What dark secrets do large families hold behind closed doors?

This post comes largely because of some criticisms that the Duggar family have received.  Many have commented on blogs and forums that the Duggar family may look happy on the outside, in the public eye, but behind closed doors there is probably a lot of abuse and discontent.

Well, honestly, I don’t know what happens behind closed doors in the Duggar family.  I’ve never met them.  But I do wonder that a TV program that has run for three years wouldn’t pick up some of that supposed abuse.  I also admit that I know a couple of people who came from large families that feel like they were deprived as children.  I also acknowledge that there probably are a lot of large families out there with abusive parents.

Guess what?  Sadly, in our society there are also a lot of small families where the children are abused.  There are people who were an only child who feel like their parents didn’t spend enough time with them.  There are families of two where the older child was forced to raise the younger child.  It’s a tragic reality that not everyone has good intentions, and children are often a victim of the imperfections of adults.  Personally I think that parental abuse has nothing to do with the number of children in a family.  It comes from bad parenting.  Most parents are not abusive.  They love their children, and are doing the best that they can.  When we see a system we don’t agree with, we tend to focus on the worst and apply it to the whole generally.  This is wrong, but we all do it.

Personally, I admire the Duggar family, and I think that they really are what they appear to be, a happy family where the parents are in love, the children get along, their homeschool education is thriving, and their family worship inspires all of the members of the family to do their best, serve others, and glorify God.  I have no reason to believe that the children in that home are unhappy, and I believe that the opposite is true.

I also know what life was like in my own home, “behind closed doors”.  Frankly, sometimes what happened in the view of all was a lot worse than what we did in private.  People would see a group of kids, some without shoes (they refused to wear them), some wearing mis-matched clothes (they wanted to dress themselves), and see rambunctious energy at a family picnic and wonder how on earth my mother managed to do it all.  Behind closed doors, they missed our family gardening together, or daily family devotional where the children would recite poetry.  They missed evenings where my father read to us.  The family trips where we lived in a moterhome together, the homeschooling projects, and sing-a-longs were rarely seen by the public eye.  The home was often cleaner when we had company, but we lived there, truly lived there, and that is what we grew accustomed to.

Behind closed doors, we all loved being a part of a big family.  I can’t imagine what our family would be like without any of my siblings.  If I wanted a smaller family, who would I have wished was never born?  How tragic!  When my mother got pregnant, none of us were consumed with thoughts of how our Christmas might yield fewer gifts, or how we might get less time with our parents.  Our mother was home all day long with us.  That was a consistent thing that we knew we could depend on.  Even now, my mother always makes time for me, and my father does as well.  No, when a new baby was on the way, it was always a time of great excitement.  We always got to take a break from school.  We all would get to hold the baby.  We knew that as the child grew, we would have another playmate.  All had hopes and dreams for the child, although some were more realistic than others.

Do you want to know the biggest, dark secret that I have kept about our family is?  Do you want to know what I felt was the greatest injustice?  It had nothing to do with the number of children.  Both of my parents allowed my sister to eat something else when we had tuna-fish sandwiches, but I had to eat the pancakes that had vegetables blended into the batter, or nothing at all.  They were gross, and I went hungry sometimes because I refused to eat them.  I rejoice that my children will never have to eat them.  (Mom, if you read this, please take it with a grain of salt and just laugh.)

If that was the biggest injustice I experienced growing up, I think that my parents did pretty good.  They did Great!  All of my siblings are very close.

My father-in-law comes from a family of 14, and they too are very close.  All of them are grown now, and all are different, but there is such a beautiful feeling of kinship between them and the cousins.  Family reunions are a big deal, and great effort and sacrifices are made to come to them, many coming from out-of-state.  They are very accepting, and marrying into this family is the best wedding present my husband could give me.

In summary, I conclude that while some families may be harboring dark secrets, it is wrong to assume that they do.  It is wrong to judge a family’s happiness by their size.  If a large family appears to be happy, has well-behaved, intelligent children, and parents that appear to be in love, chances are good that this family is doing something right.  By their fruits ye shall know them.

About the Author Tamsyn Spackman

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2 comments
rubberbucketsaysso says September 6, 2011

Love this Tamsyn! I know that my family life wasn't perfect, we had 16 kids in our family, and before my mother died we had 9. Before she died we were a very happy family. Yes, we had our struggles and my parents both worked hard to throw off the inclinations they had from growing up in abusive homes. By the time I was born, it was a happy, working, loving family. True, we had many issues with our step-mom and her family, many of which continue today. However, those issues existed with her small family of 6 before they joined us, and just happened to pervade our family as well…. due to bad parenting by the caregiver in the home. Still, I would love to have a large family, and I am very close with my natal siblings and many of my step-siblings.

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Anonymous says December 3, 2011

AMEN!!!! As a mother of 13 I appreciate your thoughtful and truthful article!!!! I can totally identify with everything you wrote.

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