Before pro-lifers of all ages marched through Washington, DC, Wednesday for the annual March for Life, college students arrived at the First Baptist Church in Glenarden for the Students for Life conference in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, the parents of the popular TLC program 19 Kids and Counting, received the Defenders of Life award and I caught up with them before they went on stage. We discussed the benefits of having a full house, the importance of “keeping up the heart” of their children and the pro-life message they hope they’re sending with the show.
What are some of the benefits or most fun parts about having such a large family?
Michelle: Well, I think if the children were in there, they’d say there’s always someone to play with. You never lack for someone to have game time with or just somebody to talk to.
Jim Bob: And we’re always as a family, we’re always going places and doing things. And i think in one sense we have one of the funnest families in the world because there’s so many of us that it’s just non stop fun.”
Michelle: Never a dull moment.
Jim Bob: Even when we go do a work project. It’s fun everyone working together. And we can accomplish a lot in a short amount of time.
Michelle: Many hands make light work. So it is, it’s teamwork. And we love it, it’s a lot of fun. I think Jill summed it up one time, she said, ‘You know the whole idea that you know, when you have another child and another child that it would divide your love among those children, she said, ‘People just don’t understand how much fun it is to be from a large family. It’s just like,
‘The love multiplies, it doesn’t divide.’ And so I thought, ‘Wow Jill that was profound!’ So that’s why we named our book, A Love that Multiplies.
You mentioned a few things, but what are some of your other favorite activities as a family?
Michelle: As far as energy activities we love to go on bike rides, volleyball in the backyard, basketball.
Jim Bob: Yeah, we’re always playing basketball and volleyball and then in the front yard, the boys a lot of times are playing football. And the other night we went to Arkansas Razorback versus Kentucky game.
Michelle: Oh that was amazing.
Jim Bob: and took most of our kids with us. and Arkansas won in overtime. but, then we travel together quite a bit.
Michelle: the kids love to sing. and they love, they’ll just break out singing when we’re driving down the road. wherever, just in the van at home or in the bus
Jim Bob: and they all love playing instruments together. and it’s just non stop fun in a large family.
Michelle: And entertainment. Yeah, never lack for entertainment (laughing), especially when you’ve got little ones around. And I’m just so thankful we’ve got grand babies coming now because I couldn’t imagine life without a toddler around. And so just the fun of doing and saying the cutest little things kids do. I keep my notes in my phone now and the ‘out of mouth of babes’, you know the sweet little things that are small kinds of fun things to enjoy with kiddos around.
Say you hired a babysitter for a night. What instructions would you give them?
Jim Bob: Good question (laughing)
Michelle: The babysitter or the children?
Michelle: I think I would instruct the children first. (laughing)
Jim Bob: For years, my mom would watch our children when Michelle and I would go on a date each week. And of course now a lot of our older daughters are -
Michelle: She still does sometimes. She’s still willing and available to do it.
Jim Bob: Now, some of our older daughters are in their 20s and so they watch the little ones when we - we still go on a weekly date night, usually Saturday night. I guess, the main thing we try to do as parents is keep up the hearts of our children. and so a lot of times, if there’s an outward action that’s happening. A lot of times it’s a sign of an inward struggle or something and so a lot of times we take them aside and say, ‘Hey is there something you’re struggling with? and having heart-to-heart talks with children is very important and for them to build, confess things and make things right and for them to know that mom and dad love them no matter what they’ve done and for them to be able to confess things to God and their parents.and then make things right with their brothers and sisters.
Michelle: And always purpose to treat each other with respect. No teasing, no calling names, no putting each other down but truly showing respect, just the way you’d want to be treated, treat them that way and be each other’s best friends and enjoy being together. You know, you’re gonna have those relationships for life and you really wanna cherish and nurture those even now, when you’re young at home so that you really will enjoy getting together later when you’re married and have your own families. Like I said, I pray my family gets together just like Job’s kids did.you know they got together and had meals even after they were grown. And I think that’s the goal just to love each other and respect.
Jim Bob: And I think really the foundation of a close knit family first off is having a close relationship between husband and wife and then the children’s relationship with the parents and then the children’s relationship with each other. And there’s gonna be offences and things that happen but making sure that each one of us humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness.
Michelle: And make it right. And have a servant’s heart. We’re really desiring to teach them to love , putting others before yourself. The acrostic we use is ‘Joy’ - Jesus first, others second, yourself last, and if you put it in that order then it makes for a very peaceful, harmonious place to live. And so by realizing that, even at Josie’s age, who is now four, our baby in our family, just encouraging her to realize, you know what you can serve your big brother, you can go and get him his cup and bring it to the table and help serve your brothers and sisters, even though you’re the youngest, learning by example, because we all do desire to show that love and that servant’s spirit, because that’s what the Lord Jesus exampled for us.
I read another interview you both did and I think, Jim Bob, it was you that said a writer emailed you and said that your show prevented them from having an abortion. I was wondering if that is something that encourages you both to continue doing the show?
Jim Bob: Yes, from the very beginning when they asked us to do the first show, we prayed about it and we really felt like that maybe by doing the show, we’d have an opportunity to say that children are a blessing and a gift from God and maybe there’d be a woman out there that was considering having an abortion would hear that and maybe decide not to have an abortion. Over the past ten years we’ve received several emails and letters from women who have said that after watching our show, they’ve decided to keep their baby. They’ve changed their perspective on the child - instead of seeing the child as a burden, they see the child as a blessing. But one mom in particular, back a couple years ago, she sent us a letter that said, ‘I was watching your show, 17 Kids and Counting, and she said, “I’d already gone in for my first initial appointment to have an abortion and I was going to have an abortion the next day” and she said, ‘I flipped through the channels and saw your show and she said, “Ya know, if that lady can do it with 17 kids, I can do it with one.” And she kept her baby.
Michelle: And she sent a picture!
Jim Bob: Yes, a little two-year-old.
Michelle: Profound - she sent the joy of her life.
Jim Bob: And so that makes it all worth it. And so, our whole family really believes that the TV show is really not about us - it’s really about a ministry to share with the world that children are a blessing and a gift from God.