“We Didn’t Kick You Out”: Cynthia Jeub’s Story, Part Five

Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 9.48.45 PM

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Cynthia Jeub’s blog CynthiaJeub.com. It was originally published on October 10, 2014. 

< Part Four

“Easy for a good girl to go bad
And once we gone
Best believe we’ve gone forever
Don’t be the reason
Don’t be the reason
You better learn how to treat us right.” -Rihanna

Want to know what it’s like to be a Jeub? If you check my dad’s Facebook, you’ll see smiling faces and positive talk.

Let me tell you a story.

Dad walked into the bedroom I shared with my sister, Lydia. To consolidate space, Lydia had taken to hanging up most of her thrift-store clothes in the closet. We didn’t have room for another dresser in addition to my dresser, a bookshelf, the bunk bed we shared, and our two desks.

Lydia was 19 and I was 21. It was normal for dad to walk into our bedroom without knocking. Our door handle’s lock was broken – when you have fifteen rough brothers and sisters, most things don’t last, including bedroom door locks. We didn’t have curtains hanging in our window, so I usually changed in the bathroom, carrying my clothes with me each time I showered. The bathroom door was broken, too, and I shared it with six sisters, so I’d been dressing myself behind the shower curtain since I was eleven.

“Girls, get in my office.” He was yelling. “We need to talk.”

“Dad, will you please close the door behind you?” I asked, knowing he wouldn’t. In winter, the open door would chill the basement room, with a thin layer of carpeting protecting us from the icy concrete floor. We used spot heaters to warm our rooms during the colder months. It wasn’t cold today, but dad always left our door open after waking us up.

It was Labor Day, 2013. I’d just started my fifth semester of college, and I was working three jobs: my part-time desk job, editing a section of the school newspaper, and working for my dad. My best friend often said it was too much for me to do, when there could be five to ten kids in my bedroom at any given time. I told her it was fine, and this was normal for me.

Most of what Lydia and I owned was already in boxes. We’d planned to move into our own apartment that week. There was just one problem: we needed proof of income to take over an apartment lease. Lydia had just interviewed for a store that was about to open, and I’d just started my part-time job. The newspaper didn’t record many hours, and my new employer quickly produced what I needed to prove income. We just needed dad to show that, as our main employer, we were making enough to move into our apartment.

When we asked our dad to help us show proof of income, he refused. He said we couldn’t make it on our own, and we wouldn’t be able to afford an apartment on our own. We were confused, seeing as we both had jobs and incomes, but you couldn’t argue with dad.

So this morning, Lydia and I shuffled into his office. Mom was sitting in the corner, the two of us took seats in front of the desk, and dad shut the door behind the four of us.

“I’m upset.” He said. “You drain our resources, you eat our food, you live in our house, you drive our cars, and you were supposed to be moved out by now.”

He was worked up, pacing and glowering down at us in our chairs. For the first time in my life, my dad started cussing at me. He said we didn’t help out around the house enough, and we were ungrateful, and we were wasting his money. Mom sat in the corner and approved the whole episode with her silence and nodding.

If we stayed, dad told us, we would need to pay for everything: the printer, the Internet, the SUV we already fueled whenever we drove it, and rent to sleep in our bedroom.

I’m not sure why I was determined not to cry. I know dad had made me cry many times in these kinds of exchanges, but this was too far. He’d never used swear words, and I had done nothing to bring this on, and I needed to protect my little sister. “Dad, you’re not making any sense. We are literally packed and ready to leave.”

My training in competitive forensics let me see the status dynamics. He was standing, and when I stood up, this threatened his power over me. He demanded that I sit back down, or leave his house immediately. My mind raced. Where would I go? He’d already taken away my ability to get an apartment. I only had a few thousand dollars to survive, and with me being enrolled in school, I didn’t have time to try for more income.

I finally sat back down. “Now, see, why did you sit down?” Dad jeered. “Because you’re admitting that you can’t make it on your own. You need me. You need my resources, everything I pay for and can’t afford. Now, since you’ve chosen to stay, I’m going to charge each of you $500 per month for rent.”

I stood up again. “That’s it. You’re being completely unreasonable.” I walked out, and, as soon as the door was closed, started shaking uncontrollably. I frantically texted a handful of friends. I was afraid dad might disconnect my cell phone, since we were on the same plan. I told my friends to show up if they didn’t hear back from me in half an hour, because I might lose my ability to contact them.

I still had paperwork to print for school, but dad had yelled at me for using the network and printer. I was in a double bind: I could ask to use the printer, and have my request denied. I could print without permission, and risk him confiscating or tearing up my papers – which I sincerely thought was a real possibility in his current mood. I could also hand him twenty-five cents, which would cover the cost of a few sheets of paper in his industrial printer, purchased for the family business’ publishing needs. The last option seemed the least risky, but I also knew my dad would probably be offended. I gathered two dimes and a nickel from my wallet, brought it into his office, and said I was paying for sheets of paper and ink. I went back in my room, and began loading the last of my belongings into boxes.

