Growing up in this weird lifestyle, I had a Mom. I still have a Mom. It is odd because I’ve honestly looked at her plenty times and been like “Hmm, she carried me in her womb for 9 months. Shouldn’t I understand her better? How can I not know what makes her tick at all?” But I don’t. I think my Mom feels somehow similarly detached and kinda looks at all her kids in this curious sort of way, wondering at what opinionated oddities we are, worrying about our souls. But maybe all mothers do this. I don’t know. So yeah, I don’t really see eye to eye with my Mom on just about anything and growing up wanted to be the opposite of her in almost all ways I could think of. Although I love her and give her hugs when I see her, and I know she cares about me in her own way, I trust that she will make bad decisions much more often than good ones. She never had much opportunity or practice with decision-making when married to my Dad, so now she generally agonizes and obsesses over them and then often picks what I find to be the wackiest one of the bunch. I think she just doesn’t have any idea how to live without focusing on something extreme, and I joke with my siblings that “someday the men in little white coats will come get her.” They often roll their eyes and nod in assent. It all isn’t really funny but if you can’t laugh about it then what can you do?

Somehow, contrary to how we had always been taught these things went, the situation significantly improved after my parents divorce. I was 19 and had been living independently for two years at the time, but can say the divorce, which happened even though they both did not “believe” in divorce, brought great relief to all of their offspring and seemed to do the same for the two of them.

My Mom and I still sometimes get into heated arguments when I get annoyed by what I see as her extreme gullibility, or when I try to advocate for my younger siblings and criticize her childrearing methods, which thankfully happens a little less often nowadays. She eased out of the hardcore fundamentalist stuff a bit around the time of divorce, but dove deeper into the whole raw milk and anti-vaccination thing, even if she now brings the kids to regular doctor and dentist appointments due to her fear of custody arrangement problems if she doesn’t.

She gets no medical treatment for herself aside from occasional dental care and believes that this is a moral and spiritual thing. My Mom has flat out told me several times that if she were to be badly injured or gravely ill she would not want medical treatment, but be allowed to die and go to heaven. She would not want me to call 911, only to ask people to pray for her and (hope of hopes) agree to just pray for her myself. I told her I probably would not be able to do as she asked, that there is a lot of ethics that would go into a decision like this, and she replied that it was a simple decision – the bible asks you to respect your mother and that’s what I should keep in mind. So yeah, she is still what you’d call “ideologically attached.”

I read her a list of Quiverfull beliefs over the phone once and she said all those things were right and good and our family had just fallen short. She doesn’t think she belonged to a movement though, that she is just a bible-believing christian, trying to do right, who was manipulated by a selfish and backslidden husband. She gets mad if you tell her that her and Dad were obviously in it together and equally irresponsible as parents. She believes that as a man he naturally had the stronger and more dominant role and there was little she could do about it. However, once she cried and apologized for the beatings, said she never felt right about hitting us and that she should have put a stop to it. She now has put a stop to it with the younger ones and feels it has made them gentler and more respectful people. Hearing that from her obviously means a lot to me.

So my Mom is not an idiot and if you met her, you’d think she was a very kind lady wearing unflattering clothes and who was perhaps a little batty. For a while after the divorce she went back to school, and seemed to be trying to enjoy her life more in some ways, experimenting with clothes and makeup, getting into country music, even starting online dating, but it was all a bit much for her. She said the online dating was like “shopping at Goodwill” and even though she is in great physical shape, her generally odd clothing, rigid beliefs, and large brood of kids meant she seemed to attract either kinda creepy or weird men and so she eventually stopped. She is also not very social, saying she doesn’t really have time for friends, generally doesn’t see the point. Now she cleans houses, listens to church podcasts, and tries to cajole the kids still living at home to eat these fermented wheat pancakes that she’s been obsessed with making and that they can’t stand. She also lavishes a ridiculous amount of attention on a little rag mop of a dog called a morkiepoo. It behaves terribly and she treats it like a human baby. I suppose it isn’t all bad but it isn’t great either.

So that’s what having a fundamentalist mother is like for me now, as an adult. I wonder sometimes if there is something I could do to help her have a better life, to get her un-indoctrinated or something, but I don’t know. Maybe she’d just find another, less familiar extreme thing to adhere to. If I had the money I’d probably just buy her a little house in the country with a pond or stream nearby, a chicken coop, and space for a few milking goats. I know it’s what she’s always wanted even if I don’t understand why.