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.