Dad slammed my door open and threw the coins at me. “Take your damn money!” he yelled.

I yelled back at him, saying I thought he wanted me to pay for using his things.

Lydia and I have twelve younger siblings, and the kids looked frightened and worried. I asked mom if I could take a shower before I left, or if I should pay them for it. She seemed surprised that I even asked, and said, “of course you can.”

I cried in the shower, knowing it would be my last day living in my family’s house, I was being kicked out, and I hadn’t done anything. Mom came in the bathroom while I was toweling off, and she said I should apologize to dad for rudely offering him change. My brother Micah, age 16, just wanted peace, so he begged me to hug my dad and say everything was okay. Five little kids stood around and watched while we obliged him begrudgingly.

One of my friends was still living with her parents, and they said they could come pick us up. I informed my parents that I had a place to go.

Lydia went for a walk and angrily processed what was happening for two hours. When she came back, mom and dad were opposed to letting the two of us have a private conversation. “Don’t think that if you leave, your sister will want to go with you,” dad told me.

We ignored their wishes and talked briefly anyway, before meeting in the office again. Dad smiled widely. “You guys found a place to go, and we’re so proud of you guys!”

Lydia and I exchanged glances at the heel-face turn.

Dad said, “We just have some finances to sort out, and then we’ll send you on your way.”

In our family, we never really tracked finances. Most of our work for the family business was contracted, so extra hours weren’t paid. Most of those contracts were spoken, not written or signed. Dad controlled all our bank accounts, so he just transferred agreed-upon amounts when we finished projects. Lydia and I often thought he changed his rates before and after, but we had no way to track it, and besides, he would ask, aren’t we committed to the business? When we did get paid by the hour, it was supposed to be minimum wage, but filling out timesheets wasn’t a priority.

We talked about cell phone charges and other expenses. Lydia and I forced dad to look at his bills and do the math, and this always meant we owed him less than he said at first. When we finally figured out what we all owed each other, he paid us for the past six months of our work, and we paid him for utilities and phones. He came out ahead and transferred the difference from our accounts.

Then he said, “I’m so proud of both of you. We gave you options, to stay and rent from us, or to find a place of your own. So you’re moving out, and we don’t want you to go around to all your friends and complain about us. We didn’t kick you out, so don’t say we did.”

The next hour was perhaps the most awkward of my life. My friends came to get us, and my parents showed smiles and invited them in for dinner. We hadn’t gotten so much as an apology, but now everything was fine. As Lydia and I left, dad stopped us at the front door to take a picture. Of everything that happened that day, this is the Facebook post people saw:

Screen-Shot-2014-10-04-at-7.57.28-PM

That’s the difference between Jeub home life and what you see of my family online or on TV.

End of series.

Voices of Sister-Moms: Part Three, Maia’s Story

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 5.21.49 PM

HA note: This series is reprinted with permission from Heather Doney’s guest series on her blog, Becoming Worldly. Part Three was originally published on July 5, 2013. “Maia” is a pseudonym chosen by the author. If you have a Quiverfull “sister-Mom” story you would like to share, email Heather at becomingworldly (at) gmail (dot) com.

*****

Also in this series: Part One: Introduction by Heather Doney | Part Two: DoaHF’s Story | Part Three: Maia’s Story | Part Four: Electra’s Story | Part Five: Samantha Field’s Story | Part Six: Mary’s Story

*****

Part Three, Maia’s Story

My family started out in a pretty normal way.

But where most families stop creating new children and start raising them, my parents forged ahead having more. I don’t know what came first, but my parents got excited about having a lot of children (being Quiverfull, as the Bible says), homeschooling, and being very literal Christians.

I am child #2, the oldest daughter. My daily activities were pretty normal until I was 8. I was asked to do a few chores but not too many. We were somewhat effectively homeschooled until that point, and my parents were ramping up their enthusiasm for radical religion.

Then came child #6. I was 8 years old. 

It was explained to me by my father that my mother had cervical cancer during the pregnancy and was at risk of losing the baby, and therefore I needed to step up and help. She was born in May. As I understand it was a difficult labor. My father’s way of parenting during my mother’s recovery time was to lock us outside to fend for ourselves except for meals.

This was for about several weeks. It is important to note that this is also when my father stopped working.

He interpreted some of the ATI based teachings to mean that it was improper for him to be under a woman’s authority in a workplace.

When we were allowed back, my life was totally different. Overnight I learned how to cook meals for my family and clean bathrooms, etc, under the tutelage of my father.

That was also the end of effective homeschooling.

