as Christians).

  • Sara Lin Wilde

    If I had to “give corrections” and wipe bottoms as if kids were widgets instead of people, I’d be resentful too.