Michelle Duggar has been pregnant for 12 years if you combine all the time she spent carrying her 18 children. She and her husband, Jim Bob, have two sets of twins in their brood aged one month to 21 years old.
The mom and dad made famous by TLC's 17 Kids and Counting took time away from their family to chat with me via phone about their new book, The Duggars: 20 and Counting!, and the topics — marriage, raising children, conservative values, financial freedom, and faith — it covers, while their newest addition Jordyn gurgled in the background. The couple was candid, open, and incredibly kind. And if you assume they set out to have kids by the dozens and name them all with the letter "J," then think again!
After suffering a miscarriage, Michelle and Jim Bob, who are religious, chose to forgo the birth control they had been using and leave it up to God to decide how many children they would have. Michelle, now known for her soft voice and calm demeanor, spoke of a time when she had five children under five, was exhausted and shedding tears. She credits her faith for getting her though the challenges of motherhood.
As far as their children all having names starting with "J," in the text, Jim Bob and Michelle explain that they initially picked names they liked that all happened to start with the same letter for their first three children and then continued the trend not wanting the newest baby to feel left out — only they never suspected there would be so many names.
To see Michelle's candid responses to a couple of lil questions,
lilsugar: The book answers just about every question a person could have about your family and the forces that have guided you in making those decisions. Did you write The Duggars: 20 and Counting! to dispel misconceptions people have about your family?
Michelle Duggar: I see how the book could do that, but I don't think that was our intention. We really just had a heart to answer the people who had been emailing us. We had thousands of emails and there was just no way we could do what we needed to do to take care of our family and take care of those. We've been in politics in the past (Jim Bob was a state legislator in Arkansas) and we know there's a lot of people out there that don't agree with us, so that goes on as well, but we wrote this for the people that ask us for advice and encouragement more than the other angle.
lilsugar: Online, some members of the public have been critical of your buddy system, saying that your older children are raising the younger ones; do you think this is a misconception?
Michelle Duggar: I'll put it the way my daughter, Jill, said it — she had really had a sweet answer. She said, "Mama, they just don't understand or know what it's like to be in our large family and how much fun we have and how sweet is it to have these little ones that look up to us and want to be like us. When people get this idea of oh my God, they have so many kids and there's no way you can spend one-on-one time with them and give them the undivided attention or that the older ones are raising the younger ones, love doesn't divide it multiples."
My older ones have a mentoring relationship with the little ones. We are still the parents, Dad and I are the ones to give them counsel and different things like that, but when they are working together on their music practice or playing phonics games and doing math drills, those times are precious because I see the relationships that have developed.
Check out what Jim Bob and Michelle had to say about homeschooling and keeping a calm home in tomorrow's post on lilsugar. For more information on the Duggars, check out their website.