Child #7 came when I was 9, and child #8 when I was 11. I was present for both these births, one in the hospital and one at home. In that time my parents fled the province to escape from a CAS investigation. #7 and #8 were mine. #8 was born with the cord wrapped around his neck, and did not breath for almost ten minutes after birth. My father was still in hide-from-CAS mode [HA note: CAS are Children’s Aid Societies, similar to CPS).

So he didn’t seek medical care for him until day 3 when he started having seizures. 

So I learned how to administer medication to a baby. I got them dressed and fed them and loved them and rocked them — knew what they liked and didn’t like, and they called me mom. My parents encouraged all of this — except if they heard the boys call me mom. Then I got in trouble (I didn’t discourage them from saying that, it made me happy).

When I was 13 child #9 came along. By then I was very established as a mini-mom. My parents didn’t work but would frequently leave the house in the morning and come back late at night.

To this day I have no idea where they went.

So I would cook, serve and clean up three meals a day, care for an epileptic toddler, care for a new infant, and teach child #6 and #7 the best I could. When they didn’t leave the house they would often lock themselves up in their bedroom and yell at each other. When child #9 was an infant, my mother went to have gall bladder surgery and then went to recuperate a family member’s home.

There was some help in the house through some of these times, but I was still the trophy oldest daughter.

My father was proud of showing other people how much work I did in the home.

One day a young woman who was over was asked by my father if she also fed meals to her younger siblings when they were infants, and she said no. So I didn’t have to do that when we had company anymore, but still in private. I believe that my mother had a lot of health problems and post-partum depression, and that is part of why so much of daily life fell to me to run.

I wouldn’t even mind it so much if it wasn’t that she completely denies that this took place.

She thinks she was home that whole time and cooking, etc. I know for sure that some of what my parents were doing when away from home revolved around conservative ideology and reading parenting books, because one day they came home with a set of dowel rods in various sizes and tried them out on my younger siblings to see what was the most effective size for spanking each child.

I believe this comes from the Pearl parenting books.

Leaving my siblings when I was 17 to go to school and pursue my own life was the hardest thing I ever did. My three youngest siblings still live with my mom to this day and they have no understanding of the feelings I have about them based on what I did when they were infants/toddlers. I pushed so hard to get them into school, coming over at night to confront my father and pressure my mother into signing so my next youngest siblings could go to school, which she eventually did.

When I moved out, sister-mom duties immediately shifted to Electra, the next girl in the family, who is #4.

(HA note: Tomorrow, we will share the story of Electra, Maia’s sister.)

*****

To be continued.

Voices of Sister-Moms: Part Two, DoaHF’s Story

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 5.21.49 PM

HA note: This series is reprinted with permission from Heather Doney’s guest series on her blog, Becoming Worldly. Part Two was originally published on June 25, 2013. “DoaHF” is a pseudonym chosen by the author. If you have a Quiverfull “sister-Mom” story you would like to share, email Heather at becomingworldly (at) gmail (dot) com.

*****

Also in this series: Part One: Introduction by Heather Doney | Part Two: DoaHF’s Story | Part Three: Maia’s Story | Part Four: Electra’s Story | Part Five: Samantha Field’s Story | Part Six: Mary’s Story

*****

Part Two: DoaHF’s Story

I loved kids and I always wanted to help with the babies that my mom kept having.

I was always “too young” to help out with baby #5, and when baby #6 came along she was fussy and stuck to only my mom or my older sister. She hated anyone else who tried to hold or care for her, and my mom still mentions to this day how I ‘reneged’ on my desire to care for babies when #6 came around.

Why does she mention it? Because her next babies were mine.

When the oldest child in our family (a girl) turned 10, she began caring for baby #5. At 12, she took care of baby #6. When I was 10 and a half years old, baby #7 was born.

I was downstairs with everyone else that January day, trying to focus on doing school work when I got called upstairs to take my mother’s blood pressure. My grandmother and my father were the only ones attending the birth. They had covered her lower half with a sheet. My grandmother’s automated blood pressure cuff could not get a bp reading. I had gotten a stethoscope and a sphygmomanometer for Christmas that year and I had learned how to use it at the local hospital where the nurses all thought I was cute.

I took my mom’s blood pressure and I mumbled out some numbers. They didn’t seem right, so I tried again. It just wasnt making sense or working. I got pushed aside as they readied my in-and-out-of-consciousness mother for a trip to the nearest real hospital for an emergency D&C (we lived outside of the United States at this time).

Somewhere along the way it was decided that the oldest girl would stay at home with the 4 kids. #7 was handed to me and I kept close to my dad and my mom on the mattress. Halfway to the main city, the ambulance broke down. A call was dispatched and the ambulance crew from that city had to be woken up and come to pick us up so we could resume our journey. As we waited and my dad haggled with the locals and I tried to keep the curious hands from touching the new baby and lifting sheets and opening the broken down ambulance doors.

