‘Counting’ All The Duggar Family’s Facts And Secrets

The Duggars’ story started out like many others: two people got married and quickly became a family of three. But very soon, they were a family of five, then ten, then fifteen… and now that number stands at an astonishing 21. Their unusual clan drew lots of curiosity, and their fame grew rapidly once TLC started following them for a reality series about their lives.

On 19 Kids and Counting (previously 17 Kids… and 18 Kids…), parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar tried to paint a picture of their big Christian family as happy and normal, but it’s clear that there were some bizarre things going on behind the scenes that contradicted what they publicly preached. Read on to learn all about the most eyebrow-raising facts about the Duggar family.

Jim Bob And Michelle Got Married When They Were Still In Their Teens

Michelle Jim Bob when they were young
TLC
TLC

Jim and Michelle Duggar were married when he was 19 and she was 17. Michelle couldn’t wait, sharing on her blog later that she “was just all bleary eyed and in love. I couldn’t wait to be married and be called ‘Mrs. Jim Bob Duggar.’ That was the dream of my life.”

Every year on their anniversary, July 21st, all their kids gather around to listen to the audio recording of Mom and Dad’s wedding ceremony. Unsurprisingly, many of the Duggars’ children have gotten married pretty young, too.

Michelle Has Been Pregnant For About 12 Years And Doesn’t Believe In Overpopulation

Duggars group photo on stairs
TLC
TLC

Michelle Duggar has been pregnant for somewhere around 144 months of her life. That works out to 12 years! Interestingly, she believes that the concept of overpopulation is a myth. She cites the fact that the entire world’s population could fit inside of Jacksonville, Florida, as “evidence” of this.

“I agree with Mother Teresa when she said, ‘to say that there are too many children is like saying there are too many flowers,'” Duggar said.

How Much Does It Cost To Feed So Many People?

pantry
TLC
TLC

One of the top questions people have about the Duggars is how much their groceries cost. It’s a good question since most of us don’t have 21 people to feed in our households! In 2012, Michelle was interviewed onToday and said that the family spends about $3,000 a month on groceries.

This includes three dozen eggs, three loaves of bread, three pounds of potatoes, a gallon of ice cream, and much more, PER DAY. The Duggars are able to stretch that food budget by buying in bulk and by carefully planning out all the family’s meals.

Jim Bob Was An Aspiring Politician (And Might Run Again)

Jim Bob Duggar and Michelle Duggar receive an award
Kris Connor/WireImage
Kris Connor/WireImage

Jim Bob is more than just a reality TV dad. From 1999 to 2002, Duggar served in the Arkansas House of Representatives. After his term ended in 2002, Duggar had unsuccessful runs for the U.S. Senate and the Arkansas State Senate.

Despite these losses, in a 2009 interview, Jim Bob hinted that he wasn’t done with politics, saying he might run for office once he and Michelle were done raising their huge family.

Michelle Strongly Believes In Obeying ‘Wifely Duties’

wifely duties
TLC
TLC

Over the years, Michelle has been asked many times how she and Jim Bob manage to keep their love life spicy after all these years (and children) later. She believes that it’s up to the woman to be available for physical comfort 24/7. “In your marriage there will be times you’re going to be very exhausted,” she said.

“Your hubby comes home after a hard day’s work, you get the baby to bed, and he is going to be looking forward to that time with you. … Anyone can fix him lunch, but only one person can meet that physical need of love that he has, and you always need to be available when he calls.”

Homeschooling Is Huge In This Family

homeschooling at the dining table
TLC
TLC

Religion is a huge aspect of Michelle and Jim Bob’s life together, and they want to make sure it’s just as important to their kids. For this reason, they’ve homeschooled all of their children. Teaching 19 kids from kindergarten to 12th grade is a huge task but it’s worth it to the Duggars, despite the criticism they’ve received over the years.

“Of course, our goal has been to do a Christian-based curriculum — one in which there’s a lot of character emphasis, character building like responsibility, honesty, self control,” wrote Michelle. Now, their grandchildren are following in the tradition.

