A bundle of contradictions.

Dear friends,

Over the course of my two-decade marriage to Mr. Mom, he has made two defining statements about me.

First, he said: “You are a woman tortured by the undone.”

Truer words were never spoken about me, unless it was his second statement, which was: “You’re a woman who’s not happy unless you have one iron too many in the fire.”

And, lawzie, the man knows his wife.  I haven’t posted in a couple of days — not because I have nothing to say. In fact, I’ve got a million-bazillion contradictory things running through my brain right now, all of which I’d love to tell you in a very stream-of-consciousness way but which I recognize doesn’t make for great reading. I’ve got happy things, and tearful things, and funny things, and interesting things and I’m having trouble deciding which thing to tell you first because I finally recovered from my late-summer, empty-nest, buttered-cracker eating stupor — and man do I have PLENTY OF THINGS to do and say!

But I’m only going to write about one of those things today and it’s how I’m wildly grateful for two seemingly contradictory women.

You see, I am woman who believes there’s no issue more central to my womanhood, to my liberty, to my rights as a citizen of the world than reproductive freedom. For me, that means easy and affordable access to contraceptives and the right to choose to continue or terminate a pregnancy.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all political on you. Reproductive freedom is a deeply personal issue and I know many others — both men and women — feel differently than I do. And I respect their right to believe differently and advocate strongly for their beliefs. I’m just telling you there is no single issue that flames my passion and opens my checkbook faster than reproductive freedom. So you won’t be surprised to hear I was on my feet shouting “Amen, sister!” in my kitchen Wednesday night when Sandra Fluke spoke at the Democratic National Convention. I’ve been known to engage in hyperbole now and then and at one point, as Mr. Mom walked through the room and I was cheering her on, I shouted at my husband “I just want you to know I would take up arms over reproductive freedom!” (I was just kidding with him, folks. Please don’t flame me.)

But what might surprise you is that — in addition to admiring Sandra Fluke (and generations of women before her, including a saint on my list named Margaret Sanger) — one woman I absolutely adore is Michelle Duggar.

You know, the Arkansas woman with 19 kids who doesn’t believe in birth control?  I’ve watched her show, “19 kids and counting,”  since it began. Kate and I enjoyed watching it together for many years.

Best I can tell, Michelle Duggar and I are on opposite ends of the philosophical and political spectrum. Still, I admire her greatly. I admire her kindness. I admire her ability to mother — apparently quite well — her children. I admire her conviction. I not only admire, I am stunned by her composure and unflappable disposition in the midst of household chaos. I admire that in contrast to the Pookies and the (Name Your Location) Housewives of the world, Michelle Duggar strives to create television content that is wholesome and uplifting. I am a huge fan.

So imagine my delight when I read yesterday in my local newspaper that Michelle Duggar and her family are coming to my little town for our Patriot Day Celebration. I don’t even know what Patriot Day is but by golly I’m going. And if I can get within a city block of Michelle, I promise you I’m going to shake her hand and tell her how much I admire her.

A couple of years ago, somebody I know made a snarky comment about Michelle Duggar on Facebook. I responded with a comment about how much I like her. And I was shocked, truly knocked off my feet, by the angry, judgmental conversation that followed on the topic of Michelle and her family. Some people actually said they think she’s mentally ill. (I can only imagine the kind of hate mail the Duggar family receives, and it saddens me.)

I just don’t get it. For me, reproductive freedom goes both ways. I get to choose to limit the number of children I have and Michelle gets to have as many as she can bear. She is a woman mothering as she sees fit, just as I am. And, frankly, I think she’s doing it in an admirable way. You want to argue that point? I would direct you to “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” and then tell you to zip it.

Say what you want about modern politics — and it’s never more fully revealed in all its inspiring and disheartening wonder than during a presidential campaign — we still live in a democratic society where both Michelle Duggar and I can thrive as two different flavors of feminine possibility.

And, in my book, that’s still worth standing up and cheering for.

With gratitude {for women everywhere of conviction, courage and purpose},

Joan, who invites you to name the women you most admire and why



  1. afterthekidsleave says:

    This was the issue that galvanized me to align with feminism in the 1970s, and it still gets me up on my feet. You’re so right about choice cutting both ways–you won’t get any flaming from me!

  2. I agree – the right to choose simply must be a gate that swings both directions. I may not understand the decision to have 19 children but I will (and do) fight for the right for every woman to choose – for herself – if and how and when to reproduce. Realistically I also understand that right won’t mean much without reliable access to affordable healthcare, contraceptive measures, and day care. Ladies we are the 51 percent – let’s make our voices and our votes count!

  3. Maladjusted Mel says:

    I think it may have been me who made a remark about the Duggar’s in relation to what now I can’t remember. My guess would be is was politically related -you know me. I don’t know anything about them and have never watched the show. I completely agree with your point, though. Reproductive freedom is just that – the freedom to choose your own destiny.

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