At the hospital my mom was rushed to surgery and I remember sitting in a cold air-conditioned room either sleeping or holding baby #7. At one point I sat beside her as she was recovering from anesthesia. She kept asking me the same questions over and over again.

And that is how baby #7 became mine.

During my mom’s convalescence, I was usually called upon to care for her and she seemed to love being in my arms. When it was bedtime I was always handed her because she fell asleep in my arms so fast. At night when my mom would nurse her and couldn’t get her back to sleep she would wake me up to “deal with her.” I learned how to sing softly, rock in the glider rocker, and manage to lay her in bed without waking her very quickly.

Nights that I couldn’t get her to lay down I would hold her for hours, rocking with one foot while I dozed in and out. I had been changing diapers for a couple years already, so I didn’t have to learn anything new in that department, but I learned how to make do on little sleep, or to do things half-asleep.

My mom loves babies.

She kept having them because the old babies grew into “little brats” all too often.

Well, that and she believed she had to be Quiverfull.

Baby #8 was a similar story. She had a much better delivery (still with complications, but not as severe) and after #8 graduated from the swinging cradle in my parents’ room (about 4 months) he slept in my room. I was almost 13 at the time. Every night I would wake up with him and take him to my mom to nurse. I would wait in the hallway (catching sleep where I could) and then take him back to my room to get him to sleep.

I still have a very angry diary entry at 14 where my mom scolded me for “being irresponsible” and letting him cry till his face was bright red about something. She told me I was bad at taking care of him and I stormed off to my room.

I wrote in all capital letters that he was MY BABY and that she had no right to take him from me.

To this day she disputes my claim to both #7 and #8 especially. She says that I overestimated what I did and that I was being dramatic.

Once our family moved back to the US in 2004 I had to do a lot more housekeeping duties than I had otherwise done. The babies were getting bigger and not in diapers any more, so I spent more time cooking and folding laundry than specifically caring for them.

As a girl, I wasn’t allowed to get a job.

But once I got ‘done’ (unofficially) with high school I spent hours in the garden weeding and planting. I turned our hundreds of tomatoes into tomato sauce and I spent almost all day cleaning up after kids. My younger brothers (#s 4 and 5) seemed to alternate hating my guts passionately. I don’t know if it was because they resented the power I held as a second (or third) mom or if they just were reacting to me ordering them around, but without fail once they hit a certain age they fought with me every second they could.

At one point my mom wouldn’t allow us in the same room without a parent.

The younger siblings were still small enough for me to intimidate/control although it fluctuated. Sometimes I was not allowed to spank/slap them, and other times it passed under the radar. Technically I was never allowed to hit them, but other times I was told to administer discipline.

It was severe cognitive dissonance.

My dad would be out working with the boys, my mom would take #6 with her grocery shopping and I would be left with the other 3 or 4. I would be given a list of duties (usually dinner, clean the rooms, vacuum, dishes, and a certain amount of work from the younger kids).

If I didn’t get everything done I was chastised or disciplined.

Technically the younger kids needed to help since they made all the messes, but when I wasnt allowed/supposed to be disciplining them, I was given a toothless command. I felt like for every room I cleaned, they made a mess of two more. They told on me for spanking them or yelling at them, but at the same time I was under a huge amount of pressure.

I resented them and they resented me.

However, I definitely favored my babies. I called them both “my” babies and they sometimes called themselves that. I would try to protect them from some of the mental and spiritual abuse going on, but I felt helpless myself. I tried to take all of their anger and frustrations myself so that they would not have to deal with the repercussions of having the parents see.

Even so, my baby #8 developed severe anger issues.

By age 5 he was having insane tantrums where he would scream at the top of his lungs and writhe about wildly, hitting things and lashing out.

Once my dad tried to spank it out of him.

Only once that I remember. And that night I wanted to die. My little “shun-shine” #7 developed severe self-acceptance issues, always afraid that she was fat and/or ugly. It was a downward spiral.

I left home at age 20 against the wishes of my parents.

I have not seen the kids again, except for the two older boys who are on good terms with me and call me semi-regularly. I see pictures every now and then and I can’t imagine how their lives are now. They are so much bigger. I get to hear them over the phone every now and then. Baby #8 keeps asking me to come home again to visit him for his birthday. I tell him that I want to desperately, but that situations that he cannot understand keep us apart.

I only hope that someday they can forgive me for abandoning them.

I did it to save myself, and in doing so I left them exposed to every horror my parents might bring down upon them. I wish there had been another way.

When people ask me these days if I want to/plan on having kids I usually say: “Once I get over losing the babies I already had.” Most people look at me strangely, but it is the truth. I cannot be a good mother because I am too afraid of losing my kids once they turn 8 or 10. Until I can clear my conscience with how I treated them, I fear I will not be a fit mother to any biological children I might have.

*****

To be continued.