They Used A Controversial ‘Buddy System’ To Raise The Kids

buddy system
TLC
TLC

From the first time the Duggars appeared on TLC, they talked about their household “buddy system.” This is where the older children are expected to step up and take care of their younger siblings in order to remove some of the burden off Michelle and Jim Bob.

The Duggars claim this method helps to promote bonding between siblings, but there are plenty of critics out there who say it puts too much responsibility on the kids. And when Jill left the family home to get married, her little “buddy” Joy-Anna admitted that she was bummed out because the older girl had “always taken care of [her].”

What’s Up With All The ‘J’ Names?

The Duggar family shopping
D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra
D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra

Anyone who’s watched the show might have noticed that all the kids have names starting with the letter ‘J.’ Where did the tradition start? It’s probably not surprising that inspiration for this method of naming their many, many babies came from the bible. First came Joshua, a name that the couple “emotionally” loved.

From there, they just couldn’t stop out of worry that any kids without a J at the front of their name would feel left out. “[I]t would be terrible if we had Josh, Jana, John, and … Marianne,” wrote Michelle. “Because they might say, ‘Why didn’t you name me with a J?’ We just didn’t want to leave anybody out after that, so the J names stuck.”

They Made A Fortune On The Show

public appearance
Matt McClain/ The Washington Post via Getty Images
Matt McClain/ The Washington Post via Getty Images

According to In Touch Weekly, the Duggars made somewhere between $25,000 to $40,000 for each episode of their show. If you take into account that each show requires four or five days to film, that means they were pulling in $6,250 to $10,000 a day with TLC. This total doesn’t include any money that the family made from related ventures like book deals and personal appearances. Jim Bob also made a fortune in his real estate ventures.

Today, the older Duggar children have their own reality spin-off show, called Counting On. They’re each estimated to earn between $25,000 to $40,000 per episode.

They Split Family Chores Into ‘Jurisdictions’ And Kids Earn Three Cents For Their Work

chores
TLC
TLC

How do you keep up with a family this big? Make everyone chip in and help out! Michelle Duggar explained the family’s outlook on chores in an early episode of their TLC show. “Jurisdictions are the chores that we’re supposed to keep on a daily basis,” she said. Each member of the family has “their own jurisdiction that they’re responsible for to keep clean.”

Even the youngest kids are expected to help out with chores as soon as they’re able. They’re paid three cents for each job they complete.

The Show Was Canceled During Its Highest-Rated Season

season 10 premiere
TLC
TLC

In 2015, weeks after pulling the shows from its schedule, TLC announced that it had decided to cancel 19 Kids and Counting due to several serious and disturbing allegations against the family’s oldest son, Josh (which he admitted to).

The cancelation came during the show’s highest-rated season to date, with the season 10 premiere averaging 3.29 million viewers. After 19 Kids and Counting ended, the Duggars’ loss of endorsements, book deals, and speaking engagements related to the show cost them around $25 million per year in earnings.

There’s A Waiting Period For Intimacy After Childbirth

Michelle in the hospital
TLC
TLC

Although she’s made it clear that a wife should always be receptive to her husband, it turns out that there’s a “waiting period” for intimacy that the Duggars observe after childbirth. The length of time depends on whether she’s had a boy or a girl. If the new baby is a girl, the Duggars wait for 80 days before engaging in marital relations, and for a boy, they only wait for 40 days. This practice is based on Old Testament traditions, but the Duggars say it’s more about their personal preferences.

Michelle also withholds from being physical with Jim Bob while she has her monthly period. “When you’ve missed it [sex] for seven days, you look forward to it even more,” she says. TMI? Yes.

Jessa And Ben Didn’t Kiss At Their Wedding

Jessa and Ben wedding
TLC
TLC

It turns out that waiting a lifetime to have a first kiss might make someone a little shy about it. When the fifth Duggar child, Jessa, got married to Ben Seeward in 2014, the two refused to share a kiss on the altar after they’d been declared husband and wife.

An unnamed family friend told Us Weekly that the couple had waited so long for the intimate moment that they wanted to seal the deal privately instead of in front of 1,000 guests. Instead, they exited the stage to kiss in private while the pastor joked about it to their friends and family.

