"When I got my first television set, I stopped caring so much about having close relationships." - Andy Warhol

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Down time with the Duggars

A few weeks ago, I had 30 minutes to relax before bed. My husband was watching sports and I didn’t even have the energy to take my next turn on Hanging with Friends. So naturally, I turned on the TV. What did I chose to watch in my precious little free time? 19 kids & counting with the Duggars.

I struggle to identify what I actually like about this show. I don’t find Jim-Bob, Michelle, or any of their 19 offspring particularly interesting or funny, and I don’t really identify with any of them in particular.

And although they have an enormous house and an RV the size of a semi-truck, I’m not especially enamored of their prosperity.

So what is it?

As I watched the Duggars trek to Atlanta to visit friends and make an appearance at the First Baptist Church Atlanta in 2011, these are some of the thoughts that swirled in my head:

When you have 19 kids, there’s no way you can be a full-time mother to all of them. Or is there?


One of the little Duggar boys, Jason, was injured in the episode. Only one family member could ride in the ambulance with him. Naturally, his mother, Michelle, climbed in to be beside him.

Although his older sisters are responsible for a lot of the daily childcare responsibilities, and (as far as I know) the only real one-on-one time the kids get with their parents is on their birthdays, I had to wonder if his mom was still the one Jason called for when he was sick.

Judging from what I could see in this episode, the answer was yes.

Does this make me resentful that the Duggars can pull off a close family bond when I sometimes have trouble keeping things together with my two parents and one sister? Maybe.

In a group of 19 people, the odds should favor one or more in the group being gay, non-religious, rebellious, or not in favor of having children at all.


In a family where the girls only wear skirts, generally don’t kiss before marriage, and don’t feel comfortable having their knees exposed, how would the Duggars react if one of their own lived a lifestyle that was markedly different from their own?

I don’t know the answer to this, and I have a feeling I may never know. All of the kids seem well-adjusted, happy, and content. I don’t detect a trace of rebellion in any of them when I watch the show.

Could my interest in the family be so morbid that I keep tuning in to see what if? Maybe.

It really isn’t a good idea to have so many kids. Right?


I know a lot of people who’d love to have a houseful of children but don’t because of finances, lack of support, and maybe even judgment.

In 2011, the average American woman had 2.06 kids. The Duggars have already had more than nine times that amount (and as the title of the show warns, “...and counting”).

There must be good reason that the average number of kids per family fills a sedan instead of a tour bus, right?

So do I watch the show, hoping to see footage of unkempt kids, chaos, and neglect that justifies my convictions that less is more when it comes to offspring? Or do I watch the show for the same reason I’d watch an expose on conjoined twins - because I’m simply curious? I don’t know.

In conclusion, I don’t know why the public (or myself) is fascinated by the Duggars. 


But in fair pursuit of my answer, I have to give credence to one important, underlying thought that was also swirling in my head: Sometimes it’s nice to watch a good wholesome, American family who seems to value religion, community, and loved ones.

And maybe I’m drawn to watching 19 kids & counting just so I can be comforted by the fact that families like that still exist.

1 comment:

  1. Sweet-as in the literal meaning of the word. Haven't seen the show in a long time, but when I have, I remember a similar thought pattern: How do they pull this off when the rest of us can't handle our sedan full? One answer might be sheer exhaustion.

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