(From Janet Shamlian, NBC News Correspondent)
Their home is large and lovely, but what I noticed first driving up to the Duggars house was the industrial dumpster alongside it. And why not? With 17 children, the family would need at least as many trashcans...and who wants to haul those to the curb twice a week? When I got the call to meet the family (right) in Arkansas, I briefly wondered about typecasting. I have my own full house -- five children under the age of twelve. A starter kit, mom Michelle Duggar would later call my family!
NBC's Janet Shamlian with MOST of the Duggar family
Inside, this home was nothing like mine. It was fairly quiet, even though everyone was home. They were going about their chores and schoolwork, and the younger children were putting a backyard trampoline to the test. It was also clean; no dirty dishes in the sink, no clothes on the floor of bedrooms or stacked atop the washing machine. Certainly, they must have tidied up for our visit, I thought. Their grandmother later shared the truth that made me squirm: it always looked this way.
As Michelle gave me a tour of the house, I must have had that deer-in-the-headlights look on my face. The pantry was the size of a corner convenience store. Let me just say, the guy who sells Cheerios is having a great year. The laundry room resembles a Laundromat, lined with oversized washers and dryers, and the commercial kitchen is about the size of the one in my children's elementary school. Every week, the Duggars go through 40 loaves of bread, 30 dozen eggs and hundreds of apples and oranges. And laundry? More than 200 loads a month!
As the mom of a (relatively) large family, I struggle with the juggle and constantly question whether I'm giving each of my children enough individual time. We tend to do things as a group, and I'm convinced some therapist is going to hear about it 20 years from now when one of them complains about never getting enough solo time. So I had to ask Michelle and Jim Bob how they managed this aspect of parenting. They never run an errand, they told me, without taking a child along, whether it's a walk to the mailbox or a drive to the bank.
As I was getting ready to leave the Duggars' home for my own, I asked Michelle about the bus outside, curious whether it was big enough for all 19 of them. "Actually, it seats 21," she told me, "and some day, we may fill every one."