There’s A Strict Dress Code, And Beach Trips Are Out Of The Question

the girls explain the dress code
TLC
TLC

As they grew older, some of the Duggar daughters started making their own fashion decisions but there was a strict dress code they had to follow when they were young. As Michelle explained in a TLC interview, “Our interpretation [of modesty is] that from the neck down to the knee should be covered. By keeping those private areas covered, there’s not any ‘defrauding’ going on,” she explained.

“My kids are taught the definition of defrauding as stirring up desires that cannot be righteously fulfilled. We don’t believe in defrauding others by the way we dress.” As you can imagine, bathing suits are off-limits as well.

Just Days After Giving Birth, Michelle Attended A Protest Against Beer Sales

neonatal unit protest
TLC
TLC

Some parents say that they’re a little more laid-back with each child they have. Maybe that explains why Michelle left their 19th child, daughter Josie, in the neonatal intensive care unit just days after her birth so she could go to a protest.

A local EZ Mart had applied for a beer license, and Michelle felt strongly enough about it that she was willing to leave her one pound, six-ounce infant in the hospital to attend an Alcohol Beverage Control meeting to testify. Through tears, she later said, “I don’t think alcohol needs to be convenient. I think it needs to be placed in a place where adults can get to it and they will have a choice to get it. But our children should not be bombarded with that. It’s so close to home.”

Jill’s Husband Ran Over A Cat With His Sled

dillards snow scandal
jillmdillard/Instagram & derickdillard/Instagram
jillmdillard/Instagram & derickdillard/Instagram

Jill Duggar’s husband Derick Dillard posted a video of a snowy winter day to his Instagram account in 2015. The clip ended up being pretty controversial because in it, Dillard seemed to intentionally hit a cat that was in his path as he sledded down a hill. People are heard laughing in the background.

The Director of Christian Outreach at PETA even released a statement demanding that the reality TV personality apologize. “I hope you’ll publicly apologize for your actions, and remind your followers that Jesus’ command to ‘do unto others’ includes all of God’s creatures,” she said.

No One Expects Privacy

bedroom for the girls
TLC
TLC

There are eight children still living at home with Jim Bob and Michelle, and they all share just two bedrooms despite the house being 7,000 square feet. Jason, James, Justin, and Jackson share one of the bedrooms while Johannah, Jennifer, Jordyn-Grace, and Josie share the other.

Considering that their parents monitor all of their in-person interactions as well as any texts and emails, these kids really don’t have any privacy. But that’s probably to be expected in a household with this many people in it.

Jessa And Ben Asked The Public For Baby Gifts

registry
TLC
TLC

It’s no secret that the Duggar clan has made a fortune from being on TLC, with the final payout totaling in the millions. So imagine how people reacted when they saw that Jessa and Ben solicited gifts and money from the public when they found out they were expecting.

This announcement was posted on the family blog, and didn’t exactly fly with most people: “For readers who have asked about sending gift cards to the Seewalds, Jessa told us that her favorite stores are Target and Walmart.” After readers complained, the request was taken down.

December Is The Most Common Birth Month For A Duggar

The Duggar family visits
D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra
D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra

December is a busy time around the Duggar household. There are more December birthdays in the family than any other month. And that’s not even including the holidays! Celebrating in December are Josie, Jordyn-Grace, Jinger, Jedidiah, and Jeremiah.

None of the Duggar children have been born in June (yet), although the grandchildren are beginning to fill in the monthly calendar. Birthdays are typically celebrated with a treat called the “Chocolate Mess” which is a special hot fudge sundae.

They Were Also Featured On The Discovery Channel

raising 16 children
Discovery
Discovery

Before TLC stepped in and helped the Duggars build their media empire, Discovery Health did a series of specials about the large family. First, there was a one-hour documentary about them, which eventually become the special 14 Children and Pregnant Again!. Then, three new specials about the Duggars aired in 2006.

Raising 16 Children provided a glimpse into their household shortly after baby Johannah was born. Then, 16 Children and Moving In focused on the family’s move into their large custom-built home. And finally, On the Road with 16 Children followed the Duggar clan on a road trip across the western United States.